Now reading

The Answer to my Artistic Failure

I Failed at Grief
Next post
The Answer to my Artistic Failure | After the Heartbreak
The Answer to my Artistic Failure

It was my Type A personality. My husband Norbert had nagged me for years and years that I should ‘do something about my love of watercolour’ but I never did because every time I tried to paint it didn’t turn out like the ‘masterpiece’ that was in my head…and I would tear it up. My husband Norbert used to tell me (constantly!!) I was my own toughest critic. 🙂

I dabbled, and tried other mediums, but never really got serious because I had this (incredibly unrealistic) expectation that if I was as talented as Norbert said I was, then everything I tried should turn out amazing.

I’m embarrassed to admit that now but it was how I felt at the time. I was terrified of each blank sheet of paper because I felt I lacked the skills and would mess it up. And of course, I was never happy with the outcome. It was easier to avoid even trying.

But then my husband died tragically and my world upended in a day.

Read: The Day My Heart Broke

On bad days I would remember how much faith he had in me and my abilities, and I felt terrible that I was so self-centred that I had only ever thought about how I felt about it….I never thought about how he might be feeling about my painting.

Memory is a little fuzzy about time back then but I think it was about 8 weeks after he died that I made an important decision. I wouldn’t paint for myself….I would never please myself anyway and it was too hard to meet those high expectations. Forget about me….I would paint for my husband…I would paint for Norbert.

I bought a small, travel-sized watercolour set and began to ‘play’. I stopped caring about any kind of finished painting, as I was no longer trying to paint a picture. I was just putting paint onto paper because I knew that it would have made Norbert so happy…..and I began learning in the process.

I joined Facebook groups (one of my favourites is Watercolour Tips and Techniques) and trawled through YouTube for demonstrations. I bought books and practiced the different techniques at times when I felt sad and overwhelmed, and needed distraction. Most importantly, I found ‘flow‘, which helped with my watercolour experience as well as doing great things for my mental health.

Screen grab of Watercolour Techniques Facebook page

On one particularly sad day when I had been looking through photos of our recent trip, I picked up a brush and began to paint a picture of my husband. For some reason this one worked out better than others in the past….a dear friend said “You weren’t thinking about technique, but painting from the heart.” That is probably true as I know the time flew and I felt better.

Here’s the painting.

Painting of Norbert

Posting my art is still very hard for me to do ….to put what I feel are amateurish efforts ‘out there’ in the public eye. I think I’m heading in the right direction though and beginning to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the finished result (which I will never be happy with).

Painting has become my therapy and I am no longer focused on creating a masterpiece. I read the following in one of my painting books:

“Whether your paintings hang in public places or are simply sketches of your grandchildren done for pleasure, you will be creating your own legacy. And more important, you will be leaving behind proof of having lived a full and engaging life.”

Mary Whyte (Watercolour Artist)

This struck me, because I am acutely aware of how quickly life can be snuffed out in an instant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could leave something behind for my family…evidence of my full and engaging life?

Absolutely! So I’ll keep painting for as long as I’ve got left, and who cares if they aren’t perfect! 🙂

Sometimes it’s soooo hard to stop being your own worst critic. What do you do to stop being self-critical? How do you learn to ‘go with the flow’?

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.

  • Robyn Jay says:

    Loving your watercolour journey Marlene !
    I think you might enjoy the meditative postings of Robyn Gordon on FB – a lovely mix of quotes, art and photography.

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Robyn, Thanks for your response, and also for the link. I will definitely go and investigate. 🙂
      Cheers, Marlene

  • Joyce says:

    Marlene; Your paintings are lovely. You have a talent. I know since I am an Art Teacher and taught all ages K-college for over 35 years. Your writing flows nicely and so far I’ve enjoy reading some of your articles…Art definitely is a wonderful stress releaser. There is a reason there is a profession called Art Therapy. Keep it up. Joyce

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Joyce, and thanks so much for leaving a comment….especially one so complimentary! I can feel my cheeks burning. 🙂 I have found writing and painting the absolute best therapy, as you say, and will definitely continue.
      Cheers, Marlene

  • Jürgen says:

    Hello Marlene,

    I think your self-painted pictures are really good.
    Keep up the good work.

    Greetings, Jürgen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.