The Voice Issue 32: October 2017 - Page 47

47

Have you ever tried something that you always wanted to do, and when you did, you discovered that you weren’t really that good at it? It’s humbling, and more than a little discouraging.

At least, that’s the way I felt last night when I finally did that thing. After years of looking at and loving landscape painting, I took the leap and signed up for a class, an easy intro class for novices like me.

Sitting down in front of the blank canvas with an array of exquisitely named paints – cerulean blue, cadmium yellow – was intoxicating. I donned my painter’s apron like a pro and started in with a steady hand. That part was probably the highlight of the evening. It went downhill from there.

I should pause here to say just how much I love landscape painting. I fall into a really great painting and fully experience it. The play of light. The mood. The story.

After last night’s toe in the water, I realize that I haven’t got the faintest idea how a painter translates a mood onto canvas. I listened and observed – I really did try – but once those gorgeous colors mixed together on my palette into a soppy, grey-green sludge, I was under water. The bright autumn scene propped up at the front of the classroom – the teacher’s White Mountains plein air example – slipped further and further from my grasp as I added more slashes of color to mask the oopses of before.

There were some admirable success stories around me. One woman’s bedraggled tree trunks evolved into beautifully shaped – dark and moody – evergreens. There was some laughter. And a fair bit of swearing, not just from me. My desk mate let out an involuntary, peppery curse as one final dark stroke seemed to obliterate her carefully understated pastoral scene.

With a tiny bit of distance and perspective, I am pondering this experience, and thinking about how yes, it was humbling and discouraging. But it was also a first step that had to be taken. It was an experiment, a stretch. I think about people who really want to do something, something life-changing – speak a new language, write a best seller, learn how to live again after a serious setback – and how their journey is humbling and discouraging. But they press on.

In the light of the morning, as I look up at the cerulean blue sky, I am thinking, I could paint that. Or at least, I think I want to try.

- Susan Reid

sreid@youngwritersproject.org; 802-324-9538

editor's note