At the end of 2016, I turned fifty, and a friend dared me to try 50 new things, in the year, as an exercise in growth, a challenge to make adventures, seek new experiences. And, of course, the New Year prompts us to think of resolutions. I decided it would be a new thing to be an art student. I have dabbled, and been wishful, all my life... "Gee, I wish I were an artist. Golly, I'd like to paint pretty things." But I hadn't seriously applied myself, practiced, pushed through the phase where I made truly awful stuff, or endured the dull practice-practice-practice. So, I made a New Year Resolution... be an art student, an amateur. Be humble, ask questions, try different styles, and practice-practice-practice. I made myself buy a sketchbook, and I didn't tear out the bad sketches, or lean too heavily on an eraser. I just kept trying. And... the really hard part is sharing. No. Actually... even a little bit harder than letting people see what I've painted, is looking through Pinterest, or Instagram, or in books and magazines, and seeing beautiful art, skilled works, talent, success. Knowing that, even with all my practice, all my earnest attempts, I am still in a phase of truly awful stuff learning. I am a student, and amateur... to love. Maybe my best talent is in being familiar with my humility, so that I can encourage others to try something new, take a chance, be unskilled and open to discovery. It's not easy, but I feel thankful to have taken the chance, to have begun.
Sharing is hard. And sometimes it feels like my greatest success is not dipping my dirty brush into my tea. I don't have to share, I know. And I'm not sharing all of them... I counted 89 paintings done since the end of December, last year. So, what makes me dare to share? I think it helps me gage my progress, and it forces me to work harder. I know I need practice, to gain more skill, and work at learning. Honestly, I am more convinced that I should stick with chicken wrangling than pursue art. Retreating would be a relief... almost.
When I began all this painting, I stuck to the dare... to paint a variety of subjects in a variety of styles, even pushing myself to tackle "hard" things, like architecture, anatomy, realism. Eventually, I found myself drawn to rat-mouse-people. So, what's with all the rats? I even have a Ratty-Rat" label. I think it's to do with Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, the dearest ratty-rat ever. She inspired a lot of wishful art daydreams, because I wanted to depict her, her sweetness, her appeal, and charms. She was like a little person, with personality. She was enchanting, and I wished so much I could convey everything I loved about her, create adventures and stories she could visit, live in.
And so, it's mostly rats. Rats that could be mousy, and are a bit like dear little people, Borrowers, maybe. Pure fancy, whimsical, hopeful. Ratty-rats by an amateur, for me to love.
Works in progress. I keep sketching and practicing. I still attempt new subjects, like a dog, or a snowy village. I cringe seeing them in photographs, because the flaws seem to blow up, glaring at me, taunting me. I think, oh, that needs work. And the shading is all wrong. How did I miss that spot? But. Never mind. They are works in progress, like me.