As I was browsing through the available workshops offered by the Omaha Creative Institute, I came across an Intro to Watercolor workshop. Initially, I skipped over this workshop, as my only experience with any kind of art class was in grade school. You remember. You are in a classroom, sitting at a teeny tiny desk, trying to draw or paint something that even slightly resembled art.  I feel a little flushed as I imagine the struggle that the art teacher must have endured as she forced a smile and said “Oh… that’s really…unique.”.

And then it hit me. This was exactly what I was looking for. Something different. Something that was really out of my box. Something that I would normally discount as boring. Or, if history repeated itself, maybe even slightly painful. I began to reconsider and moved the cursor momentarily so that it hovered over the sign-up link…and then… away again.

Combat Watercolor

In my mind, I began to think about the ramifications that a workshop like this could have on my future. I imagined talking to a group of buddies, discussing all the manly things that we did this week. Given that most of my friends and acquaintances are law enforcement officers, the stories are often action packed and filled with heroic feats.  It wouldn’t be unusual for one of them to describe a vehicle pursuit or a long, cold track of a burglary suspect through dimly lit backyards, ending in a dramatic arrest. Well, you can see where I’m going with this.

But, the more  I thought about it, the more I knew that this was exactly the challenge that I needed for a successful “outofthebox experience”. Now I had to do it. Maybe, in recounting the experience to my buddies, I would simply embellish a little. If cornered, I could just say that I attended a “Combat watercolor” workshop. You know, painting while dodging bullets. “Yup”, I’d proclaim as I folded my arms in a rather manly fashion. “It was kind of like The Hunger Games, but with watercolors”.

Okay, all joking aside. If we can just get past our stereotypical fears of rejection,  we might actually open ourselves up to some surprisingly meaningful experiences. And that’s exactly what I did. I moved the mouse over the sign-up link and gave a quick, but sure, left click.

Let’s do this!

On Go Day, there were only a few others attending the “Combat watercolors” workshop, which somehow made me feel a little better. If I failed at my attempt to produce something artsy, my embarrassment would be limited. I can’t help but wonder though, in all seriousness, why more people don’t take a step out of their box and attend workshops such as this one. Then, I remember that just a short while ago, I was one of the people who didn’t. We rush through life, barely living and rarely experiencing. And, in my opinion, a simple realization that you are one of these people is only a start. Stepping out of the box and experiencing something new and different must be an ongoing endeavor that requires, just a little, dedicated effort. So far though, in my experience, the payback is greater than any effort that it takes to find and try something new.

As the workshop began, the instructor, Madalyn Bruning, taught us a little about the different kinds of paper and brushes that you can use for watercolor painting. She also gave us some ideas about where you can buy the supplies that you need to paint in watercolor. And, you might think that watercolor supplies are cheap, but you would be wrong. Apparently, watercolor supplies for any kind of semi-serious painting can be kind of pricey.  After attending this workshop, I feel confident in saying that there is a big difference between the watercolor paints that you buy for your nephew at the store, and paints that you would use if you want to paint seriously.

Madalyn then showed us how to paint things like skylines , trees and clouds and gave us some time, and several sheets of paper, to practice it all. I have to admit that as I began attempting to replicate the different things that she demonstrated for us, my creative side began to kick in. Now…I had a goal. It was time to rectify my grade school art failures and create something to be proud of. And…I did.

Imperfection may not be so bad after all

While painting, there were a couple of occasions where I almost abandoned my work. Madalyn noticed immediately and pointed out that often, what we see as an imperfection can evolve into something completely unexpected. And those words pretty much sum up my experience at the Watercolor workshop. I hesitated from the start, unsure of what I would find. But, in the end I found something unexpected. No, it’s not a Picasso. But it is a reminder of two relaxing hours, where not a thought came into my head other than what I was doing at exactly that moment.

Mission accomplished…