Last January, I decided that 2017 would be the year I learn how to paint.
I wanted to learn something new this year, something in which I had zero experience so that I’d have to start at the very beginning. I also wanted whatever I chose to be unique, something that none of my friends or family were doing. This way I wouldn’t struggle with comparing my new skills to theirs. (Hey, we all do it!)
In the first week of January, I googled “acrylic painting for beginners” and spent an evening hopping around YouTube watching video tutorials. I could do this, I thought. And since it was new to me and I didn’t know anyone personally who painted, it met my “new skill for the year” criteria. I decided to give it a go.
I bought about $100 worth of art supplies at the craft store, picked a YouTube video to follow, and started painting.
After a few hours in front of my tabletop easel, I ended up with this.
Yes, an elementary student could have painted this. And yes, I had more fun in those few hours than I’d had in months.
Saturdays quickly became my favorite day of the week, because that was the day I got to paint.
All week long I’d eagerly look forward to Saturdays when I would pull out my art supplies, load up my palette with colors, and get lost in a canvas for a few hours. I’d eat dinner in front of my computer throughout the week so that I could watch painting tutorials—everything from florals to seascapes to wildlife. The talent of the painters amazed and inspired me.
And I’ve been painting ever since!
For a while I stuck with florals and landscapes…
And this summer my interest turned to seascapes. This was my first:
I had so much fun with it that I decided to stick with the seascape theme and try another.
Last weekend, I finished my biggest painting yet, a 30×22” seascape that I call “Voice of the Sea.”
When I look at it long enough, it’s almost as if I can hear the sound of the waves, the gurgle of the sea foam swirling in the rocks, the cry of a distant gull. Psalm 93:3-4 comes alive to me:
“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty.”
Psalm 93 was among the first passages I memorized way back in the day. To think that it still holds a dear place in my heart and comes back to my mind in creative work like painting is just the coolest. When we tuck God’s Word away in our hearts, it lives there forever.
But back to painting. Choosing to learn this new skill is one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. It’s fueled me creatively in a way that my other creative pursuits (like writing and cooking) don’t do.
I’ve by no means become a master painter in six months. But that’s fine by me. I’m not doing it to become someone I’ll probably never be. I’m doing it to become a better version of who I already am.
In learning to paint, I’ve unearthed a new part of myself that I didn’t know existed. It’s a part that’s free, unhindered, without judgment, accepting. It’s a part that’s spontaneous, calm, observant, and easy. It’s a part that’s been there all along, I just didn’t have eyes to see it very well. It’s a part that needs to come out more.
All this doesn’t have much to do with food and cooking, which I know is the reason many of you come to this space. But nourishment takes many forms, and painting has nourished me this year.
I say all this to land on one encouragement: Find something that nourishes you and do more of it.
Maybe that’s cooking. (And if it is, you’re in a great place for recipe inspiration!)
Maybe it’s painting. Writing. Weaving. Hiking. Photography. Music. Being with children. Gardening. Teaching. Dog walking. Coaching. Organizing. Baking bread. It could be anything! Find out what it is and do it.
Do it for the fun of it. Do it for the skill. Do it for the way it impacts others. Do it for the way it changes you. Do it for the way it shifts your perspective. Do it for the memories. Do it for the joy!
Learning to paint has got me thinking this year. I’m asking myself what would happen if I approached more areas of my life with an attitude of openness and interest, like how I’ve approached painting.
What if I didn’t care so much about the outcome, but made enjoying the process my goal?
What if I applied myself with diligence more often?
What if I gave myself a little more grace? A little more kindness? What if I gave more of both to others?
What if I settled comfortably into being a beginner, and didn’t try to be an expert?
I painted these lavender buds with a Q-tip. I felt like I was in kindergarten art class again—and it was a delight!
There’s so much opportunity for wellness to spring up when we seek nourishment, find joy there, and let it sink into other areas of our lives. (Preaching this to myself. Big time.)
Find that thing that brings you joy—that nourishes you down deep—and go do some more of it.
In doing so, you may find a whole new world of growth and opportunity. Or you may just have a really good time.
Or, as writer Emily P. Freeman says, “Maybe those things bringing you joy do so because they are one of the many ways in which God wants to declare His glory through you.”
I can think of no better outcome than to glorify our Creator through what we ourselves create.
Go seek some nourishment this week—whether that’s in the kitchen, on the canvas, at the piano, on the trail, or somewhere else. And wherever you find it, I hope it wonderfully enriches your life and spirit.
May your Creator walk with you kindly along the way.