One of the things I’m doing during COVID/heat waves/wildfire-smoky days is learning how to paint. And, of course, I fell in love with watercolor which is one of the most difficult mediums. Figures. Fortunately, there are a ton of great tutorials on YouTube and that is how I got started. I discovered that within watercolor, there sub-categories of painting: loose or realistic, landscapes or botanicals or animals. I want to learn them all. I seem to do best at botanicals and my landscapes look like kindergarten.
I enrolled in a couple online schools about a month ago. One of them is focused on botanicals and the other on realistic animals. When my dad was visiting last month, he made the observation that I paint from photographs and not from real life. That got me to thinking. I’m painting from photos along with tutorials helping me “see” the important shapes and shadows. So, is that really painting? I think so.
Remember when you were learning to write the letters of the alphabet? First, the teacher showed you how to hold the pencil which felt super awkward. Then she wrote letters on the board and you copied them onto your paper — that had lines for capitals and lower case. But it was still hard at first. How far down do you go for the tail on a “g” —and a capital “S” — man that was hard. I thought a capital “W” was hard, too, which was a problem because my last name started with that letter.
Gradually, we learned to print our letters and then to write in cursive. We copied our teachers until we could do it solo. Painting is the same. I’m tracing the outline of a picture and then watching a video of the instructor as she explains what she is seeing, the appropriate brush strokes, and how to mix colors.
I’m getting better — I fast-forward through about half of the video now. I’m learning to trust my eye. I’m getting some muscle memory around how to hold a brush and how much paint to load and how to blend one color into another without hard lines.
Maybe I’m delusional, but I consider what I’m doing “real” painting. Not great painting, and not original painting, but real just the same.