Updated: Oct 9, 2020
When I think back over the last 2 years of my artistic journey I realize that there was one thing that really impacted my art. It changed everything for me. Most amazingly, it happened by accident. I didn't seek it out, well not consciously because
I didn't even know it was happening while it was happening.
The thing that gave me the support and confidence I needed to get on my feet and create my own art was a practice partner. Yeah, that’s it. That one thing changed me in so many ways that I just can't keep it to myself, I have to share with you how this came to be and the impact of having a practice partner.
So here it is, a little over a year ago my bestie Kathy and I were texting about being in a creative slump. Now mind you, I had talked with Kathy a lot over the previous year since we met at an art retreat and became fast friends. Our typical conversations were about the latest Vanilla Arts workshop or a new stamp etc. We would swoon over the latest image, but we never really got into the nitty gritty of our projects. Despite that, being a creative person I had developed a case of the the creative blues . . . you know the slump you get into when you haven't created something in a really long time. Well I was there - I mean I was real deep in those creative blues and I knew the only way out was to get a colored pencil in my hand and get coloring, yet I was having difficulty getting motivated to do so.
Even though I knew I needed to start coloring again, I knew I needed something to keep me focused on it and I needed someone to hold me accountable. While Kathy and I were texting I got a hair-brained idea (I get lots of those ask Kathy, because she always tries to get me to come back to reality after I get hooked on an idea). I am always looking for a creative way to solve a problem - so Bingo - the idea was born. "Hey, Hey Kathy lets color projects together each week". She was quick to say "Sure" before I threw in the twist, we both come up with a word for each letter of the alphabet and then we create something based on one of the words from the list each week. Kathy knew immediately that she said "sure" far too quickly, but she was a trooper and stuck to her word and joined me on this weekly coloring project.
So what happened that we didn’t know was happening you ask? Well, we started this project feeling adventurous. I was ready to tackle the first word, coloring a lady with an Octopus on her head while Kathy, with amazing confidence, created an octopus with the most gorgeous colors I have ever seen. That first week we felt accomplished - we did it.
We had gotten back on the creative track and we did it without a class, a color recipe or step-by-step instructions. It was fun again.
At the end of the week, Kathy and I would reveal what we were working on. We would chat on Saturday about how we tackled the week’s word. I was curious to see how she tackled the word and would notice many things about her project that I would have never thought of doing. I remember being amazed at the colors she blended so well with Copic. They were not your usual Copic color combinations, she must have blended so many colors that I couldn't tell if that was brown, peach, purple . . . I just couldn’t tell. Of course my first words were normally, "How did you do that".
Those words became a game changer for me. Have you ever scrolled through social media and you see someone’s work that makes you stop and wonder how they did it? When I asked Kathy how she did something she actually answered. It was great because she really told me what she did - the spots she really liked, the things she thought were easier than she anticipated, and she even told me about the spots she messed up. Seriously I didn't see what she was talking about where she messed up because it looked good to me. I think that day we talked for hours because I really felt like I was talking to someone who understood me. You know when you take an online class and you show your husband your project - do you get the same line I get - "Oh thats nice honey" or "I'm glad your putting those expensive markers to use". It is just not the same talking to my husband about my projects. Talking with Kathy about it got me inspired to do the next one, the one after that and the one after that.
Each week we challenged each other to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Kathy even colored a portrait - yeah she got brave and picked up her pencil and did it because the support of a partner conquered any fear she had about it. Half way through our weekly projects I decided to start drawing my own projects. I still think back at that time and wonder what made me think I could do that. The only thing that comes to mind is my practice partner. You know when you first start to ride a bike you need someone there right beside you holding you up as you push on the pedals. They stay right there, keeping you focused, saying you can do this. When you fall off the bike, they are right there and as they help you pick up the bike they are saying it’s ok! They point out what you did right and what you can do different when you get back on that bike. Yes, back on the bike because you almost have it. That was my exact experience of my practice partner Kathy. She was there for me during my artistic growth spurt. I don't know if I would have really gotten as far as I did with drawing if it wasn't for her.
Believe it or not, we completed all 52 words - yes, 52 projects in 9 months (if you are a mathematician then you notice we went faster than one a week).
Once we got back on track, it was hard to stop the creative train we were on.
It was sad when our word list came to an end, but it was awesome to sit back and reminisce with Kathy about each project. We talked about the troubles we encountered, the barriers we worked through on the projects we hated, reveled in the projects we loved the most and why. We were amazed by how much we grew in those short 9 months by looking back from the first project thru the last.
Amazingly, when we finished our project our artistic partnership and journey did not end. Kathy went on to create her “day in the life of a cupcake” story and I went on in the search of drawing better structured fantasy portraits. I still lean on Kathy for support. Several times throughout the week I will send her a picture of a project I am working on. She helps me see my project from a different perspective when I need help. She listens to me gloat when I am super proud of myself for something I made that day. She also teaches me things I never thought about before when she sends me clips of articles from other artists and we talk about it and our experience around the topics. Most of all, having a practice partner has taken me from being an adult colorer into being an independent artist. All of the things this partnership has brought to my artistic journey would have never happened sitting in my house watching the latest online class or YouTube video.
The saying is true and very meaningful to me -
(Practice) Partners With Benefits
Won’t you share your practice partner story in the comments? If you haven’t thought about having a practice partner, are you thinking about it now?