‘Painting is my meditation’

Evergreen columnist writes about the confidence, lessons art has given her

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LAUREN PETTIT

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KASSANDRA VOGEL, Evergreen columnist

For my seventh birthday, my mom asked if I wanted to be enrolled in art classes, and I immediately said yes. 

I was a little bit of a loner when I was younger, and I think my mom thought it would be a good way for me to express myself and gain some confidence. 

I was so excited to take art classes, my mom even said “I took to it like a duck to water.” Little did we know, this budding interest would grow into a passion that I would appreciate for the rest of my life. 

I can remember the first sketch I ever finished. It was a dog. Short, chubby, with hair like a mop and tongue hanging out of its mouth. It was simple but it made me react. 

The feeling I get from seeing a finished piece is unmatched by anything else. Because the product resulting from so much time and work sits before you, causing an indescribable awe and happiness — it was something I had never felt before, and I was hooked. 

In art school, I started out with charcoal.  After a couple of years and many pictures later, I then graduated to pastels. Each level required that I complete a certain number of pictures in different categories, as well as exercises in perspectives and shapes. 

Around fifth grade, I finally began working with oil paints. While I had loved working with charcoal and pastels, the experience of painting with oil was totally different. I loved it immediately. As I moved through the different levels, I continued to be surprised by how much I could achieve.

I would often look at a reference photo and wonder if I was skilled enough to create the picture, but at the end of each piece, I was reassured that I was skilled and capable of making something beautiful. 

Oil paints are a unique medium. Unlike charcoal and pastels, they are very forgiving. Working with oil paints, if you mess up, you can wipe away your work or wait for it to dry and paint over it. Because painting requires working with brushes instead of your fingers, I also feel that it allows for more detail. 

While there are many advantages to oil paints, it can also be more complex. There were new things to consider like mixing colors and drying time.

 Instead of grabbing a pastel with the perfect color, I had to learn how to mix colors that may change slightly when the paint dries. I also had to begin to plan out my paints better in order to preserve the work in still-wet areas. 

But that is part of the beauty of art, especially painting – it is a constant learning process. Whether it be different mediums, a new technique, or just finding something hidden inside yourself, art always has more to offer.

I will always be thankful for my mom and for her willingness to invest in me. Throughout my time as an art student, she encouraged me, her eyes always lighting up when I brought home a new picture, and she saw potential in me, enabling me to explore myself through art. 

Painting has given me many things: skill, confidence, but most importantly patience. Painting is my meditation. It is often the only time I am able to be alone with my thoughts. 

That is why my favorite part of a painting is putting in the fine details. I do not have to think so much about where things go or figure out anything complex. I can allow my mind to wander while I paint the hairs on an animal or a ripple on water. Sitting there, working like that, two or more hours can slip away into minutes. 

The calm that painting brings me has been especially essential during the pandemic and as our country has become an increasingly stressful place to live.

I was and still am surprised by my art, the final products being something I did not think myself capable of creating.

It reminds me that there is no limit to what can be learned or refined, nothing we cannot achieve if we put care into our labor. I need to paint so that I can be reminded of these things during these practically impossible times. 

Although I now have less time to paint than I used to, every so often, I find some time late at night to work and emerge reassured that everything will be okay.