My brother is getting married in 6 weeks. I had the opportunity last night to celebrate my future sister-in-law (SIL) at a bridal shower held at Pinot’s Palette. I have no artistic bone in my body and was prepared to “just have fun” and not take myself too seriously. These in and of themselves are good things to be able to do, but I was not expecting walking away with a more profound lesson. A lesson that I might not have learned had it not been for this shower. A lesson that I’ve been mulling over since last night. A lesson that has given me more understanding for what I ask of my students on a daily basis. The lesson? Painting is like writing. It is a process that is filled with mess, creativity, risk taking, and beauty.
As the instructor walked us through step-by-step on how to mix our colors and perform different techniques with our brushes, when it came time to put paint on my blank canvas, I froze. Similar to my students who are afraid to write a word down for fear it’s not the “perfect” word or it’s not spelled correctly, or given too much guidance and afraid they can’t replicate the mini lesson perfectly, I was scared to make that first stroke with my brush. “I want mine to look like hers,” I thought to myself. “On the count of three let’s close our eyes and paint together,” my future SIL said, realizing that we were both hesitating. And so, we did. It was freeing. Stroke by stroke I began to relax more and enjoy the process, just as I watch my students gain confidence with each word they write on paper. Towards the end of the night, my creativity was flowing and I was taking risks such as using different colors than the instructor was using and even using a different brush to try to create a different feel. This came from the instructor’s encouragement to “make this [my] own.”
Did I make a mess? I certainly did. I have a glob of paint on my canvas that I forgot to dab. I got paint on my cardigan. I used three plates instead of the typical two and probably used a total of 20 paper towels throughout the night. But you know what? I look at that cloud that has a glob of paint on it, the cardigan that is now stained, and the 20 paper towels I used and I think about how painting is like editing and revising. It is messy and one can always add more and tweak words and ideas. Yet, I also look at these things and remember that one often learns more from the process of writing and creating than one does from looking at a “perfect” finished product. While this canvas is the farthest thing from a Monet, I look at it and find it beautiful for the lessons I learned last night are ones that I hope I will not soon forget. I plan on hanging the painting in my classroom and sharing my story with my students as a reminder to myself and them that writing is a process with a product that comes from mess, creativity, and risk-taking, with the process often being more beautiful than the product.