The Brush Stroke

Hi, I’m Joslyn, and I’m afraid of…painting. More specifically, I’m afraid of looking silly because I’m bad at painting in front of those who are good at it. And so, though I have long longed to walk up to an easel and express myself all over it, I have shyly avoided every opportunity to do so. I’ve barely held a paintbrush since Grade 8 art class.

I’ve lingered on countless art school web pages offering beginner’s classes, I’ve had painter-friends with studios and materials they would gladly share — and I have always hesitated, sometimes in the very room, with all the paints and brushes in reach.

When the open art studio Splintered Craft launched I thought: perfect opportunity. They have space and materials and actively welcome everyone; all I have to do is show up some afternoon. But when the afternoon arrives, I simply decide not to go. There was no great turmoil around the decision — just a discomfort I was happy to avoid.

Instead of visiting the studio I would visit their Facebook page, returning to a photo of an attractive boy I knew who was brazenly covering an easel with an image he had pulled up out of himself.

It triggered my deep longing to do the same thing. Something about the experience seemed so mysterious to me, as if it would tap into some part of myself I can’t otherwise get to.

However, the longing was always mixed with the fear of embarrassment at my hypothetical failure. But worse, that moment of approaching the easel, that first brush stroke. The untraversable “How to begin?”

Yet rising above all of that is the question: How often do I prevent myself from doing the very things I would most love to do, out of a fear of looking silly while doing them? That is not how I want to live my life.

So there is only one option. Write a column for What’s Up Yukon exploring the things that scare me. First up: painting at Splintered Craft.

I pull up to the studio on a sunny Monday afternoon with little clue what to expect. I picture myself somehow on display — the space will be full of people, painting everywhere, I’ll be placed in front of a giant easel that faces the room, everyone will be able to see what I’m doing.

I walk in to find the place empty save Aimée Dawn Robinson and Jona Barr, who help run Splintered Craft. They set me up at a table near the window with some watercolours and a modest little sketchbook. Aimée gently suggests I start with painting what I see around me. I spend quite a while selecting my colours, examining the various brushes, staring out the window at Tags, and looking down at my blank page. I take a bathroom break.

The coordinator from the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre drops in and names a painter I might be inspired by. We Google him and find little drawing-type watercolours floating on white backgrounds. I learn I don’t need to cover the entire page.

After a while everyone leaves me alone and with nothing left to distract me I dip my brush into the yellow paint and hurriedly trace the outline of a car I can see out the window. It doesn’t look very good. I giggle. I give myself permission to create a first painting that is entirely experimental, and it is allowed to entirely suck. And it does.

I create a brownish mud puddle with the outline of a car floating in it.

But the sun is shining, and I’m painting. The people around me are kind and supportive. I don’t even mind when someone comes over to glance at my puddle.

I feel great. I feel ready to try something new on the next page. 

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top