Mastering a new skill is hard

I love learning. But sometimes I forget that learning entails frustration, confusion, doubt -- at least when it comes to art. Two steps forward and one step back (only one, if you're lucky).

I'm at that "one step back" stage now with encaustics. I keep reminding myself that I'm just a beginner trying to master a tricky medium (wax). Beginners make mistakes, produce ugly things, waste art supplies. 

Case in point -- my "circles" experiment. I made the same image in several different ways hoping that I would figure out the best technique.

Here's attempt #1. Not bad for the first time. I like the colors, but the layer of wax is too thick and cloudy. My wax has "pits," instead of being glass smooth. And, to put it bluntly, my circles are sloppy and ragged. 
Experiments in wax

Attempt #2: I tried to recreate the design, fixing the problems. I started with large black circles, then smaller yellow ones, and finally red on top. I painted a thin layer of gold-green wax in the space between the circles. My circles are blurry, but the wax isn't cloudy. And no pits. Better than #1. Second step forward.
Experiments in wax

Attempt #3: My instructor told me I'd done the circles in the wrong order. He suggested that I layer the wax and then scrape it off to reveal the colors underneath. So I went in reverse order, starting with red, then yellow and finally black on top. I scraped off the extra, revealing cleaner circles. But look at those pits! And I hate the color I chose for the background. One step backward!
Experiments in wax
Wax is less forgiving than other mediums. Mistakes are impossible to undo or cover up. But I like the challenge. At least when I'm stepping forward, not back.

What about you? How do you encourage yourself to get through the un-fun parts of learning?


  1. I feel the same! Two forward, one back, if you're lucky! But lately for me it's been more like: one step forward, a step and a half backward, then falling on my ass and lying on floor, unable to move for two weeks, then I somehow stand up again and take a small step, but then I run backwards again, bang my head on the wall, and am concussed. Then a month goes by and I repeat the process. It's been ugly! And hard! I said to my friend the other day, "If this is supposed to be fun, why do I feel like throwing up?!" My problem is: I love learning, but I hate sucking. And I get really hard on myself when I suck for too long. How to combat that I am still trying to figure out. I've been collecting a whole lot of knowledge lately (watching videos, reading books, writing down helpful quotes/techniques/rules), but then when I try to put any of it in practice nothing turns out pleasing to me and it's so discouraging! The only thing that is keeping me going lately is keeping the number 100 in mind. I decided I can't stop until I paint 100 canvases. I can't give up until I do 100 pages in my sketchbook. I didn't set a time limit on any of it, but when I paint my 7th canvas and it's awful I think, "Ok. 93 more to go." and I just try to move on. I figure out of 100 maybe I'll like five. And maybe (hopefully) out of my next hundred I'll like eight. (Lately I've spent more time whining & avoiding than trying though... and am stuck on ugly #7...) If you figure out a secret solution let me know!

    1. Right there with you, sister! My painting teacher says to try for 10 -- 10 things you like out of 100 that you produce. Of course, the challenge is that as you get more skilled, your standards get higher too, so you're never satisfied and you can't see the progress.

  2. Go with the process. You will master it as you do all things artistic. I am glad that you can express your true feelings with this endeavor. :-)


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