Attend to the Process and Optimise the Outcome

I’ve been teaching some of my long term drawing students how to paint with watercolour. They’ve been learning for about 3 months and are gaining dexterity and confidence with the medium. One of these students came to me to learn to draw after her husband was put into care with Alzheimers and someone suggested she do something for herself. She didn’t believe she would ever learn how to draw, let alone paint! Over the years she has learned that if we attend to the process, we can optimise the outcome. She drew the yellow lily and the pansy.

I’m very moved by her courage to try something new, her openness to the process and her level of attainment. As we age, we tend to lose our fine motor co ordination, simply because we stop doing the activities that engage it. We can become resistant to new endeavours because of our ‘fear of failure’, getting it ‘wrong’ and looking ‘silly’ in the eyes of others. We may become more and more nervous round the vulnerability of making ‘mistakes’. It is these very ‘mistakes’ that actually enable the desired outcome.

The woman who drew the flowers above has been learning watercolour for three months. She drew the leaves in one continuous line, coming from the shoulder, applied the blue and green paint onto a wet surface and let it flow. She now has the dexterity to paint in the tiny tips so characteristic of the five finger Pseudopanix. The next step is to re wet the surface and apply deep green, letting it flow into the water. We have an understandable fear that we are going to ‘mess up’ our painting, so I teach recovery strategies as well!

My intention is to teach techniques and strategies and also to encourage people to feel comfortable with not always getting the results they would like straight away, to feel comfortable with the vulnerablity of not always achieving the desired outcome in the first attempt. Our left hemisphere would have us believe that we should draw a perfect apple the first time and anything less is a failure! Every attempt towards recording the wonder of a real apple is a valuable and actually indispensable part of the learning process.

We can learn to embrace our attempts along the way, we don’t have to like them, but we can accept them as part of the creative process, offer ourselves kindness and compassion and celebrate the openness it takes to keep learning. We are often rewarded with a happy outcome!

‘For me it has been an interesting and revealing time. I have loved the satisfaction of
achieving the finished drawings. Some of which I have had made into cards to send to my
friends and family.

The time spent with you has given me a chance to concentrate on my creative process, which
I didn’t know I had. It’s interesting how many folk say they can’t draw and then I show some
of my work and encourage them to give it a go.’

Learning to draw and paint begins with giving it a go.