Back at the end of December/beginning of January, I signed up for a 4-week Zoom watercolour class. It’s not something I’d ever tried before – except for provincially-sanctioned art classes from grades 1 through 8, of course – but the classes were being offered by a local artist I know, and I wanted to give it a shot.
I first met Nancy through a yoga class we both attended regularly and learned she was an artist because for a time, our yoga studio was also a sort of gallery, and I immediately admired Nancy’s work hanging on the studio walls. Her style tends to lean to the abstract which I love, and her use of colour is both soothing and exciting, and I’ve always regretted not purchasing one of her pieces back then.
I would see Nancy over the years at yoga, in the grocery store, dancing at 80s nights at the Casbah, the usual places I run into people in Hamilton. We started following each other on Instagram which is where I learned about her classes and signed up.
And oh friends, was it ever fun.
I assembled my supplies from my local art store and for four Wednesdays in February, I tuned in as Nancy led us through a variety of watercolour techniques and styles and we all followed along. There was no pressure to share our work, no grading or correction, it was just a group of people with visual artistic experiences ranging from pre-beginner (me!) to advanced (a woman who is an artist but in other mediums) and I had a blast.
In previous visual artistic pursuits (see above and provincially-sanctioned and required art classes) I was always afraid to start. If I didn’t have a vision of what the final finished product would look like, I would hesitate, lest I start something in the wrong way and then not be able to make it look like what I wanted it to look like, what it looked like in my head. And so, I spent many an art class carefully sketching drafts, carefully searching for and gathering just the right colours, the right tools for the job; cutting out all the pieces of construction paper that would eventually be the finished product BEFORE I started gluing, in case I glued incorrectly, which would of course mean that the entire project was GARBAGE.
And yes, if you’re curious, it IS exhausting being me.
I was always envious of my classmates would would start slapping down paint, who would start GLUING or drawing with no idea what the picture or the collage or the painting was going to be ahead of time. Renegades! It was thrilling to behold, and yet I spent those same classes getting organized to the point of not actually being able to start and ultimately having nothing to show for anything. It was the same in shop class, but that’s a whole other middle school memories blog post, honestly.
Now, if writing has taught me anything it’s that some words on the page are better than no words on the page and if they’re garbage words, or garbage idea, that’s ok because you can make garbage words and garbage ideas into really nice and good words and ideas later, once you review and edit. And guess what? You can do the same thing with art.
So, in my watercolour Wednesday evenings, rather than sit there wishing I could make something beautiful, I actually did it. I applied the same guidelines to painting that I do to writing: get it down, fix it later. And it worked. In some ways. The difference is that once the paint is on the paper, it’s a challenge to remove it, but this time I was able to go with the flow, to let the paint show me where to go next, and it was really lovely to relinquish control and just see what happens. ‘Go with the flow’ and ‘see what happens’ are not, and have never been, phrases that I utter in relation to anything in my life, but something about these Wednesday nights just allowed me a level of freedom that I think I’d really been needing. And I have Nancy to thank.
Do I think painting will replace writing as my creative and artistic outlet? No. But, I do think painting will be something I come back to frequently, perhaps working on a small watercolour when I’m feeling blocked in other ways, and letting the paint guide me toward an opening, letting it act like a passageway to further creativity.
See? I’m learning.
If you’re interested in art classes, or you just want to see some lovely art check out Nancy’s website. You can also follow her on Instagram: @nancybenoy