Watercolor Dreams (And Nightmares)

As I sat with a sweet, fun group of ladies yesterday learning to paint simple watercolor flowers, I realized that it had been about 38 years since I'd sat in a watercolor class (and really any kind of art class at all that I wasn't teaching, I think??) In the 5th grade I had an experience with an art teacher/class that caused me for the next 30+ years to feel that I wasn't and couldn't be artistic/creative. A few words from an elderly art teacher about my lack of ability in a watercolor class that I loved said to me that not only was I not good enough then, but I didn't have the potential to ever be good enough.  Far into my adult years, those words continued to repeat themselves in my head and tell me that I was not, nor could I ever be, an artist. 

Many years later, God would begin to work on my heart and mind about the issue of creativity and the wrong thinking I had allowed to take root. Through a VBS class I was teaching, I discovered that creativity is not something that some people have and some people don't, but that creativity is a character quality that we are to work to develop in ourselves and in our children. I learned that in creating us in His image, God, the ultimate Creator, made us to be creative beings. In the years since, I've learned much about creativity as a form of worship to our Creator God. I've learned about creativity as a mental muscle that strengthens the more we use it (and atrophies when we don't!) 

In the last decade and a half, I have taught hundreds of craft classes to adults and children, I've done custom scrapbooking and lettering for friends and clients, and I even had a page published in a national scrapbooking magazine back in the day. :-D   I've taught workshops on creativity building for children and adults and written articles for my own blog and others on the topic.  

And yet, put a watercolor palette in front of me and a paintbrush in my hand, and I am that 11-year- old girl feeling inadequate and embarrassed and incapable again. I flash back to those words from 5th grade and feel as though it is somehow wrong for me to even be attempting any sort of actual painting outside of a colorwash or simple background. 

As our sweet new friend taught us those simple watercolor techniques yesterday, the negative messages were flooding my mind. Aloud, I was saying, "Watercolor isn't really my medium, but I've been wanting to learn" (I have actually recently come to the point of hesitantly wanting to try it again!), but inside a voice was insisting, "You can't do this. Look how pitiful your flowers are! Some of these ladies know you teach creative classes--they are going to take one look at your page and think you are a fraud!" (That's how I always feel, by the way, when anyone calls me an artist. I am finally getting to the point where I don't always come back with a bunch of disclaimers about the fact that "I am not really an artist; I just love paper and pens and crafty stuff")

God has worked good out of that awfully negative experience years ago that affected me so profoundly. He has given me a passion to encourage children as well as adults that we are *all* creative, and that we all can (and should!) work to develop our "creative muscles".  One of my greatest joys is to see people of all ages expressing their own God-given creativity in new ways.  I love to see someone's eyes light up as they realize "I can do this!" or as they excitedly share something they've made with me or others. It thrills me for a child or adult who has said, "I can't...", to discover that they can, and they enjoy it!

As I mentioned, I have recently, for the first time in all these years, begun to have some hesitant thoughts about giving watercolor painting another try. I think it's no coincidence that I've been wanting to go to this monthly coloring group for years, and the first time we were actually able to work it into our schedule, they deviated from their usual routine and had a mini-class on watercoloring. :-) Although my emotions were quite mixed and my thoughts very jumbled as we painted yesterday, it was a delightful experience overall, and while my creations yesterday were really rough, I'm inspired to keep working on it!

And I'm thankful for the opportunities God continues to provide to bring healing and growth, even in something relatively insignificant compared to many larger painful things in our lives and the lives of others.

I'm also reminded again what a huge impact our words can have in our own lives and in the lives of others. That long-ago art teacher has been gone, I'm sure, for many years, and I have been blessed with much encouragement over the years from many people regarding art and creativity. But those few words from decades ago have remained lodged in my heart and mind all these years. Florence Littauer's Silver Boxes illustration is so true! She says that our words are like a tower made of silver boxes--it takes many boxes to build the tower, but only one "box" of negative words to knock it completely down.

My challenge to you today is two-fold. First--do something creative today! Anything. Take five minutes and an index card or piece of scrap paper, and do a tiny bit of doodle art. Write a note to a spouse, child, or friend and do something simple to make it cute or pretty. Pick a word and try a new lettering style. Grab your phone and take a picture of something beautiful in nature just because. Cut some flowers from the yard and arrange them in a jar.

Second, encourage someone today. A total stranger walked up and gave me a very unexpected compliment yesterday. It was very simple, a little odd, and I thought to myself that she probably needed glasses, but it encouraged me nonetheless. Give a heartfelt compliment to a stranger, or say something to someone you love that they really need to hear. Or both!

I'd love to hear about what you do in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram! :)

Read more about creativity...

Living Creatively

Teaching Creativity When You Don't Feel Creative (And Why Do I Need to Teach Creativity Anyway?)  (This article is not just for teachers and parents--good creativity info for all of us. :))

Teaching Creativity: Creativity Challenges for Kids

20 Resources for Teaching Creativity

Teaching Creativity: Where Do I Start?

Creativity ~ Somewhat Random Thoughts

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