On the first day of class our teacher set up tables of fruit and instructed us to paint them. The only preparation he gave was a very quick demonstration, during which he did little talking. He gave no advice and did not tell us of any techniques that day; he simply painted the fruit himself, gave us supplies, and told us to start painting. At the time, his method of instruction (or rather, lack thereof) confused me. But looking back on it, that was the best thing he could have done for us.
I started painting thinking that it would be very difficult, but not worrying about it. At that moment, the only thought that filled my mind was the faint sound of a tune that had been stuck in my head all day. I did not pay attention to what my hands were doing, and let them paint on their own. In the end, what had emerged was a painting of apples that seemed to jump off the canvas. I stared at it and tried to remember painting it, but for the life of me I could not, because my mind had not been there.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I went to class determined to try my best. I paid close attention to every word the teacher said, making sure to apply his techniques and tips to all of my paintings. It was at that point, the first class after I completed the apple painting, that things started to go downhill. The next painting I completed looked like the subject, but did not match up to my first painting. The painting after that was even worse, and they continued in this manner for a while. I shrugged it off, thinking that the decline in the quality of my works was due to the fact that the subject matter was becoming harder and harder to paint. I decided that to solve the problem, I just needed to work harder. But it seemed that the more I worked and the harder I tried, the more difficult and frustrating the paintings became, and the worse they turned out as a result.
A few weeks had passed since my original painting, the last one that I really liked, when the teacher told us to paint cookies. I decided to paint three heart-shaped cookies and one caramel cookie. This painting would be easy, or so I thought. I began working on it armed with everything the teacher had taught me, trying my best to make the cookies in my painting appear to be as edible as the cookies on the table. However, as I soon found out, this attitude would be of no help to me. The cookies in my painting appeared flat and lifeless, and the more thought and effort I put in the duller the painting became.
Finally, I had had enough of this frustration and work without reward. I did not care anymore if the cookies looked edible, or if all the reflections of light on the sprinkles were in exactly the right places. I gave no thought to the colors of the actual objects, or to anything for that matter. Once again, I let my hands do all the work. When I finished dunking my paintbrush in every paint color of the rainbow and tossing the paint onto the canvas in a flurry of energy and frustration, I picked up a large dry brush and dragged it back and forth across the canvas until every individual part of that painting became one. I then took a breath and stared at what I had done in shock and disbelief. It was good.
There were several things I discovered that day. For one, I discovered that I truly enjoy Art and that it is more than just a hobby, but a passion. I also discovered that one can only truly succeed in Art, or in any of the arts for that matter, if they give no thought to succeeding. For success is not what is important, but expression. Artists cannot fully and freely express themselves if their minds are cluttered with worries about the quality of their final products.
The techniques my painting teacher told me about and the pieces of advice he gave me were very important, and I have found them to be very useful as well. However, they were not meant to be used as I was using them; as an instruction manual. They were simply guidelines, for there is no formula for creativity. The final and possibly most important thing that I have discovered is that many of the things I learned and will learn from this class and other Art or Music classes can be applied to my experiences in Theatre. The arts relate to each other and overlap, at times to the point where it is difficult to determine where one ends and the next begins. Therefore, I am not an actress, painter, and musician; I am simply an artist.