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Michelangelo's First Painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony, is believed to have been created when he was 12 or 13 years old. When his father realized his son has no interest in the family business, he agreed to apprentice Michelangelo to the artist Ghirlandaio. He was in his twenties when he was first noticed as an artist in his own rights.

Emily Carr began art school at the age of 19, yet she was not recognized nationally as an artist until she was in her fifties. Van Gogh didn't start painting until he was 27 and didn't receive any formal training, however he took painting lessons from a cousin by marriage, Anton Mauve, who was celebrated as an artist. According to VanGoghMuseum he never felt his drawing technique was good enough, and practiced fanatically.

I wonder when if they felt that they were just faking it, a fraud, and when they stopped doubting themselves and their art?

Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

As a beginning artist I started with low quality paint and the least expensive paper I could find that was still watercolour quality. I soon learned that I would never learn any technique and be continually frustrated while working at with these materials and was willing to "level up" to student grade paint and paper. About a year later, I stepped up to professional paints and better brands of paper, but kept my eye on the cost per page never wanting to risk "wasting" the good stuff on my art. And I wondered, how much difference would it make anyways for someone who wasn't trained, who has been painting for less than 5 years.

Not Alone.

The feeling of not really being good enough in our chosen activities is universal, so much so that the those that we admire and strive to be like still struggle with the same lingering thoughts. One of my favourite authors said this:

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”Neil Gaiman

The only way forward in anything is to take the next step - into the deep end - and to focus on the positive progress that's been made through the waves of doubt. Each time I paint, I look at the things I like, what went well and use that to move me forward.

I host an art club (and by host I mean show up and offer encouragement) where we were working through basic techniques. We practiced faded washes and how they can be used to convey distance like in this simple mountain painting where the faded colour not only can represent distance but also mist.

Then we explored how softening the edges of paint can be done in any direction to fade out a colour into the distance. We used the one colour in different degrees of to paint a winter trees in the woods scene. And as before, I felt called into the deeper waters, to explore my own interpretation of trees.

What would the scene look like if one was standing right in front of a tree, looking past it? What detail would be revealed, how would be lit by the sun, what would be in shadow and how could I paint that?

Fortunately there are a lot of trees in Tumbler Ridge and it was not hard to go stand in front of one and gather ideas, take some photos and make a plan.

It took a few tries.

Hmm. A bit bland, needs salt...

Salting wet paint is always fun. It can have all sorts of effects depending on the type of salt, the type of paint and how wet the paper is when it's used. This was my first attempt at my vision of tree bark. I learned what I loved and what didn't fit. Some of the salt stuck to the paint (see those white flecks) which gave it more texture (when viewed in person) but the paper did not let me work much with it before I could see that I was destroying the fibers.

Time to take that step into the deep end

Last blog I had broken out the good stuff, the heavy weight professional artist cotton paper, that I had bought over half a year ago but was too scared to touch for fear I wasn't good enough to use it. Now it was time to see what could be done with new materials.

Dark Winter Day

I love this paper. The texture and thickness add so much to the final painting. The jagged edge gives it an authentic feel, and it is so forgiving. I was able to manipulate the paint, lifting, softening without altering the fabric of the paper. I am proud of this peice, but it wasn't quite there yet as there was no sun's glow off the bark I was hoping to achieve. I had lost some of the brightness of my orignal attempt.

Sun's Glow on a Winter Tree

I am a loose painter, I hold the brush loose, I often move with casual strokes to try to capture the feelings of an image instead of focusing on the precise details. A little splatter, a sprinkle of salt and let the paint speak.

I am proud of this piece. There is vibrance and colour, I was able to leave space for the light of the paper to glow out between the shadows, and to allow the barks "cracks" to be a bit more organic. The distant trees have some dimension to them but also some colour and texture.

I am sure in another 5 years I will look back and consider this to be a beginners work, but for now, I may be slightly out of my depth, but I did the best job I could, which is all I can really hope for.

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Jan 04, 2023

I am impressed by the thoughts you have shared. They are the deep thoughts of a writer.

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