Still Learning

After decades of making the same new year’s resolutions – “cut out all carbs, lose five pounds, moisturize daily” –  I’ve decided to begin each year instead by learning something new. Sometimes it’s something I’ve never tried before and sometime’s its something I want to learn more about. Several years ago it was training with the Ventura Roadrunners for the L.A. Marathon. In 2018 it was volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County. And this January it was enrolling in “Sharon’s Watercolor Paint-a-long” class offered through Conejo Valley Adult Education.

My journal entry June 10, 2010, E. Twickenham, England:

“My teacher Marcia’s name is pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha. She seems encouraging. I was truly amazed at the output of this group last night!

I love watercolors!  The way they merge together and dance on paper. The way their vivid hues vibrate and make shapes come alive. I also love how the light and dark contrasts bring such depth to a painting. So eleven years ago when I heard about a Botanical Art class nearby, I signed up!

Riding the bus into Teddington to my first class, I remember feeling giddy. I arrived at The Landmark Art Centre twenty-five minutes early. As soon as the teacher unlocked the door, I skipped in and took a seat up front. Then I unpacked all of my treasures. Among them, HB and 2H pencils, Steadler erasers, Pilot waterproof pens with nibs size 0.2-0.5, a pad of Fabriano paper, a container for water, a craft knife, scissors, and a Windsor Newton set of watercolor paints, 19 colors in all!

My leaf

After a quick 15-minute demonstration on shading, I panicked.  I thought this was watercolor painting, not drawing. But Marcia explained shading is best learned through drawing first. Though we had an hour to work on our leaf, I was done in 20 minutes.  What more could I shade? At the end of the night, we were asked to “share” our work. That’s when I saw all of the gallery worthy drawings, sitting next to mine.

Whether we admit it or not, we compare ourselves to others. It might be our appearance, our family, our job or even something we create. It’s just human nature. Knowing this, Marcia would remind us, “You shouldn’t judge your beginning to someone else’s middle.” In my case, comparing my work with others’ usually inspires me to practice more. So that’s what I did. 

My Apple

Once after spending hours drawing and painting an apple, I couldn’t wait to show it to Robert. His response? “Honey, that’s such a nice tomato!”  

Still I kept at it. On the last night of this class, we were to present either a flower or fruit as our final piece.  One by one each person showed their work. Words of praise like, “Brilliant! Look at the extraordinary detail and depth of your floribunda rose!”, “Your hibiscus petals are so fluid. Just gorgeous!” and “Perfect! The tiny seeds of your strawberry are the exact dimensions of an actual berry!” were heard around the room.  Then it was my turn.  I walked to the front of the class and displayed my daffodil.  It seemed as if everyone in unison, said just one word…“Pretty.” 

My Daffodil

Six sessions later, I had acquired a few skills such as wet on wet painting. I could shade an object better. I learned that what I used to teach my students, also applied to me. The 3 Ps. When learning anything new you need to Practice, be Persistent and be Patient.

Last Wednesday was the first session in my second official watercolor class.  After introductions, I know most have more experience than I do, but it’s OK.  I am still a novice, but a little further ahead this time. More importantly, I am open to learning something new, skill-wise and life-wise. What better way is there to start any new year?

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