Losing and finding some balance in the plein air painting workshop

After the last meal was served to the public, and people said goodbye to the summer of 2012, the Islesford Dock Restaurant served up their 4th annual plein air workshop.

I signed up for the second session with high expectations of having  no expectations of myself. I was going to be relaxed this year when it came to painting. I had finished a small batch of jewelry for the last hurrah at Winter’s Work and I was ready to enjoy the time off, the great food, and the chance to do nothing but be creative for 2 and 1/2 days. My good friend Holly was about to arrive from Connecticut to take the workshop with me.

Here’s the thing. I have not picked up a paint brush in 2 years, which is the last time I took this workshop. When I imagine painting, I picture myself magically being able to produce something I would like to hang on my wall…as if any talent I might have could just develop in the background, over passing time, to be picked up again at a more advanced stage than when I left off.

On my first day I had way more expectations than I realized. I forgot about relaxing and enjoying the plein air. I compared myself to everyone else and judged myself to be  woefully inept at painting or even having a good time trying to paint. 

 

 

 

Lunch was delicious, and then my afternoon attempts at painting  brought me to tears. I hate being the one to cry at these times. I don’t want to be upset. I don’t even know why I get this upset. I hate the attention it calls to me as people try to fix it or make it better. I just want to crawl into a hole. Good times…not!

After the first day of painting, I left in the middle of dinner. The last thing this introvert could handle was making sparkling conversation with new friends. I was disappointed in myself and exhausted. I went to bed before 9, a very smart thing to do.

I started with a fresh attitude and some new ideas (aided by 10 hours of sleep) on Saturday morning. The group was going to Bunker’s Cove which is one of my favorite spots on the island. I also decided I would put aside my oil paints and try some of Holly’s acrylics. I liked the new medium, a lot. I knew nothing about working with acrylics, so the morning was more about discovery than being effective with the supplies. I could have paid more attention to that feeling and stayed in it. But after lunch I was back to the expectations of really liking my creations and I just couldn’t do it. For the second time I was in tears, and so disappointed in myself for having another day like this. Sheesh! What a crybaby! What a jerk! I hated myself and the whole idea of taking a painting class. I was never going to do this again.

I worry so much about what other people might think. I imagine they are seeing most of my actions as social faux pas. (Yeah, I even Googled that to make sure I had the proper form for the plural of “faux pas!”) I judge myself quite harshly unless I am completely alone for hours, or better yet, days. This is not a very relaxing way to live, and it seems to be ingrained in me. It’s part of who I am. The last two days highlighted many of the things I dislike about myself, and I was uncomfortable and unhappy for a good part if the time. BUT…and this is a huge and important BUT…..I stuck with two of the paintings I started yesterday afternoon. I put them down and picked them up again.  I gave them a chance over and over. Eventually I made them into something I liked.

THAT is the metaphor for where I am right now as I  make my way through my 60th trip around the sun.

No matter how many tears I shed, no matter what I am going through, no matter how much I hate it, no matter how many times I knock myself down, I always get back up again. I stick with myself. I do not give up, no matter how low I go. And this is a very good and strong part of myself that I need to claim as easily and confidently as I claim my self doubt. I have a good sense of humor that pulls me along  through so much gloom. Life is pretty damn weird and funny and I’m happy to be able to see it that way, even if it’s not all the time.

I don’t think this workshop was about painting for me. I think it was about finding some balance. About seeing the “bad and good” in myself and feeling comfortable with it. I think it was about trying a different approach and sticking with it for a while to see how it influences the other parts of my life.

As the group left, I stood on the dock feeling pretty happy to still be on the island. I also felt a little bit sad and lost, and a little bit ready to try some more painting.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Losing and finding some balance in the plein air painting workshop

  1. great post
    xoxoxoxoxo

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  2. LeAnn

    I’d say you had a pretty good 21/2 days if you could come out with this insight. Well done.

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    • Barb Fernald

      Oh, thanks LeAnn. It was good for me to take the time last night to reflect on it. I know there’s always something good to take away from just about any situation, but I sure felt pissy while I was painting!

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  3. Barb, you did the most important thing you could do, which was feel what you were feeling, understand yourself more, and stick to it! We are all walking around wanting other people to accept us when we should really work on accepting ourselves! I think you did a great job!

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  4. Sally

    You’re ahead of me – I don’t think I’ve even _tried_ to paint since 7th or 8th gr. Except a wall w/ a roller…. (Art became an option in 9th gr, and I took the option.) I do sometimes think about taking a class, but it hasn’t happened yet. One of these decades?

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  5. What an emotional weekend for you!. I am my worst crtici and if it were me, and I was as emotionally distraught after the first day, I may not have gone back-I think you accomplished MORE than you feel you did. This was an inspiring post – thank you for sharing!

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    • Barb Fernald

      THanks for the comment Patti. I am definitely my own worst critic. I need to learn to be my own best fan! It’s all a process – life.

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  6. The thing I have found about painting is that two years is like dog years. It is really like starting over. Of all the creative pursuits, I think painting is the most difficult. We tend to compare ourselves to others and all their successes. As long as I have been painting, I never, ever felt successful. Just don’t cut off your ear. :)) And keep at it. it will come back………..

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    • Barb Fernald

      Ha ha! Very funny about the ear. Bruce told me he almost said the same thing to me over the weekend! I can see that if I want to keep painting I will need to keep painting. There is nothing to come back from, it’s all pretty new.

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  7. Nomads

    Barb, this post resonates with me strongly for how I often feel when riding with my speedy, racer, cycling buddies!

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  8. Kelly Fernald

    Barb, this post resonates with me strongly for how I often feel when riding with my speedy, racer, cycling buddies!
    Thanks for posting!

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    • Barb Fernald

      Hi Kelly. Thanks for mentioning that. I would never think you would feel that way because you are such a super cycler in my book! Funny what we do to ourselves in our head.

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  9. Susan White

    Thanks for putting my feelings into perspective from my own painting days. We do beat on ourselves. I quit a drawing class once because I just couldn’t see how people could be shading their pictures of a skull for 2 hours when I was finished in 5 minutes. Shesh! I have 2 of my paintings hanging here where nobody can see them. I like all of my paintings better cup up and used as backgrounds for scrapbooks, mailart etc. I could carry on about this for a very long time.

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    • Barb Fernald

      Thanks Susan. You really help me keep it in perspective. I love all your scrapbooks, and book arts. Probably because there are pieces of your paintings in them!

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