Are You Having Fun?

 Posted by at 10:24 AM  Inspiration
Feb 072021
 

About a week ago, I went camping with Jeanne Adams (Ansel Adams’ daughter-in-law). She came to Arizona to pick up a new camper van and my 16 prints for my “The Current Flow: Water in the Arid West” exhibit this June. Before she drove home, I offered to help her break in her new rig (while following all COVID social-distancing guidelines). We ended up spending a delightful three days in Marble Canyon along my beloved Colorado River. I photographed. She painted. I watched her. She suggested I should try watercolor painting sometime.

Growing up, I had little exposure to visual arts beyond finger painting and paper mache masks in elementary school. In eighth grade, I was so bad at drawing, I transferred out of an art class after the first day. (I elected to take Home Economics instead where I ended up burning bread during the baking assignment and sewing the legs on my shorts shut during sewing…). I had tried watercolor painting once and it almost made me cry. Runny paint, mixed colors, and unpredictable results were a perfectionist’s nightmare. Other than photography and one hilarious (but fun and enlightening!) attempt at painting Monet lily pads at a wine-and-paint shop down the street in 2015, I’ve steered clear of any artistic expression requiring significant hand-eye coordination…

Until last night…

When I returned home from my trip with Jeanne, I ordered a cheap watercolor set—paint, brushes, and a small booklet of watercolor paper. Last night, I gave it a try. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to mix colors and water and empty space. I had no idea what different brushes do. I just made up the scene as I went as I watched the paint do whatever it did on the page. I just responded to it. Now, I did tap into my growing understanding of how to depict depth in photographs to help create dimension—lines, layers, light, and even optical illusions.

Above are my results: a recovering perfectionist’s first attempt at watercolor painting.

If I could tell my younger self anything, it’s that you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it and learn from it. (I realize one could make the argument that bread tastes better, and thus is more enjoyable, when it is not burned…). If you’re having fun keep doing it. If you aren’t having fun, stop and find something else fun to do. Why spend the time you have on this planet choosing to do things you don’t like to do?

You can bet I’ll be painting with watercolors again tonight…

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