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Don’t expect too much too soon

It’s not unusual for a beginner to splash a bit of paint around and declare that they are useless at painting, giving up before they’ve really started. Whatever medium you’ve decided to start with, it’s very much like learning to drive a car. You don’t expect to be able to drive competently in traffic after your first lesson, and anyone who does is being unrealistic. For some strange reason, a lot of beginners to art expect to be able to produce worthwhile pictures right from the get go. If their first efforts aren’t up to their expectations, they lose confidence and stop trying.

A common expression in art circles refers to our “art journey”. That’s because our progress is the result of lots of little steps. Just like any journey, the first step barely scratches the surface, and we need to be several steps along the road before we can begin to feel that we’ve made some progress.

In my article “Don’t throw them away” I speak about keeping all of our pictures so that we can look back and see how far we’ve come, and that is very relevant here too. Only after several small steps can we expect to look back and see some progress. And here is that word ‘expect’ again. Disappointment comes from failing to meet our expectations, but that isn’t fair if our expectations are unrealistic. Expecting too much, too quickly, is guaranteed to lead to disappointment.

So my advice is to be realistic with your expectations. Expect your first brush strokes to be nothing more than getting a feel for how the brush picks up the paint and spreads it on the paper; nothing more than getting a feel for mixing the paint; nothing more than marking out a few basic shapes and seeing how the paint reacts when it meets other paint. If all you do is mix blue and yellow to make green; mix green and red to make brown; and use the two colours to make a lollipop shaped tree, you will have taken the first tentative steps of your journey.

The art journey is a long one, and never ends as there are many turns and crossroads as we learn new tricks and try different media and different techniques, but that is what is so magical about it … when we first start out we just don’t know where it’s going to take us.