Want to know what I’m working on right now? Well, to be honest, there is nothing on my drawing board. I don’t think I’ve colored for a couple of weeks due to the holidays and all the activities that come with that. So now as I look at my drawing board, I have anxiety about starting my next project. This is not a new occurrence, nor is it unique to me. Seems I’ve learned from a few artists that I look up to that it happens to them too.
So, here’s how my morning has gone. Up at 4:18 a.m. with the dog. Came in to start a project while the house is quiet. Checked my email, a few websites, then I thought I was ready. Nope, finished the 2021 budget, then paid a couple of bills, made a card to go out in today’s mail. Now I’m ready. Oh no, I can’t, I must exercise first.
It seems all I did this morning was continue to drag my feet away from my drawing board. So why is it that I get this anxiety before starting a project? I really don’t know, but I suspect that it has something to do with always wanting (or expecting) to make something incredible but not sure where to start. I swear, it can feel like I’ve never picked up a colored pencil or Copic marker before. We all know that isn’t true. So finally, I found myself at the drawing board and before I knew it, I was lost in my love of creating once again, wondering why it took so long to get myself started.
This time I didn’t pick up a marker or a pencil, instead I picked up a paint brush. Yes, I said a paint brush. My practice partner Frankie has been so excited about watercolor lately that I found myself caught up in her excitement and decided to play along. But where to start?
I approach most things with a plan, but this time I just jumped in. I had dabbled a little bit with watercolor a couple of years ago but decided at the time it wasn’t for me. Thankfully I kept my supplies so I was able to just pull them off the shelf and start making brush strokes on the paper.
It was clear to me that I was going to need some help. I signed up for an online “beginner” class even it if might be rudimentary (boy was I wrong, it was anything but). I was doing okay for about two lessons. Then those art related inadequacy thoughts started to creep in. Then it dawned on me that I had placed unrealistic expectations on myself thinking that I could paint the class projects like a pro right out of the gate. I reminded myself that this is a beginner class. I enrolled so that I could learn how to watercolor in this class--not create masterpieces. For me to do that I need to forget about the projects and instead take the instruction from this class and treat it like I do my Practice Corner practice sessions.
So, I did just that. I have been practicing my brush strokes daily. This is allowing me the time and focus to figure out how the brushes work, the way to hold them for different techniques, the unique strokes of the brushes. I am also swatching my watercolor paints in the form of a split primary color wheel and creating a color mixing chart based on the paints I have here. This is helping me learn a great deal about the pigments in these colors. How they don’t all behave the same. I must say, I love creating value studies with watercolor. Instead of pencil pressure or multiple passes of a marker, it’s the amount of water that is changing the value of my paints.
Most of us take a class and simply progress as quickly as possible through the projects. That might be because it was the photos of the projects that enticed us into taking the class in the first place and we can’t wait to recreate what we saw. But by breaking away from the projects and taking the time to practice the lessons/fundamentals within are really helping me to understand the techniques being introduced and as a result my watercolor confidence and skills are already growing. Now that I have firsthand brush, water and paint experience I can go back and focus on the class projects. I'm ready.
I have spent years in classes where I learn specifics to recreate the class project. But I didn’t really learn about the products or techniques I was being exposed to. That is what I love about The Practice Corner, it not only taught me how to practice, but it has also taught me that practice is exciting. Practice time is where discoveries happen. Practice removes all expectations of perfection because I am working on techniques not a pretty project.
Even though The Practice Corner focuses for an entire month on a single technique, the process can be applied to any technique you are working on at any time. The months we spent practicing flick strokes, creating clean edges in our images, pencil pressures and even color for depth and dimension all apply now to my watercolor practice. Those same practice drills I spent working on with Copic markers and colored pencils, I’m now applying to my watercolor brushes.
It’s common place in the digital age to find that most of us have a cell phone. We have found ways to even use it in our art process. We use the camera to take photos for inspiration and/or reference, or convert them to black/white to check values, etc. Just the other day I was using the GPS on my phone to help me find my way to where I needed to be. That is when it hit me, The Practice Corner is my analog GPS. It guides me where I need to go with my art. Yep, I do believe I would be lost without my Practice Corner GPS - guided practice system!
Whether I am struggling with an art technique or learning a totally new skill, I take the time to step away from the project and go back to my practice paper and work on the skill until I understand it and/or comfortable with it. Then I head back to my project and I’m off coloring or painting again.
Having some art anxiety is not all bad. After all, look at all I got done this morning (bills are paid, the bathrooms are clean, I did my exercise, etc.) and now I have extra time to spend at my drawing board this afternoon.
If you have art anxiety, The Practice Corner is here to help set you back on the path of creating. Just think of us as your GPS (Guided Practice System).
If nothing else, know that this pre-project anxiety is normal, we all suffer from it! Relax, enjoy the process, and be amazed by all that you create.
Happy New Year!
What's happening in the Corner . . .
Did you make a New Year's resolution to put coloring back into your life? But now you aren't sure where to start? Why not join with fellow colorers as we focus our attention on creating more realism in our projects as we put the "value" of color into our practice as we start the new year.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Value here.
You can see more of my work or follow me on Instagram.