Watercolour & Failure

October 24, 2023

When Nothing Feels Fun Anymore 

Five years ago, I was in a rut. I felt like I didn’t know what was fun to me anymore. 

A friend suggested that I try something new. I thought of watercolour painting and decided to just go for it- after all, how would I find out what new thing was fun to me if I didn’t try anything new? 

So I bought some supplies and experimented a little. Here are some photos from my first try in November, 2018:

The Difference One Person Can Make

Then we packed up & moved from Utah back to Canada and painting got put on hold. I followed someone on Instagram who made a goal to teach watercolor classes online in 2020 and was offering a free watercolor class in January. I jumped at the chance to participate!

Here's a photo of my first attempt at copying the example image without instruction (from the phone screen) and my second attempt after applying the techniques she taught us, to get a turtle that looked more like the example:

I wrote at that time how grateful I was for the influence that we can all have on each other. For that friend who suggested I try something new. For that watercolour artist, for setting the goal to do something she had wanted to do for a while. For the way each of them influenced me & my life in a positive way.

Spending Money On Me

Our next move brought us to a new part of Ontario and I followed a local Watercolour artist on Instagram for a year before she announced she’d be having an outdoor watercolor workshop at a local farm in the Fall. I knew I wanted to participate.

It's not easy for me to spend money on myself but I decided to go for it and spent the money on the ticket. 

I got sick the week before the workshop & was barely recovered on the day of the workshop- still not feeling great but decided I was well enough to go.

It was October 2022 and it was cold, windy, & rainy so they brought the workshop into a barn that was cold & dark, with the animals.

Part way through the workshop, my fingers and toes were numb & the wind had blown some of my paintings onto the barn floor, leaving them speckled with dirt. *sigh*

I didn’t get to finish any of my paintings & we only got to use one piece of the good paper. I thought we would get to keep some of the supplies but we didn’t.

I wasn't thrilled I spent the money on a workshop that felt underwhelming and disappointing to me, but I’m glad I tried it and I think the experience was worthwhile even if it wasn’t what I hoped.

Embracing Imperfect Progress

After the workshop, I decided I had been holding myself back for no good reason- that I didn't need anymore special supplies or instruction to get going. I wanted to pull out my own materials that I had already purchased & USE them. I knew I needed to get over the fear of messing up & just enjoy the practice.

I decided that if I could move on enough to do that as a result of the workshop then I had gained something good from it.

That Fall, I decided to spend a few minutes each day, painting, regardless of the outcome.

Welcoming Failure as a Teacher

Honestly, I still get held back by the fear of failure. It's not easy for me to let go of a need to perform in an impressive way. I get easily disappointed when the outcome is not what I envisioned (for example, the red around that maple leaf in the above photo gets on my nerves because it's not the way I wanted it to turn out). 

I know this says a lot about me, outside of art, too.  I know that perfectionism and fear of failure hold me back and keep me small.  I can see that failure is necessary for learning and growth- that it's not a terrible thing to be feared!  It's probably a long journey ahead of me still, to get to a place where I believe that more deeply and don't need the inner pep-talks that I require today. I sometimes wish I could fast-forward through the process and come out on the other side, content and confident and comfortable with myself, and with trying and failing without fear.

For now, I continue to work at moving forward, one imperfect step at a time.

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