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.