Yesterday one of my fellow students at a watercolor workshop said she liked my paintings because they are childlike. She meant it as a compliment. I think she was being quite kind. After five days of trying to capture any likeness of a tree, I have to admit that I am a bit discouraged. I can see it, feel it and almost taste it. But I can't paint it. Yet.
This is the second time I have attended a workshop taught by artist David Beale. He is a wonderful teacher, and the days spent painting with him and his students in Ireland and the low country of Georgia have been rich in learning and comradery.
Learning how to watercolor is an act of defiance for me. I have always admired art, but thought I could not do it. I have had to rebel against my belief: "I am not an artist" and embrace a new belief: "I love to paint."
And because I am channeling my "inner rebel" I am seeing the world in a very different way and, more importantly, opening myself up to joy.
New Eyes. I see shapes instead of objects. I notice dozens of shades of green. I explore shadows and the contrast between light and dark. It's like I have a new set of eyes, and it's very, very cool. Painting makes me really look at trees, oceans and grass, and it has deepened this urban girl's interaction with nature.
Overworking. One of my fellow students, Marian, is a fun and feisty 80-year-old woman. Last night she walked onto our porch overlooking the soothing marshes that make up Eagle Island. "I am the Queen of Overworking," she declared after spending several hours on her painting of a live oak. Overworking is when you don't let the watercolors do their thing. You try to get it just right by adding and changing and adding and changing until it starts looking like, well, mud.
Watercolors thrive on looseness where you let the water, color and paper play with you, the artist. Too much control, and the painting ceases to be fresh. Hmmm, life lesson.
Learn. Marian rules when it comes to her craft. Her live oak is alive with the soft movement of Spanish moss. Her trees really do look like trees. Her grass and bushes invite you to ramble along the countryside.
She knows her yellow ochre and phthalo blue. She talks lovingly about her brushes. She experiments with mixing so her pallette bursts with colors. And she gently suggests that I not use black or white from the tube because "nothing really is black or white."
She is a wise woman who learns every time she paints.
I am trying to become a wise woman, learning slowing from everything I do. Even painting.