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Paving Pathways – Watercolor Painting

by | Feb 1, 2016

My weather app had been dinging every hour for days.

It was warning me of an impending snowstorm, ten to twelve inches or more. When you’re used to power precipitation from the ski mountain and the sky-high snowdrifts from farmland, you can count on doubling the estimate, at least.

(We were right. We actually broke three feet!)

Naturally, we prepared. With a milk and bread run? Nope. We went to the craft store and loaded up on painting stuff. We got the kids a set of washable paints and a large, “snowed-in size” paper pad.

And why should the kids have all the fun? I dropped $12 big ones on a set of watercolors, watercolor paper, a palette and brushes for me. Mister is more of a pencil sketch guy, so he picked up some pens and a pen and ink book.

The theme of the trip to the art store was “try something new.”

I’d always loved the look of watercolor. I love that it can be technical when you’re ready for all that, but it can also be so inexact for us newbies. The water goes where it wants to go, dropping paint wherever along the way.

It’s on my practice list to do something creative every day, and to practice a new skill throughout 2016. Being the efficiency aficionado that I am, I decided to combine the creative practice with the new skill practice. Learning something new plus activating all of the brain networks involved in creativity – attention, imagination, recall – it’s a brain plasticity field day. If the neuroscientists are right, I spent a snowed-in afternoon connecting and rearranging my neural pathways to support what I’d just learned. And if I practice enough, they will get stronger.

My first attempt was just getting the feel of the paints and brushes and water and paper, and how they all worked together. Paint on dry paper, wet paint on dry paper, dry paint on wet paper, wet paint on wet paper. When I saw how they all give a dramatically different effect, I instantly fell in love. I made a heart, a crosshatch pattern, a few streaks, a row of circles and I tried some cursive writing.

Next, I painted a skeletal tree with a bunch of splotches behind it.

I couldn’t care less whether or not I ever produce anything respectable. To watch colors swirl unpredictably with the water, to dab in colors that collide, and to try to guess which will “win,” to see the page turn into something from nothing, it is absolutely delightful.

Plus, my kids enjoyed that we were all at the table doing our quiet little projects together. Too often, when the kids are engrossed in creating or concentrating, I sneak away to start on dinner or dishes or something.

And, it’s a frugal hobby, that’s for sure. With a decent Hobby Lobby coupon, I snagged a complete setup for $12.

Watercolor painting is here to stay, in my world. Let’s see if I get some brain benefit out of it. Or at least some cool wall art.

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