This article originally appeared on my blog as a guest post by John Gower
The need to express oneself is something that goes back to our primitive ancestors in the dark cave paintings in places like Lascaux, France. Art is the telling of stories and the practice of painting is one of the primitive expressions of it. The benefits of engaging in a simple painting class can bring unrealized benefits to every aspect of your life no matter what age you are when you pick up a brush. Whether through meticulous, careful study or letting the brush guide itself without any path in particular, the art of painting can be a worthwhile hobby.
Painting is one of the most liberating modes of expression because it allows one to interact with our primal selves, which is to say, our essential selves. Anyone can pick up a paintbrush, dab a bit of color on its tip and create meaning. The possibilities are infinite. Each individual can create based on his or her own filters of what the assignment dictates. One can learn a great deal from the playful simplicity of painting.
Often, people have reservations of taking an art class because they have a certain idea of what art is. In reality, art is any kind of expression and falls in between a wide range of immediate, spontaneous feeling to carefully premeditated concepts. There is no judgment in the simple pleasure of painting in the moment. It’s kind of like weather. Weather just happens. One does not have to re-create Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in order to reap the benefits of painting.
The first time I took a beginning painting class, I was apprehensive, thinking that I was in over my head and nothing I could possibly produce would be worthy of observation. Bravely walking through the door, I decided it would be best to leave my judgment or any preconceived ideas of what I thought of myself at the door. I noticed others around me appeared to be more prepared, or that was my impression. Impressions are deceiving and like everything else in life, self-doubt can always sneak in there when we least expect it and that the reality is there is nothing to fear.
As we began our first project, I kept trying to quiet the negative voices inside my head. I looked at my blank canvas and the instructor told us to pick a color and let the paint soak through the bristles of the brush. We were set up in a circle so that none of us could compare ourselves with the others. I felt like an infant learning how to walk on wobbly feet, but I made a stroke at a diagonal watching intently as my brush left the trail and slowly I fell into a strange quiet melody of motion, listening to the instructions and something profound happened. I was painting strokes with colors, dabs, splotches and making shapes, twirling the brush in the manner the instructor described.
After we had our initial lesson, the instructor had us go around as a group to every painting to see what our fellow classmates had accomplished. I was amazed to see how different and interesting each piece was. Before I knew it, 3 hours passed and I was so intent in what I was doing that I fell out of myself and somehow connected at the same time. It was the most focused I’d ever felt in my life. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ever felt this way.
After class, I was transformed as if I had taken a breath of pure oxygen and I walked on a cloud back to my car. Whether you take a painting class for pleasure or serious study, you will gain a sense of accomplishment, learn how to focus and open up pathways of creativity that will touch all areas of your life.
John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping consumers with retirement savings.