Feel The Fear And Leap Anyway - A 2021 Challenge

Last year's 2020 Year of Marilyn Challenge was a great success for me personally.  It took the focus off what I found to be an intimidating birthday number and instead pushed me to try new things, face challenges and just do things I THINK about doing but never quite get to - things like write a letter and mail it old school. I have elderly relatives in particular who truly loved that one.

I decided at the start of January to create a new one for 2021. With a birthday in mid-January, the timing works well with the calendar year as well.  I dove in on January 11th, five days before my birthday, and created a few things to start my list but I will be adding more to it as I go along. You can see my Marilyn's 2021 Bucket List Challenge HERE. I included a favorite category from 2021 that was simply Try Something New.  Axe Throwing and Zip Lining were my answers to this challenge last year. Only did each once, but enjoyed them immensely and would love to do them again.

This year my Try Something New seems to also fall in a category I'm calling Face A Fear. I have always loved watercolor painting - the transparency, the fluidity, the difficulty, the emotion it captures when done by someone with serious skill.  However, outside of writing, my artistic talents have always leaned more toward the sculptural.  

I took every course in ceramics offered in university and ended up the class TA my final year. There was nothing more gratifying that slicing a hunk of clay off a 25 pound block, pounding it into shape, putting it on a large pottery wheel and molding the spinning blob. It was a satisfying, extremely physical experience. When my daughter was young, I also stepped into dance costuming to help pay for her classes. I never like putting ornamentation on them. I liked building the 3D shape of each costume in a way that made the diverse body types in a group match.

Painting uses a totally different skill set and not one that comes easily for me. BUT I realized it was February already and I hadn't begun a single thing on my new list. This seemed like something I could start with. I did a quick search for watercolor painting classes and found one just minutes from my house.  It seemed to be a continuation of a January class, but I was assured beginners were welcome and there would be new people. 

Fear took over - not my skill set, not a class with just beginners, I didn't know the teacher, and how good would the returning students be. The longer I thought about it, the more frozen I became.  Thinking and leaping can be mortal foes. I mentioned I was thinking of trying my hand at watercolor to Emma, an artist photographer I knew. She immediately said GO FOR IT and added exploring another kind of art would bring a new element to my writing.

I am normally great at leaping into the unknown.  Usually my heart flings me off the cliff with joy. The fear comes after when my head starts thinking about what I have gotten myself into. Not this time. The day the class was to start, my friend's words were still rolling around in my head, but I was so nervous.  At noon I threw caution to the wind and decided it was time to feel the fear and leap anyway. I registered online and then headed to their store to get my supply list purchased.  When I got home I left the bag of supplies in the car to keep me moving forward.

At 6:20 I arrived at the studio and said hello to the teacher who seemed super friendly.  Looking around at the other five students, however, I was pretty sure I was the only person who never picked up a brush before. Most had taken his January class and one lady had been taking his classes for two years.  Not only that, but there was a video he sent to new people you were supposed to watch before the class that I hadn't received as I registered too late. I was even more lost than I should have been.

The first hour we had a little prep to do, but also watched as he talked and demonstrated to the online students how to approach tonight's painting. You heard me right - today's painting.  As I listened, the panic rose and the fear started to take over. Could I just pack up and walk out while he was talking online?  I felt it would be too disruptive, so with sheer will glued myself to my seat and tried to just watch and absorb what I could as he threw out brush and paint color names I had never heard of.

After the online lecture was over. The teacher turned his focus to the students in the live class. After a short talk, he came and sat face to face with me.  All I could say to him was my truth - this is absolutely not beginner. I was totally lost. I was over my head. I knew nothing about paint and brushes or even how to hold one. This wasn't the class for me.  Tears were close - I felt like I was sinking in quick sand. 

His response? Stick it out.  Then he gave me two small projects to work on that made sense. The first was working with just one color of paint to create five swatches from light to dark.  Then I had to draw 12 boxes with a pencil, paint each with clear water and then explore brushing strokes in them. I was to explore getting the paint to bleed and getting brush strokes with sharp edges. He circled the class giving other feedback on their iris painting in progress and called us over occasionally as he demonstrated techniques on their work. It was fascinating.

After he'd given all the other students feed back, he came back to talk with me. He talked a bit about watercolor and how it worked - the basics. How to make things come forward in a painting, and what made them recede. Lots of basic ideas to understand.  We reviewed my beginner attempts and he gave me things to work on at home over the week.  If I felt I was comfortable enough with those, I could try doing the lilac painting at home alone - no pressure. I am still feeling over my head, but it's only four weeks and I will definitely show up one more class, so that will make me half way to the finish line.  

But that DOESN'T mean I'm not still totally feeling untalented and afraid. I am. It just means I am choosing to put one step in front of another for now. And while my goal at this point may be to simply finish the class, that is too hard to keep my eye on at this moment. When faced with fear and self-doubt I have to change my focus in tight to simply what the one thing right in front of me is and do that. If you do enough single little things they add up to a something bigger, then a bigger thing and maybe, just maybe, reaching the goal that seemed so unattainable.

I have no expectations
 I will even finish the class at this point, I am just choosing to keep going for one week - and hopefully that becomes one more and then one more. Only three one mores and I will finish this class and can decide if that's enough or if I want to explore watercolor in a new class. That is for future Marilyn to decide.

Live in Richmond and interested in taking painting classes either live or online? Check out the listings at Phoenix Art -www.phoenixartworkshop.com/classes/class-schedule/