Watercolor Chairs

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I made a promise to myself this summer to spend more time creating, doing, immersing myself in some of my old, favorite hobbies I loved as a kid.  If you remember, this summer I talked a lot about the passions you have as a child and how they never really go away – and they’re a great indicator of what you should do now.

Enter the watercolor thing.

I started doing these watercolor exercises two years ago in a Rendering class, where we learned how to paint the textures and nuances of furniture.  We traced chairs and other pieces from old design magazines, then rendered them in color however we chose.

It was a blast.  There was something exciting about how different each rendering can appear based on how the paint dries on the page.  And for a non-committal soul like me, there’s something gratifying about placing color on paper, letting it dry into its final form without playing with it too much, watching different shadows and textures take shape.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, how much I enjoyed creating these little studies and thought, why don’t I do this more?  Well, I know why.  It’s obligations, chores on my to-do list, and the ebb and flow of life in general that can pull one away from something that’s so simple but can be deeply gratifying.

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But I just realized I’m not OK with that, and here’s why.  I just finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which serendipitously talks about living a more creative life.  We’re all creators, she hypothesizes, and we come from a bloodline of people who have made things with their hands for thousands of years.  Just because we don’t use those gifts everyday doesn’t mean they’re not there, waiting to be acknowledged and put to use.

The advice struck me, hard.  The fact that you can live a more creative life solely because it feels good, is liberating.  That you can pursue it not for career change, not for fame or recognition.  But for you, the artist’s sake, exploring your curiosity and creativity solely because of the joy it brings you.

My favorite morsel from Gilbert is this:  “You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end – except one thing.  You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.  And that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid live.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So selfishly, I’m creating these studies for the sheer enjoyment they bring me, posting them here to hold myself accountable.  Chairs are fun!  But so are landscapes, trees, and hell, maybe vegetables.  I hope you enjoy them.  But most importantly, I enjoyed creating them.  And that’s what matters most.

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Summertime Throwback

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They say the things we did for fun at 8 years of age are the things that will – then and now – make us happiest.  I’m not sure where I heard this, but when I did, it struck me.  And it did so again during a recent visit to my parents’ home.

I found this shell on display in a powder room, inscribed with its date of creation:  1988.  I was 10 at the time, and pursuing a budding career in shell painting.  These little studies took up much of my summer afternoons, and I spent hours churning out pieces for friends and family.  (There were many duds, of course: one gem that my sister has since “lost” screamed “Erika’s Room!” in a horrid peach-and-mint-green palette.  Not my best work).

But producing a masterpiece each time wasn’t the point.  I got lost in the blissful act of creation, and loved it.   There was no goal, no deadline; I was creating art for the sake of creating art.

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I thought of this recently when my friend Marley visited me at the shore.  She arrived with handfuls of colorful embroidery floss in tow, and we whiled away the day weaving bracelets, recalling the knots of our youth, muscle memory at its best.

With each new project, I spent an embarrassing amount of time choosing colors and designing my pattern.  Like painting shells, each new design presented me with a limitless combination of colors and an empty slate, the possibilities endless.

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I wove together this number after I got the hang of it (again)

And I realized:  this isn’t too different from dreaming up a concept for a room.  In fact, little creations like these can act as a springboard for new designs: like how a room would look with a with a buttery leather sofa, lavender and orange throw pillows, brass accents, and a patterned rug to bring it all together.

And I guess that’s the point of all of this:  by letting myself get totally wrapped up in something so simple yet so consuming, I not only created something beautiful (to me), but came out of it with renewed inspiration.

On that note, I’m diving more freely into my little creative projects, starting now.  Projects I’m pursuing purely for the joy they bring me.  We all get caught up in the speed and hustle of everyday life – at least I do.  Things may move fast around me, but it doesn’t mean I can’t slow down and find time for the things I love.

So I’m watercoloring more, painting more, sketching more.  And in the spirit of sharing, I’ll be publishing a different sample of work each month, starting with some watercolor studies I’ve been working on.

Hey, what’s old is new again.