It wasn’t exactly one of those Jack and Rose “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls” kind of moments. We weren’t on a doomed boat in the middle of the ocean and Celine Dion wasn’t providing the soundtrack to our adventures. Instead, a group of journalists were gathered in the garden area of a resort town, trying to figure out how to paint a mid-sized sedan and create a reasonably intriguing backdrop.
With acrylic paint on our palettes and blank canvases before us (aside from the light outline of the Ford Fusion for reference), we channeled our inner Monet and let our brushes do the talking. At least, that was the idea. What did I learn from the experience of painting my masterpiece?
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Based on my increasingly unreliable memory, the last time I would have picked up a paintbrush to apply to a canvas might have been some time in high school, nearly two decades ago. I may derive some pleasure from random sketches and doodles along the margins of notepaper, but the art of painting is entirely different. This was quite a departure from business as usual for me and I’m glad I gave it a go.
No Two Strokes Are Alike
On a macro level, no two canvases looked alike by the time we were done with them. Everyone had a completely different approach and vision for what they wanted to accomplish. On a more micro level, painting really illustrates how no two strokes are ever going to be the same.
I tried to mix varying levels of blue, white and black paint to create my sky. Each stroke came out as a slightly different shade and with a slightly different texture. And that’s okay. Uniformity is boring. Art is about personal expression, right?
Own Your Mistakes
Painting is supposed to be calming and therapeutic. I found the experience to be stressful and nerve-wracking. Growing up in the digital age, I’ve come to expect that anything that I’ve done can be quickly undone. All I have to do is press CTRL+Z. Mistype a word? Just hit backspace. That’s not how painting works.
Several times over the course of our little session, I put myself through the same agonizing thought process. If I just dab a little here or put an extra stroke here, I can fix how that looks. Oh. Well then. (Expletive.) I just made it infinitely worse again.
Even when you let the paint dry and attempt to cover it up, some mistakes just become a part of the work. And in the end, that’s okay. Bob Ross calls these happy accidents.
Instagram People Have Terrible Taste?
To say that I wasn’t exactly impressed with my creation would be quite the understatement. I posted my painting on Instagram, not expecting all that much of a reaction.
Somehow, it has become my most successful Instagram post ever. I was amazed when it hit 50 likes. I was floored when it hit 100 likes. But those “likes” just keep coming. My own assessment of my own work is effectively irrelevant. You’ll never know what you’ll get until you throw it out there for the world to see.
As a particularly insightful friend posited, these folks on Instagram are either agreeing that I should indeed stick to my day job or they really do think I have a future as an artist. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
The Process Is More Important than the Product
I’ve linked to my blog post from way back in 2008 before and I’ll probably do it again. It’s a lesson that is always worth re-iterating and re-emphasizing. Life is a song, not a race. It’s not about the carrot on the stick. The thing you get at the end — whether it’s the painting of a car or anything else — is ultimately unimportant.
It’s not about the destination. It’s about the drive. Enjoy the ride.