water, water, watercolors and pencils and pens

The new year has begun. My desk is scattered with colored pencils, drawing pencils, micro-pens and journals. There are two vases of dried seed pods – one beginning to cast milkweed seeds all over my office. Across from the desk are my porch plants that live in my office all winter and my watercolors and mixing palettes. Water for plants, and water for painting. My world as a watercolor artist! Well, maybe – it is the wish for the future. Not an artist that sells work just a person who draws and paints for the pleasure of it.

I have followed a group botanical artists all fall – there are many You Tube videos, the instagram posts and the facebook posts. There are the classes I have signed up for – some free, other for a fee. I could not be more ready for this adventure. Now it is time for the work.

It is easy to collect the information, and the materials but we often over look the time it takes to build a new skill. I have written about this over and over again. I guess I am thinking that if I just keep writing about it and reading about it then it will happen. Suddenly my drawing and painting skills will be great.

No not really – we forget so easily what it takes to be a beginner. We forget what our students are going through – the struggle to acquire new skills and understanding.

I turned back to Julia Cameron (Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance – part of The Artist Way series) to help me get working. She reminded me about the energy it takes to learn new skills. It is also what I know we do as teachers to help our students learn but how do I do that for myself, especially during a pandemic?

Here is what is needed to keep going!

  1. Joy – We need to find joy in the process and not in the product.
  2. Encouragement – When learning it is important to have people who are supporting you -people you talk to about your process and work. Not always or only a teacher but others who are working through a similar process or skill.
  3. Focus – We need to set a positive focus and remind ourselves of this focus often. Finding a way to see our own improvement. An example would be to make a list of 5 things that you are doing well in this new process or changes you see that are showing change. Do this often!
  4. Grounding – What are the things that help me feel connected and happy? What are the activities that help me relax and enjoy the world around me? It is important to keep involved in those events when learning new and difficult tasks. Keep a balance between new (hard) tasks with those you do well and feel at ease with.
  5. Possibilities – This goes back to number 3 to focus but also to set real positive goals or tasks for yourself. Sit down and write about the steps -“I will try…” it is so easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the work of professionals. They all started with tiny steps so it is important to step back and find the little steps to feel successful. Then work your way step by step to success.
  6. Discipline – I prefer the word developing since discipline can lead me to thinking of harsh working conditions. When working on new and hard skills it is helpful to say I am going to work on this task for 20 minutes or even 10 minutes. Just to get yourself started. Then you can move on to something that is easy or you understand well. But really do your hard task daily for 20 minutes. It is coming to the work each day and everyday that will help you to see growth and change.

So these are a few of the learning steps that can keep us moving along. They are the steps we need to be using with our students on line this year as well. These are part of what helps our students and our selves be good learners.

I am planning to post these in my office by my workspace – a reminder in this new year of how to move forward and be positive.

I can easily find ways to do five of the six steps but am a bit stuck on number 2. It is interesting that finding encouragement is the hard one for me. I can find many teachers – videos to watch, and books to follow but finding real live people to talk with about my work/process is harder.

I don’t know many folks, as friends, who are doing botanical work. I don’t have on line live classes I can pay for to get live encouragement. I have a few artist friends but not sure how to ask them for help. This is not the kind of thing where I just want them to say hey you are doing a great job. It is the help that is a conversation over tea/wine. The help that is looking at the drawing/painting notebook and commenting on changes they might see or questions they might have. This is where I am stuck!

My guess is this is also where our students doing distance learning might find themselves alone missing the group to learn with in a classroom. The joy of having other students around you doing the same thing. A group of students you can talk to about the work, a group to look at their work and they look at yours. It does make me wonder how/ if teachers who are doing distance learning have found ways to help student work in small groups, helped students to find ways to share their work and talk about what helps them learn.

It is what I will be thinking about this first week of January as I begin again on the task of learning how to draw and paint plants that look true to life. Wish me luck!

And good luck to all teachers as they continue distance learning during these strange times.

Working on drawing African Violets

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to water, water, watercolors and pencils and pens

  1. An extensive and reflective post Joanne. In part celebration and in part anticipation for what might come-and what might be possible! I like your plan for moving further into this phase of creative endeavour. May you execute your plan with gusto. It does take energy to develop new skills, but the upside is that the energy is more than restored in the fresh knowledge of our accomplishments.

  2. arjeha says:

    I think number 2 is difficult for do many people these days because social distancing. We all crave that human contact and those encouraging words. I also think that JOY is the first thing that is needed because without it there would be no motivation to go on. Good luck with your drawing and painting.

  3. TammyB says:

    I love this post and the image of you surrounded by your art supplies!

  4. Debbie Lynn says:

    I love your post as I can relate. After a hiatus, my focal point this year will be painting. I plan to copy your list and post it next to my art table. Thank you. 🙂

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