It may be years since we learnt to paint (far more than we care to remember!) but we will never forget how learning something new made us feel. Yes, we were excited, yes we desperately wanted to learn Folk Art painting but that didn't mean our journey was all rosy.
Now that we are mentoring students through the Beginner's Masterclass, we realise that there are a few similarities between us and our students. Here are a few common mistakes we made back then that we realise our Beginners make too...
1) Comparing our journey and our work to someone else's.
Probably because we are suddenly out of our comfort zone and know that we know very little about what we are learning, we look to other people to try to work out what we should be doing. When we do that though, it is so easy to compare our painting with what others have created and often see their work as better than our own. The problem with this though is that it can discourage us and suddenly we downplay our own achievements. However small those achievements are, we should celebrate every little win and acknowledge how much we are learning.
2) Worrying too much
When we are learning something new, it is common to feel more alert as we try to take in everything. Just like learning to drive a car, there seems so many elements that we need to bring together: how to hold the brush, what amount of pressure to put on it, when to lift and how fast/slow....
One thing we wish someone had told us when we were learning is that the stress we are carrying from the worrying affects our body. When painting, we need to be relaxed. Holding tension in our bodies, or worrying too much about the outcome influences our movements. This stress and worry can help create hesitant, wobbly or angular brushstrokes. If you are struggling with wonky comma strokes, check out our Brushstroke Surgery post.
3) Expecting perfection
Sometimes, we can be so hard on ourselves and our progress (or lack of!). When we began our painting journey, there was always the temptation to look at our tutors and think that our brushstrokes should look like theirs. We found ourselves getting frustrated with our progress at times. With every new thing we learn, we should expect a learning curve of some kind but this is difficult to remember at times isn't it?! The thing is, being a beginner can make us feel uncomfortable and we want that phase to be over as soon as possible so we suddenly put pressure on ourselves to be perfect.
4) Not reviewing our progress
There is a reason why we are always telling our Beginners to keep looking back at their practice in weeks gone by. Reviewing your practice pages is such a wonderful way to boost your confidence because identifying changes (however small), in your brushstrokes or blending can really motivate you to keep going. It is amazing how much progress we see in our Progress not Perfection students even in a week and when we give feedback, they often say how they did not see it until we pointed it out. It is often so easy to focus on what we cannot get right that we forget to see what we have achieved.
If you are reading this and have identified with one or all of the points we have talked about, take a deep breath and know that you are not alone. We hope that this will encourage you to be a little gentler on yourself and learn from our mistakes ;)
Keep going, you are doing amazingly well!
Until next time x