Last week I participated in a workshop organised by Urban Sketchers in Tuscany to practice watercolour, drawing with ink and sketching on location. (I’ve mentioned them already in an earlier blogpost). It was the first time I signed up for “creative holidays” like this and it was certainly a memorable experience.
We gathered in a beautiful villa in Tuscany on Wednesday evening for a delicious introductory dinner and started the workshop the following morning. We had two very different, but equally fantastic women as our instructors, Simo Capecchi and Caroline Peyron.
Our first location was a nearby a geothermal park that had colourful slopes, smoking with a delicate scent of sulphur. I never draw landscapes and was slightly overwhelmed by this task. In the afternoon, I tried painting the Tuscan landscape with watercolour and became truly disappointed by the result. It looked like it was done by a 10-year-old…
All my insecurities surfaced by the evening: why am I here, who am I kidding by trying to be an illustrator when I’m clearly so bad at this, I will never succeed bla bla bla… I compared myself to the most experienced members of the group and once again realised: I’m an expert in making myself feel miserable. I have a hard time accepting not being good at something. It takes a certain amount of humility and I don’t always possess that, so in those moments I become outright frustrated.
Over the next three days we drew in a medieval town, in two different alabaster workshops and overlooking the cliffs just outside the town. As we practiced more and more and I allowed myself to progress at my own rhythm, my lines also became looser. Instead of trying to capture my surroundings with one, clean, perfect line, I started to focus on the “fluidity” of my drawings. I also reminded myself that I signed up for this to be “outside my comfort zone”, to learn new things and that path was more important than the individual results of that journey. This was a very good exercise for me.
At the end of the four days we laid out all our work and everyone had to say which was their favourite and least favourite piece and why. I loved flipping through the sketchbooks of the others and submerge in their vision of the world. If you have a sketchbook you probably know that these are something quite intimate and allowing others to look at them feels a bit like opening your soul.
So what do I take away from this workshop? That I need to continue learning new things, even if being a beginner makes me feel uncomfortable at times. And, in the future I’ll have more empathy for myself in the learning process and remind myself that making mistakes is OK. =)
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”
Below are some scans from my sketchbook with the official ‘Urban Sketchers’ stamp on the first page:
And these last few were done in Florence, while I was visiting the city after the workshop: