watercolors, new hobbies + comparisons

Over the weekend inspiration hit. Late on Saturday night I decided I wanted to paint. Not even that I just wanted to, I had to paint. I had all these really amazing ideas. Since all the craft stores were closed I planned to wake up, shower and head straight to the store to pick up supplies. When I woke up it had snowed, not too much but the roads easily the worst they’d been all winter. It didn’t stop me.  It took so much longer to get to the store than normal but I chugged along. It felt good to buy new craft supplies. It had been so long since I had really purchased anything crafty that I almost forgot how great it feels.

Back safe in my warm apartment I set to work. I spent a while drawing up one of the designs I imagined the night prior and after ten or fifteen minutes painting it called it quits. It just wasn’t right. I started working on something else and wasn’t pleased either. I fiddled around with the paints a little while longer before rinsing my cup and my brushes. Not only was I discouraged, I was embarrassed. Why wasn’t I able to paint what I saw in my head? I know I’ve touched briefly in the past on how I maybe have a habit of getting too ambitious about new hobbies, then feeling defeated and eventually giving up when I’m not the best. That was happening once again.

Later in the day, while outside on my walk with Klaus, it hit me. It doesn’t matter that what I painted didn’t turn out as planned, I had fun. It was relaxing, and it felt really refreshing to do something creative again. It was my first time with watercolors but even if it was my 100th time with them it shouldn’t matter. When it comes to roadtrips I’m a firm believer that it’s not the destination that matters but the journey. Why shouldn’t that apply to art as well? I mean, obviously making something pretty is the best but just making things in general feels amazing.

I’d been in a creative slump for so long. My sewing business and circumstances at the time drained me of the creative juices that were always in me. I missed making things but I had literally no motivation. I’m slowly but surely feeling like my creativity is being awoken, first with embroidery and now with this. It feels amazing. I’m feeling like myself again.

I love making things but in a way I’ve always held myself back. I’ve always wished I could paint. In the past I’ve tried acrylics but quickly admitted defeat when I wasn’t able to produce things like my favorite artists. The thing I would always forget is that they’d been doing it for years and years. Skills take lots of time to hone. Maybe once in a blue moon you find something that you just get but everything else takes time.

Photography has always been something I just got. I’m not suggesting I’m the best, or that I have nothing left to learn – quite the contrary actually. There was one distinct moment I remember thinking photography was for me. It was shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I had begged and begged for a digital camera. Looking back, it was a piece of junk but I loved it. It even had a flip out screen so I could take pictures of myself. Not too much has changed. Hah. Anyway there were a bunch of praying mantises in my mom’s garden and I was taking pictures of them. As I was reviewing my pictures one stood out in particular. It was gorgeous. Shoot, I still think it’s a pretty decent photo. But in that moment I was like “Wow! I’m good at this! I should keep doing this!” From then on out I loved photography. In the years since then my skill has only grown.

The internet is an amazing place especially when you want to learn something. I can google “how to paint with watercolors” and get 2,360,000 results (literally). The internet is also a really awful place when you want to learn something. All of a sudden after reading a tutorial… or five you have these unrealistic expectations of what you’re making should look like. You’re comparing yourself to all these people who have been doing it for years and that’s stupid, plain and simple. I’m honestly glad I got into photography before the internet was something that was such a huge part of my everyday life. I’m not sure that I would have taken the time to work on my skills. I worry that I might have seen some amazing photographers work and been discouraged by my own.

The internet is a very real part of my life now though. Even when I’m not looking for certain things I’m seeing them, maybe on a blog I love or even instagram. Just because Jesi is over here killing it with her paintbrush shouldn’t make me feel bad about what I’m doing with my brush. She’d actually probably yell at me for making myself feel poorly because I’m want to be as good as she is. Comparing any part of your life to anyone elses is such a bad idea. I think creativity is so so so important and to let it be squashed by comparison is a waste.

The internet and comparison brings us into another discussion all together but I just wanted to write this post to remind you (and myself!) that…
 ▴ There will be hobbies you stink at at first but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be good. Keep working at it.
▴ Practice doesn’t make perfect. Nothing is perfect. But practice will make you better, guaranteed.
▴ Just because it isn’t a masterpiece doesn’t make it a failure.
▴ Another artists success is not your failure.
▴ It’s okay to be bad at something, it’s better than not trying at all.
▴ You’re never too old and it’s never too late to learn a new craft, skill or hobby.

Maybe this was a bit ramble-y but I feel like it’s important. More than that, it’s being weighing on my chest for too long and I know that others probably feel the same way. Now get back to that hobby you tried to pick up six months ago but shoved in a drawer to try and forget about after less than perfect results! I have a paintbrush to get back to.

Author: Kaylah Stroup

A collector of weird things. Plant Enthusiast. Wanderer. Beachcomber. Forever longing for the desert.

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  • This is an awesome post, Kaylah! It's so funny how easily we give up on something when it doesn't just click right away. I have an Appalachian Dulcimer that I only play about once a month because I am continually giving up on it. I wonder if it would just be best to schedule in a little bit of practice time every day with new hobbies? Hmmmm, this post is really making me think.
    Also, as sort of a watercolorist myself, my best advice about watercolor is that you can only control it so much. You can learn all the techniques in the world, but it still tends to have a bit of a free spirit. I tend to work on one small portion of a painting at a time and thinking about how wet or dry the area I'm working on it. It makes a big difference in the effect of how your next stroke will look. Keep painting 🙂 Watercolors are good for the soul.

    • Honestly, I think my biggest problem with watercolors is that I dove right in before trying to get the hang of how they worked. These last few days I've been just practicing and playing around with how it works. It's actually been really fun. I'm enjoying just seeing how it all works.

  • When you look at your own creations, you always see what you wanted it to be and how it is different from that, so the "flaws" are far more noticeable to you. When other people look at your art they don't have that beginning expectation so it's easier to appreciate the talent. If you start comparing yourself to someone else, just remember they probably are having the same feelings about what they're working on, even though you just see it as this perfect thing you'll never be about to do as well. I hope that helps you not get discouraged any more 😉

  • This post really resonated with me. I believe that most of the unhappiness that people experience is a result of comparison and saying things like "Why is so-and-so better at this than I am?" or "Why can't I be as good as this person at a certain hobby?" When you look at the other people around you it's so difficult to see the improvements that you're making. I've been known to compare myself but I've realized that I am the happiest with myself when I cut myself some slack and acknowledge that I'm improving and having fun while doing it. If I do any comparing, it's with my past self.

  • Great post, very inspirational. I used to do a lot of painting in highschool but didn't find the time during University. Makes me want to go out and get some paint supplies now 🙂

  • Great post 🙂 So true.
    I've also been fighting with watercolors lately. It is hard to get to paper what we see in our head through watercolors. Practice is indeed needed!
    One of my new year resolutions is to learn 10 new things. When I told my Dad about it he said that it couldn't be accomplished (and that I was a bit crazy bc I didn't really have time for that blahblahblah). Then I explained that all I wanted was to learn, not to master it and I got him on board.
    It is about the fun we have and the circuits in our brain we activate, not about being the best at things. Maybe we will be some day. But if we're not happy doing, we just might as well suck.
    Now I reaaaally gotta make time for these things. #1 is caligraphy, #2 book binding, #3 sewing a plush monster! Yay! 😀

  • To be honest watercolours are actualy very hard to master but in the same time are so much fun! Speaking of which, have you tried using sea salt? Or painted with coffee? Have fun and don't worry about final result because sometimes those small mistakes and disasters can create something beautiful and unique 🙂
    take care!

  • Love this post. I often go through phases where I am so down on my art, or uninspired. Sometimes, the internet can be a boon, and provide inspiration by browsing through other's gorgeous art, and sometimes it can be the worst place to go; a place where I end up feeling bad about my own ability. But I think what you said about it being the journey and not always the destination is so perfect for art. Even if the end result isn't what I expected, it's all still practice and progress, and something I need to remember to enjoy!

  • Kaylah, this post is fantastic. Being a full-time art student, I struggle with these things too. You never stop comparing yourself to the artists you admire, or even the ones around you. I spend so much time making work that will please my professors that when I go home I never want to make art and get so burnt out on it. And then when I do want to try and make something for fun, it never turns out like I envisioned, and I get discouraged, and never finish it, even if it might have led to something really great and interesting. As creative minds, we've got to stop comparing ourselves to others. It's not our job to compare, but to create. Making stuff should be fun, without standards, and be judgement-free, especially from ourselves. We are often way too critical on ourselves and our work, which is super stifling. Keep pushing yourself to create and make whatever makes you happy, regardless of how it turns out. You're the best!

    • Uh, after that comment, you're the best. All of it so true. It's so easy to, essentially, forget to be creative when you're trying so hard to just be good.

  • thrilled that you get "comparison is the thief of joy" concept. sometimes i wish certain friends could see themselves through my eyes so they would know how beautiful and talented they really are.

    i love your reminders:
    ▴ There will be hobbies you stink at at first but that doesn't mean you'll never be good. Keep working at it.
    ▴ Practice doesn't make perfect. Nothing is perfect. But practice will make you better, guaranteed.
    ▴ Just because it isn't a masterpiece doesn't make it a failure.
    ▴ Another artists success is not your failure.
    ▴ It's okay to be bad at something, it's better than not trying at all.
    ▴ You're never too old and it's never too late to learn a new craft, skill or hobby.

  • Preach! This made my heart pang in so many ways. I had a similar experience with painting this weekend, with the sudden desire to create, and echoing disappointment as I scoured the internet for inspiration and advice. It's so refreshing to know there are other creatives out there who are able to rise out of a slump after reaching such a pinnacle in their work (even if that pinnacle is achieved by doing more for others than yourself, and ends in a burn out).

    So happy you posted these personal ruminations. It totally gives me energy to keep on making creative work, even when the going is tough!


  • Just a few days I had a post, were I talked about how some years agora I hated watercolor painting, I loved to draw, but only with pencil. Until I went to a scientific illustration workshop and one of the teacher said "Even Picasso and Salvador Dali, they didn't made themselves master from one day to the other. Until they got the paitings they are known for they have hours, day, months, years, of training, daily training. It's not a question if you have talent or not, if you do not traing you won't get it. So train everyday, specially with the material you don't like or don't have talent". That's how I started with watercolors. And know, it's watercolors and ink 😀 I have a sketchbook, and a portable kit for watercolor, and in the summer it's just great to get out and paint.
    And, yes, the internet it's great because you have tutorials for e-ve-ry-thing, but you can raise your expectations. Nevertheless, it's train train train. And have fun! 🙂 (sorry for the long text)

  • I love this! Water color is something I have been dabbling with for the past two years. Some days I really just enjoy experimenting with with the movement of the water. It's so fun to just let go and let the water and the paint do their thing. Thanks for the reminders about enjoying the journey. You're the best!

  • Thank you for writing this. I get this way about my film reviews, I get so discouraged when I write something about a specific movie… and then read something someone else wrote, only to scrap what I just put down. OR WORSE: change my opinion. Yikes!

    Your Project 365 photos inspired me to do my own take with my personal passion: movies! And it's been a struggle (365 movie reviews is not easy!), but a huge learning experience. No more shrinking away from putting a review out there — it's part of the challenge, I just have to compose my thoughts and post them. No more comparisons, which are so crippling, and only hurt me.

    Wonderful post, and keep up with the painting! =)

    Kim | Through the Reels

  • Thank you for this! I'm one of those that dabbled in painting. I loved how therapeutic it was. Is. But I never thought I "got" it so laid all my paint brushes and paint down. A couple weeks ago I picked up a "Paint by Number", yes I know a little childish, but hey baby steps, right? Anyway, thank you for this. You've inspired me to maybe try and create something of my own again!

    • Girl, do not ever call a paint by number childish. Those things are way crazier than I remember them being as kid. They're no simple task.

      Have fun creating! <3

  • I can sooo relate to this! The great thing about having kids is that it sort of forces you to throw off your inhibitions and do stuff like paint, sing, etc. I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in years while painting with my 3-year-old the other day and was amazed at how good it felt to JUST PAINT. It really sparked some creativity in me in a way that I haven't felt since I was much younger. And I realized, like you described, that it was just these dumb feelings of inadequacy that have been holding me back from having fun with art for SO LONG! I hope you are really enjoying your new paints and silencing that stupid inner critic that tells all of us that what we're doing isn't "good enough" … because, that guy is a total jerk.

  • Amen to that! This is something I have to give myself a pep talk on nearly every day. I agree the internet is both wonderful and discouraging. …but mostly wonderful. I hope you stick with the process and share more on your crafty adventures in the future 🙂

  • This is awesome!
    I LOVE art especially working with pastels. But I'm terrible at making pretty pictures. But I also don't care, I love doing it and that's all that matters!

  • I think that creative/internet comparison is something that most of us deal with. Sometimes I will feel creative and then I'll get online and get discouraged because I think that I will never have the same creative output as someone else. I think that we are all creative in our own ways but it's still easy to get discouraged that other people are more creative or are producing more or better work.

    On a different note, the joann fabric here marked down their instax mini film to clearance today…just a heads up. You should definitely check it out. I also got an adorable photo album for instagram photos for three dollars.

    • We totally all have our own skills! I definitely had to tell myself today to just pick up some supplies and work. It's totally a jealousy thing but also a fear thing.

      Yep!!! I saw it and I definitely kind of lost my mind! You need to get some girl!!! 🙂

  • Thanks so much for writing this! It's kinda nice to know that even super talented individuals (such as yourself!) can get "artist block" as well. I hope you keep painting and that you'll consider sharing some pictures of your work someday!

  • 1) I also use my mushroom mug for watercoloring. It's like it was created for that purpose.
    2) Mickey and I are having like.. this exact conversation right now. It's so hard to put yourself out there (especially on the internet) knowing that everyone can just scrutinize you as they please, in addition to being comparing yourself to others so easily. My first *real* camera arrives tomorrow, and I'm stoked and determined to make the best of it.

  • As an art therapist I'm constantly reminding my clients of the following…its natural to want to be able to draw or paint REALLY well right away and then get discouraged with the results BUT most people stop art in school around grade 8, so when you pick up and your work looks like an 8th grader might have done it remember you probably haven't drawn or painted since that time. You don't stop doing something for 10, 20, 30 years and improve the whole time, Lol!! Art is healing, art is fun, art is good for the soul..enjoy the process!!

  • Happy to know you feeling creative again!
    I started my sewing business almost two years ago and finally maybe l'm able to call that "my real job". But sometimes I ask myself "and if this business freak you out like Kylah in the past?". Sorry for my English, I know, is very bad.

  • Thanks for this post! That's why I love reading your blog, I always find some inspiration here 🙂 I think your advice applies to so many things – learning new languages, dancing, cooking, anything really. Beginnings are almost always hard and messy and discouraging. And it's important to simply remember about that 🙂 Have fun with watercolours, I planned to start painting some time ago, but then I forgot haha. Maybe I should get back to this idea!

  • Yes, yes, yes to what you said about being glad the internet wasn't such a big thing for you when you took up photography. I learned to knit from books (gasp!) shortly before the internet really caught on. I did a lot of things "wrong" and even more, I did a lot of things that were "too hard" for a beginner, b/c there was no one to tell me they were supposed to be too hard. These days I'm a great knitter, I still don't know everything but there's no one who can tell me I can't learn. Point being, don't let the internet tell you what you should or shouldn't do with your watercolors, make your own mistakes, keep doing it and you'll find results you like soon enough!

  • I've always wanted to paint too! I've tried acrylics so many times and I'm never happy. I guess I need to surrender to the fact that I have to learn to sketch first.
    Good luck with the watercolors!

  • This is spot on to how I feel. I constantly compare myself to other creatives, whether I mean to or not. It's like a subconscious part of my personality. It's not like I WANT to, I just do and it's definitely something I need to work on, because it's not like it makes me feel any better! I love little reminders like these, so thank you for that.

    ♥ Ems

  • I love this post. Thank you for the encouragement. I recently started learning how to do embroidery and sew. I've had to remind myself many times that I don't have to get each step perfect. Just learn along the way, and enjoy the process!

  • Love your reminders at the end of your post. I may not feel that way with hobbies (since I simply don't have what most people would call "real hobbies"), but I can compare that really well with me learning languages. Few years ago I always felt like a loser not understanding spoken English and told myself I will never learn to comprehend things being said in English (I also have that problem with every new language I learn). But… tada! After lots of practice and watching TONS of movies, I suddenly understand. Out of what now feels like nothing. 😀
    So I can only agree with you: practice will make one better and you should never tell yourself you can never achieve what you are aiming for!

  • Couldn't agree more with every word. Thank you for writing this! This is my first time visiting your website, and I'm so glad that I did. Keep on creating beautiful things! 🙂