Day seventeen: Today is the first day back after the university’s spring break. I spent the week leading a group of college students on a volunteer trip to the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Most of the trip I spent considering whether or not I was an effective and inspirational leader. Most of the trip I also considered that worrying about whether or not I was an effective leader actually made me pretty ineffectual and that spending energy trying to inspire others is rather self-indulging and not inspirational in the least. The last night of the trip, the students all told me how I did such an amazing job in meeting their needs, providing space for them to grow and staying calm amidst chaotic situations (losing power for 24 hours, being 100 yards from a shooting, nearly getting jumped on a street corner). I’m now feeling empowered to do anything and everything, including illustrating a children’s book and maybe even make a friend in watercolor class. I’m setting a new intention for the rest of the semester: open mind, positive vibes only.
Day nineteen: When painting with watercolors, you have to wet, stretch and dry the cold press paper before using it. Because the paper will change shape again when you paint on it, the best practice is to tape the paper down onto a board before painting to avoid rippling. When the class started, my expensive Arches brand paper hadn’t come in yet, so I made do with a supposedly crappy value pad of watercolor paper and therefore didn’t see the need to tape it down. When the Arches sheets arrived, I continued my habit of not taping. At this point, I have a large stack of wavy paintings of slightly distorted memories. I find this to be a poetic commentary on life. Even with photos and journals to help recount experiences, it is impossible to perfectly remember every travel adventure I’ve had. My remembrance of visiting particular places with certain people is fuzzy from being overwritten by millions of new experiences that have taken place since I last traveled. This existentialist realization bums me out and I spend the rest of the class time staring out the window and trying to recall every moment of every trip I’ve ever taken.
Day twenty-one: I realize that I probably need one more location for the envelope to travel to and decide to include London. Initially I avoided the United Kingdom because I wanted a variety of languages. I already included Australia and the United States and didn’t need a third country of native English speakers. However, my painting of “Big Ben” turns out extraordinarily well in a very short amount of time. I even get some decent shadows underneath the bridge. I think that I might actually have some artistic talents.