Session Two: Zen Master Watercolor

If I had to pick one negative mental habit that excels at leading me down a dark path, it would be perfectionism. Ahh, yes. I can feel the self abuse begin to stir at the mere mention of the word. As far back as I can remember, I had to be perfect at everything. Always. If I tried something new and didn’t excel, or at the very least perform better than most of my peers, I quit. I mean, if I couldn’t be the very best, why even bother? Practice? That was for people who sucked at stuff. I either had talent or I didn’t. In my mind, there was no in between. Even to this day, I question whether practice will actually help me improve. I have avoided practice so well, that I hardly have any experience of it helping me.

A little over 3 weeks ago I painted the yellow flower featured above, which was inspired by Twenty One Pilots’ newly released single, Jumpsuit. In the video Tyler’s character is being captured by a Bishop in red (symbolism for fears & insecurities) and it’s not until he sees some yellow flowers (symbolism for hope & strength) that he begins to realize he can fight back. The music, lyrics & imagery really struck a chord with me and I decided to pick up a paintbrush while my kids were playing with their watercolors. I struggled quite a bit. I started out trying for an elegant photo-realistic piece, but it quickly got out of hand and became more and more stylized. But I was relaxed enough at the time to just enjoy the process. At the end, I decided to splatter it with some black & yellow and voila! Done. Even though it’s not what I had originally planned, I was able to work with what came my way and I am really happy with how it turned out.

How this would usually go: I start to paint, something goes wrong, I get frustrated & quit.  I have walked away from so many things in my life because of perfectionism. And the self abuse, because “I suck.” or “I can’t.”, is an abyss of epic proportions.

Enter Zen Master Watercolor. With its unruly manner and erratic behavior, it is teaching me to let go and embrace what comes. To my surprise, there is  something calming about the unpredictability. It often turns into curiosity. What will happen if I add this color? Or add more water? Or tip the board slightly? Painting the same piece more than once is also a normal part of watercoloring – practice is a built-in feature.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve painted 6 more pieces and I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Currently I am participating in a 52 week watercolor challenge which posts a new theme every week. And I’ve decided to use my new IKEA catalog as a prompt/reference and have about 30 images marked to replicate in watercolor.

I’m hoping to learn a little about painting, and even more about life.

Our time is up. Until next session.

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