It might sound silly for me to say this considering how many new things I've been trying lately. Fabric design. Teaching video classes (which on the one hand I'm looking at and thinking, What? I'm actually doing that?!). And even before that, venturing into art in the first place. Deciding to upend my lifestyle and move from a big city to a rural area and embrace a simpler way of life (whatever that means -- and whoa boy, has that road been hard and scary and uncomfortable at times).
I guess the reason that I say I don't like venturing out of my comfort zone is that I love the idea of comfort. The dream I have of the future me is cozy and sunny and colorful. It's a small dream. I don't want to be rich and famous. I just want to be comfortable.
I hold onto that dream.
But looking back I see that I haven't let it keep me from venturing out of my comfort zone.
When looking for quotes for today's post I cam across one that really resonated with me:
“Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that - that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”
You see, that's me. I'm certainly not saying that I'm great, what I mean is that I am constantly doing things before I know I can do them.
There are so many things I want to do and if I waited until I was ready, I'd never do any of them.
Even so, I do find myself dragging my feet when things are difficult. A good example of this is working with gouache. I love the idea of gouache and I love what other artists do with gouache, but I don't yet love working with the medium.
I've bought two different sets of gouache with the goal of practicing with it. I bought a sketchbook specifically with the intention of playing with gouache in it. And yet, I drag my feet. Sure I have other things that are keeping me busy, but I could fit in a little sketchbooking. After all, in my classes I advocate fitting short periods of art making into your day. I also advocate experimenting and trying new things.
In truth, my sketchbooks seem to be fairly un-experimental. Most of the time I sketch with black micron. Because for such a long time working in a sketchbook was itself out of my comfort zone, it didn't really matter to me if I was doing the same thing over and over. In fact, doing the same thing over and over -- practice -- is good for your art. But I think we also need to stretch ourselves, continually try things that are more and more difficult or we'll never grow.
I know I did this with my watercolor painting, whether fully conscious of it or not. My subjects, my compositions, have gotten more and more complex as my skills have developed (it's easy to see this when looking at paintings of subjects I've painted multiple times over the years).
So, yes, focus is good. But it's also good to try new things, different things. And it's naive to think that when you're trying those things for the first time (or the second or third or fourth or, or, or) it will be easy or that you'll immediately be successful (ok, sure, there are some people for whom that's the case, but I don't know any of them).
Which brings me to another quote that resonates with me:
"Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction."Yes.
-- Harry Truman*
Your action will be imperfect at first and that is fine. It's good. It means you're doing something. It's a sign of growth. And it's easy to forget. It's so much easier to avoid the things we're not good at than to embrace the messiness of the beginning.
Sometimes the beginning isn't as messy as you think it will be. This week I've been playing around in my sketchbooks with media I'm not comfortable with. Yes, gouache, but also colored pencil. Oh, how I love the idea of colored pencils. The look of them lined up in their jars, but I never seem to actually get around to using them.
And so wanting to experiment, but not having enough time to wash off my palette, mix colors and experiment with gouache, I grabbed my jars of colored pencils and played with them.
I'm glad I did.
I'm glad I got around to playing with gouache, too, even though it frustrated me.
Frustration is part of growth, too. Frustration has driven me so many times on this journey of mine. It impels me to keep going. To figure things out. To overcome.
And so, my wish for you this weekend is this: get out of your comfort zone; try something new; experiment; play; have fun. You never know where it will lead.
*there is some uncertainty whether Harry Truman actually said this