Learning to Unlearn

Remember when you first painted as a child how you had fun experimenting? You experimented with colors you liked, things you could use as a brush (like your dog’s tail), and how a crayon could take on a life of its own. We knew exactly what to do without even being taught.


And then we grew up. Then we were told that our drawings needed refinement, our colors needed to be more harmonious, all while noticing that the art done by the kid sitting next to us was much better than ours. That’s when we gave up. We became timid about choosing the right color, and became scared to draw something, anything, that wasn’t perfect. The joy that once appeared as a splash of brushstrokes with poster paints suddenly disappeared into a dark corner, never to be seen again.

The biggest fear I find that most of my students have when taking my painting workshops, is that they are afraid to start. They are afraid they will fail, even before they start.

We all need to warm up, whether it is in exercising or painting. We need to loosen up and remove the intimidation of wondering if we will succeed.

In teaching how to work quickly with several 10-15 minute painting warm-up exercises (see above photo), I find it helps break the ice of worries, and encourages play and spontaneity. Oftentimes, a study done as a warm-up is the prelude to a larger painting. Or sometimes, the time-restricted painting is actually perfect just as it is. Imperfections and all.

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