Monday, August 24, 2015

A Life Lesson From Painting

As you might know, I've recently decided to start a painting. A huge one. It's about half the size of a big wardrobe. (I know this before I have a big wardrobe standing right next to it at the moment.)

This is the sketch I did to make sure everything fit in.
On Saturday, I decided to start painting. Nothing too detailed. Just to block in some color so that I can get more of an outline. Since I'm not exactly sure (yet) where the sky ends, and some things have holes in them that reveal more sky, I decided to start blocking that in first. My further idea is that if something shines through when I'm doing the clouds etc, it won't look like blank canvas.

But here's the thing. When I took the picture I'm painting this from, it was a gray day. And although I tried to find a clear day, I couldn't find the right angle. Besides that, I decided it's better to paint it as it was, since it's supposed to remind me of my trip to Paris. (It was spring, but it was cloudy and cold the whole time.) And I like how the fact that it was cloudy yet bright made things look just a bit more vivid.

All excellent reasons to stick to gray skies. But it took me FOUR HOURS to mix the right shade of gray. White and Black wouldn't cut it. I made my gray with red. Long, very technical story on how that works, and since I doubt anyone cares about my pedantic mission to create the right color...

I got the color and painted for about an hour. When I was done, the light was no longer good enough for me to move on to the next block. That would have taken creating a new color and... oh... I doubt you'll care about that anyway.

I actually like the gray block I've put in. It's subtle and airy. (So much so that the guide lines I drew are still visible.) But I know because I put it there. If I take a picture of it?

Nothing. it looks almost exactly like the picture above. The only difference being that in the building, where I used a slightly darker shade and stopped without coloring the whole thing, the canvas looks like it has one or two brush strokes.

Which means I spent five hours on something that looks like I didn't do anything at all. And then I woke up on Sunday to cloudy skies, which meant that I still couldn't add something to make the painting look like I actually worked on it.

Today I thought I'd steal a few hours to create something worth reporting and... you guessed it. Cloudy skies.

It got me thinking, though. Sometimes, we set ourselves big goals. (This painting is definitely the most ambitious one I've ever started.)  And sometimes, achieving those goals means taking such little steps that it looks like we haven't moved forward at all.

We get frustrated when we're not moving forward fast enough. And when life clouds things so we're stuck on the last little step we took. Which means that we're tempted to push and make too big strides when we are able to move forward. Except that's not always the right thing to do.

Sometimes, those small, seemingly invisible steps are important, because they form the foundation of what we're doing. (Like blocking out the picture before starting on more detail.)

So remember:

Even a little progress is progress. 
And those little things that no one else sees, 
Are the foundation of what you will achieve in time. 
No one sees a foundation and says: "Oh look! Such a beautiful structure." 
They only see and admire what you build upon it. 
But that's no reason to skip laying the foundation altogether. 
Or you wouldn't be able to build much.

Thoughts? Who else here is busy working on something requiring great patience? 


Robert Bennett said...

I can definitely agree with that. I've been running into a similar thing with Bishop at the Gates. It's meant to be a multi-book series and, as it's probably easy to tell, I generally work in short stories and flash fiction. It's very different than what I'm used to and keeping my ADHD mind on task for a large book is definitely a task.

Joanne said...

I can totally relate on how hard it can be to mix just the right color!

Blessings, Joanne

Blogoratti said...

A very insightful approach and thoughts, I hope it turns out great in the end!

Misha Gericke said...

Robert, nothing (not even writing a thousand shorts in a row) prepares a person to write a cohesive, full-length novel. I remember how difficult it was for me. BUT I can tell you that once you've finished one, the others become a lot easier to finish. I think a lot of the challenges we face on the first book are psychological. So keep going! You'll get to the end in time. :-)

Hi Joanne! Glad to know I'm not the only one that stressed out about mixing colors. :-)

Thanks Blogoratti.