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Learning to enjoy the scenery on a detour

Learning to enjoy the scenery on a detour | After the Heartbreak
Learning to enjoy the scenery on a detour
Me in the Milan Art Gallery

I remember the moment exactly. I was sitting up in bed enjoying a morning coffee and catching up on social media, when all of a sudden an advertisement leaped out at me! It was like it was written just for me as it ticked every box… Travel! Walking! Gorgeous scenery! Plus….create a travel journal! Using watercolour! I was so excited! I made myself wait until I at least finished the coffee but then I booked the trip. Just like that. Except…..things didn’t work out quite the way I imagined.

The reason this advertisement was so appealing was because I love travel, and I love walking, and I LOVE painting in watercolours. The tour was called ‘Art Walk Italy’ and promoted with fabulous photos of the Cinque Terra and Lake Como. There was going to be lots of walking PLUS an artist would be accompanying us to help us develop a travel journal using watercolours. Woohoo! It was perfect! Well….almost….

Read: ITALY: The Creation of New Memories (story about my trip)

A dawning awareness

My first clue that the trip wasn’t going to turn out quite as I expected was when I joined the tour group at our initial meeting in Milan, Italy, and the question was asked “What are you hoping to get out of this trip?” I responded enthusiastically, saying that I was hoping to learn more about watercolour including how to capture light, take advantage of the translucence and specifically, to gain more understanding of values. Hmmm….there was a quick segue to the next person. O…K…..

painting of a glass of wine

The next clue was when I was considering how to lay out my watercolour journal and tentatively adding some sketches ready for colour …while others in the group were good-naturedly fighting over glue and sticky tape to attach various bits of paper to the pages of their journals. Yep…you got it. 😁 It was more about scrap-booking than learning the technical skills of watercolour.

Our tour group in a class
Workshop time at the hotel

Don’t get me wrong….I did expect to be creating a travel journal and I loved the idea of using watercolour to create a record of my travel experience. What I wasn’t expecting though, was that it was more about collecting memorabilia and attaching them into a book …with quick watercolour sketches being a somewhat ‘secondary’ priority and even a form of decoration.

Heading off on the detour

This post is not about assigning blame though. There were issues with the marketing material but I also didn’t do enough research to make sure it met my expectations….so things took a sudden turn.

Detour sign

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.


True, it was quite a detour (and an expensive one) but sometimes when things don’t go the way you expect, there can still be positive outcomes…. sometimes more than you originally imagined. It was amazing to be in beautiful areas such as Portofino, Lake Como and Cinque Terra, and the colours of northern Italy certainly inspired me to draw and paint.

While the art tutor was not a trained watercolourist, she did demonstrate some quick techniques which I found useful because I am way too finicky with my work and I always tend to overdo a painting…overdo it to the point where I’ve completely spoiled it!

Read: The Answer to My Artistic Failure

She showed me how I could put some colour down on the paper and, with a pen, turn it into buildings or a skyline.

watercolour painting

I live in a regional area of Australia where I can’t access art classes, and I am completely self taught using Facebook groups and YouTube. This passion began as a form of art therapy after my husband died, as I experienced ‘flow‘ i.e. time passes while you are engaged in the present. This is valuable when grieving as living in the past can bring on depression and worrying about the future can lead to anxiety. Staying completely connected with the present is a form of mindfulness and was/is very good for me.

After the tour ended and I still had 4 days to go before heading home so I was determined to make the most of being in a beautiful place on the other side of the world. I spent every day taking photos of scenery with amazing light and dramatic shadows….and every evening in my hotel room, gaining more confidence while trying out new ways of painting. I took all the mini-bar items off the desk and stacked them on the floor, making way for all my art materials (not sure what the cleaning staff thought!)

Spreading out on the desk in the hotel room.

So….what did I actually learn from the watercolour art tour…the one that wasn’t? 😊

Lessons Learned

  1. I learned that, in the future, I should do a lot more research before leaping in feet first! 🤣
  2. I learned to go with the flow…that sometimes things don’t turn out as you expected, but that this can be OK too.
    Painting of a boat
  3. I learned (reinforced actually…I already knew this) that I was in charge of my own learning. I had expected activities such as visits to art galleries and discussions about art….so I took myself to art galleries and spent some wonderful hours standing in front of breathtaking paintings and trying to glean something from each artist’s techniques.
  4. I learned that every one of my own paintings does not have to be perfect. It’s OK to have complete failures because that’s how you learn. (Yeah…you’d think I’d know this but as a Type A personality its a hard one for me).
  5. I learned that an imperfect work is actually better than something technically perfect because it shows the ‘hand’ of the artist.
    painting of a castle
  6. I learned that the pen and wash technique is one I enjoy and seem to be fairly good at…and I experimented with different ways of doing them.
  7. I learned that although it was lovely to sit in the sunshine and paint, that en plein air painting wasn’t really my ‘thing’. I think it’s because I’m a control freak and it was all a bit ‘uncontrolled’ for my comfort levels. 😂
  8. I learned that I should be drawing every day…even small sketches. (another one I already knew but it made me more committed)
  9. I learned that I must prioritize painting more, and not try to fit it into the corners of my busy life.

Can’t ask for better scenery on this detour!

painting of milan
‘Streets of Milan’…by me.

So…all good, and I certainly enjoyed the scenery on this detour! The idea of combining art and travel is still a good one but next time I will be doing a lot more research to ensure that it is what I expect.

In the meantime, I have been moving furniture around as I have decided that I don’t need the second TV room. I mean, now that I am a widow I live alone, so how many televisions can I watch at the same time! 😉

My new ‘Art Space’ set up in a room I was not using. It’s an awful lot messier now.

Have you had any experiences where you were forced to take a detour…but it turned out to be a good experience? Pop a comment into the box below as I’d love to hear about it.

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

Sketching ‘en plein air‘ on the streets of Santa Margherita Laguna
  • Heather Waring says:

    Your “Lesson 4” reminded me of a couple of quotes I keep with me (in my head).
    “Volume begets quality. This is true for all kinds of creators and thinkers. Most innovators do their most original work when they’re also cranking out scores of less brilliant ideas”..

    If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll know you’re aiming high enough. – Adam Grant

    You’ve done well Marlene to pull the very best out of what could have been a pit of disappointment if you had a different mindset.

  • Emily says:

    Hi Marlene, I found you at last, just googled you as I couldn’t get the ling on fb to work,😊 I am not a widow, but divorced and after a long term relationship also ending I now live alone, going on 5 years now. The first night of living by myself was terrifying, I’m / was someone who likes/ liked to have people around, I have 11 Sister’s and brothers! After my first night alone, I decided that I would take each minute as it came, I steadied myself and each day got better, the bad day can be pretty bad, i found meditation a great support along with my great therapist. your posts are a great source to me, to know that there are many women on there own, gives me faith to know i will be ok. Question for you, do you travel completely on your own or with solo groups? Looking forward to reading the rest of your blogs, keep up the good work, warm wishes Emily

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Emily,
      Try this link as I will only be writing a synopsis or two on this website:

      I’m so glad to hear that you have learned to ‘go solo’ after not expecting to have to…like me. I’ve been coping for nearly 2 years and while it does get easier, there are still LOTS of time when I just want to sit down and cry because it is all too hard. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

      In response to your question, this is the first time I will be travelling completely alone, however I have booked one 10 day tour out of the 5 weeks away, where I will be joining a small tour group. The tour just appealed to me and wasn’t something I felt I could do well myself. You’ll read all about it when I get to it. 🙂
      Cheers, Marlene

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