A rumor that might be truth: purple sells paintings.
A reality I know to be truth: despite color theory, purple is almost impossible to create using red and blue paints.
The fact I’m left with: I probably won’t be selling many paintings.
Day one: My introduction to watercolor class, held in the basement (ahem lower level) of the fine arts building is full of wide-eyed, hopeful freshman painting students and a few squinty-eyed, skeptical sophomore photography students. No one knows what they’re doing. At this point, no one cares. Most everyone is concerned with whether or not their shipment of cold-press paper will arrive in time to complete the first assignment. I’m concerned about what people are thinking about me. The professor openly acknowledges my existence as if I’m an old friend, even though we are not. Everyone looks at me as if I’ve appeared out of thin air. They aren’t quite wrong.
Day three: I’m enrolled as a student, but I’m not in college anymore. I’m young-looking enough to pass for an upper division student, but I’m actually old enough to be able to rent a car without the annoying extra fee. An imposter. We have class twice a week in a sun-filled room with leaky sinks, mismatched chairs and not enough space for everyone to work effectively. Today I find a seat at the end of a wooden table that’s been marred with the strokes of a thousand creative ideas that rolled off their drawing pads and canvases. I know the girl with the extra scowly face sat here last week, but there are no other empty chairs and I’m the one who is on time. She needs to learn how to adult properly and promptly. When she arrives 15 minutes later, I mumble an apology for taking the space. She doesn’t seem to notice as she slides in next to one of her photography friends. I notice my forehead is tense from my own unintentional scowl. By this point in life, I’m well aware that my resting face does not indicate that I’m approachable. I need to remember to smile more.
Day five: The overarching goal of the semester-long class is to write and illustrate an original children’s book. When I was 8, I won the regional Young Authors contest. This project should be no problem for me. Except. When I was 8, I didn’t know that I wasn’t a great artist or author. About the time I turned 9, I started realizing that my overworked illustrations looked juvenile. One of my cousins could easily draw delicately intricate fairies, dragons, trees, castles – honestly anything and everything – with amazing realism. I decided my talent wouldn’t get me anywhere and largely abandoned art to the angsty kids who could magically recreate a human face on a napkin with a half-used pencil. I pressed on into early adolescence thinking I still had a knack for whisking words into captivating sentences full of grace and structure. But then junior high rolled around and yet again, my confidence was slashed to pieces when my literary works didn’t receive quite the same accolades as those of my classmates (I usually got second or third place). Better leave words to someone else. I was a straight A student all the way through junior high and high school — even earning the distinction of valedictorian — but by the time I got to college, I basically talked myself out of every talent and passion that I once embraced. Out of desperation, I chose to study business because it was practical and everyone got a business degree, so I concluded that it must not take much raw talent to succeed.
But that was years ago. I am out of grad school by now. I decided to enroll in this watercolor class just because. Creatively, I’m feeling as dry as a tube of old paint. Intellectually, I need to learn something new and stimulating. Psychologically, I need to try my hand at a creative pursuit I always wanted to love, but never let myself enjoy.
At this point, we have to storyboard our book. At all costs, I’ve decided that I need to avoid painting humans. They won’t turn out and I’ll get frustrated and I’m taking this class to enjoy myself. I decide my narrative will follow a letter that gets lost in the mail as it travels from Australia to the United States. I will only have to paint an envelope and various internationally recognizable monuments. The concept is simple, relatable and no faces are required.