Education can be a painful experience. I’m a big believer in pursuing a variety of educational experiences in order to widen the breadth of my abilities. This means exploring the unknown--showing a sometimes-painful interest in things that I am not naturally inclined towards and finding some way to bridge the gap between those things and my practice. What can feel even worse, however, is exploring the known--the discomfort that comes from directly recognizing and contemplating the areas of my skillset that are lacking, and looking for ways to fix them.
Frustration, and even boredom are necessary facets in learning something new. One of the best signs that I am in the throws of an educational experience is that I feel almost completely lost, and a little bit like an idiot. It becomes clear in retrospect that those are the times when I am being most stretched in my practice. I’ve learned to anticipate this feeling, and even relish it in the moment (though the frustration and aimlessness feels real none the less). The more complex the technique, the longer the spell.
This last month I have been experiencing the frustrations and rewards of stretching the limits of my knowledge. I decided to study with Daud because I was drawn to the passion with which he uses his brushstrokes, his ability to give dignity to the mundane. My paintings up until now have been about the spiritual, both in my subject matter and my technique. I’m finding that painting the things around me and right in front of me—wires, fabric, tile, shingles, houses, mountains, fields—has been as hard as I thought it could be. With some happy exceptions, the majority of the paintings I’ve attempted this past month have displayed just how much I can learn from Daud in terms of painting from life with boldness and passion.
Yesterday, I had a successful go at this. I scouted out a new painting spot, asking a nice old man if I could stand on his front porch (“Bueno?”). I set up my easel, and painted. For the first time since arriving, I felt like I was finally able to concentrate on my subject while replaying instructions from Daud over in my head. It was a really pleasant combination. The result was a painting the strengths of which were my past paintings’ weaknesses: fresh brushstrokes, character, and fast. I paraded my successful study back to the studio, where Daud gave it a thumbs-up, and suggested I now try out pastel.