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In This Together: Trying something new brings perspective
by LOUISE R. SHAW
Jan 29, 2014 | 1264 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every couple of years or so, my associates at Lamplight Art Gallery challenge each other to try creating in a new medium.

This can get very interesting.

Each artist has developed considerable talent in a specific area of expertise.

That may be painting with oils or acrylics or watercolors, drawing with pastel or colored pencils or all of the above. For some it is creating in polymer clay or designing jewelry from wire and stone or shaping pottery.

Each has spent considerable time – and often money – to develop his or her craft to the point that what they now create has meaning not only to them, but to those who might see it and want to purchase it.

So to try a new medium can be intimidating.

It can also be enlightening.

My craft is photography.

I do it the easy way, I tell them.

Artists have to maneuver a brush or chalk on a blank canvas or page and create from scratch.

I start with a scene created by God, sometimes accented by something man has made like a lighthouse or a sailboat or Venice, and simply push the shutter button.

Still, they appreciate what I do, even as I am awed by what they do.

More so now.

Because just this month, I took on the challenge and tried taking on one of their mediums. I drew a scene with pastels.

Having had no training, I had to learn as I created.

First lesson: Do the background first or else you’ll have to finesse it very delicately and painstakingly in between the foreground and it will be hard, not to mention obvious, not to mention a mess and require starting over.

Second lesson: White chalk won’t effectively cover any other color so don’t put any other color where you want white to be.

Third lesson: Don’t touch anything you don’t want smeared.

Fourth lesson: Once you’ve smeared something, there is no unsmearing it.

Fifth lesson: Smeared stuff doesn’t look all that bad so just don’t fight it and smear everything else.

Sixth lesson: Artists who create in pastel work harder and have more talent than you might think.

A few years ago I took on a challenge to create a painting in acrylic.

Couldn’t be that hard, I thought.

Until the colors I put on straight looked a little too straight and the colors I mixed I could never quite mix again and the blending and the brush strokes never looked quite right and now when I look at a painting I see things I never did before.

Like colors and blends and brush strokes.

And that is where the benefits of the challenge begin: Seeing with new eyes, with more sensitivity, with greater appreciation.

Strap on a pair of ice skates or a pair of skis and you’ll appreciate even more what the Olympians are capable of making their bodies do next week. And you’ll also appreciate what they most likely had to go through to get to where they are now.

Watch a teacher, a CEO, a scientist, a president of the United States, and imagine if the things they are doing and the decisions they are making would be easy for you to do.

And if you’re honest you’ll say to yourself, probably not.

Which leads me to the very best reason to try something new.

Because when you’re not good at something, when you realize how hard it is to be good at something, you tend to admire the people who have mastered it.

And the world needs admirers every bit as much as it needs artists and athletes and experts.

 Anybody want to try writing a column?
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