Juliet Thorburn-McIntosh is a Jamaican watercolor artist and my friend. I have always been drawn to watercolor art, which made it easy for me to like Juliet's work. I did harbor the secret dream of being able to paint as beautifully as Juliet though I had never taken an art class and showed no signs of any artistic ability. When the opportunity arose a few years ago to take classes with Juliet I jumped at the chance. Ummm… Jumping without thinking is not always a good idea!
Those classes with Juliet came to mind recently when I saw Juliet’s newly published book of some of her work, A Watercolour Tribute to Historic Jamaican Churches. Yes I am biased and I highly recommend it! But I digress – In my class with Juliet there were, I think, three students. Now, many years later, I couldn't tell you one thing that I learned about watercolor art except that it’s a lot harder than it looks. What do I remember?
The joy of purchasing the paint, brushes, and paper and with the excitement that I was going to paint! It's like getting a new book, smelling the new pages and holding this crisp new book in your hands. Big excitement! I remember the fun of meeting the other students in Juliet's studio and setting up our easels and workspaces for the next few hours of our first class. This settled into listening to Juliet describe what we were going to be doing and getting us started in the process. Then it all went downhill from there!
It started with a light pencil sketch of what you want to paint. We did easy shapes, testing paint, seeing how colors mixed, and getting a feel for it. A few classes in and we started on what would become our final artwork. However, the mango and candleholder that I was sketching were not exactly the right shape. Erase, erase, erase and sketch again. It’s a good thing that I had a big eraser and a teacher who was patient and funny!!
At no point was I comfortable with this whole painting thing. I mean really, why did I ever think I could paint!?! Please be clear that this is no reflection on Juliet's ability to paint or to teach painting. For me the class very quickly morphed into an inner drama with Me, Myself, and I – a drama that I had to work hard to hide as I figured that Juliet didn’t really need any extra work.
Oh, the sarcasm that my monkey mind produced when, for the umpteenth time, I re-sketched the outline. Never mind that I've never had an art class past kindergarten! Or the less than complimentary thoughts that popped in when the paint reached the paper. Hmmph. Shutting off that stream of the ‘not nice’ inner voice was extremely difficult. I kept my outer voice as steady as I could but I have to admit I was relieved when the course of classes came to an end.
In truth no one really cared if my mango was an odd shape, and in the end the overall painting wasn’t all that bad…just a little askew…ok…more than a little – maybe. Looking back now I see how much the inner drama and negative self-talk took away from what could have been a much more fun experience. Have you ever done that to yourself?
Don’t be your own worst enemy. Change your inner dialogue and take some action toward that secret dream you’ve always had. And then share your story with me because I bet you’ll live to talk about it and even better, enjoy it!