When I officially registered for the first of my summer art classes, I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety. I was going to take art classes. Not just sketching, which I’ve done before, but painting! With official pigment-from-tubes and fancy brushes and canvases and everything. I haven’t done that before. What if I do it wrong? What if I’m not good at it? I can’t paint like Vermeer or Christensen or David. I don’t even have an idea for a subject!
The panic only lasted for a few hours; it subsided once I reminded myself of two things:
1) Doing things that scare me is good for me. (See this, this, this, and this.)
2) I am a better teacher when I remember what it’s like to be a student.
No one expects me to sit down in the first class and whip out a painting. There will be demonstrations, exercises, and scaffolded basics. I told myself this as I recalled the number of times the counselor has called me in to talk to a student who’s nervous about taking drama. I’m afraid they expect me to paint the new Sistine Chapel on Day One; they’re afraid I expect Olivier’s Hamlet (or, more accurately, Ruffalo’s Banner, given their exposure to the craft).
These reminders helped, but it was my desktop wallpaper that really did the trick. It automatically flips through a folder of photos, some from artists I enjoy, some I’ve taken. Just after I closed the browser window, the background changed to this photo from Morocco:
and I thought, “I could paint that.”
And that was it. I had a subject to work from, a place to start. I was good to go!
At least I was until I arrived at the first session this morning. The teacher arrived 10 minutes late and, after delivering a circuitous monologue about whether or not the class was cancelled, set a binful of supplies on the table, handed each of us a piece of paper, and with an encouraging, “Go ahead! Paint!” she left the room to make copies.
So I painted. Not the Moroccan knob – that one I’m saving for oils. No, I just picked up a brush and started playing with lines and colors. I started with the basics, and that was just fine.
This will be good for me.