I explained that to young Brylee Smith last week when I asked her to help me with a project for a friend. She thought I was just being funny and let me near her painting supplies anyway.
Let that be a lesson to her.
Brylee is the 10-year-old founder of B.A.R.K., a local nonprofit that raises money for sick children through the sale of her artwork.
She has health issues of her own that prevented me from commissioning her for the painting that I had in mind.
My vision was simple. I wanted the painting to include the names of all of the couple’s children and to have angel’s wings attached to the names of their babies who passed away.
When I realized that I would have to make the painting myself, I called Brylee’s mother to ask for advice. I think my exact question was “So if I’m going to paint something, what do I need?”
Jennifer must have sensed that I was going to require more help than a phone conversation could provide and invited me over to paint with Brylee on Sunday afternoon.
I thought that I would explain the painting, Brylee would sketch it and I would add the finishing touches.
I expected a grown-up paint by numbers. Brylee’s strategy was more sink or swim.
First I had to select my canvas. Brylee recommended the rectangle instead of the square. I didn’t catch their dimensions.
Next we decided that the background should be white. Although the canvas was the perfect color, Brylee said I needed to paint it white to make it look good. She’s the expert, so I took her word for it.
Then I had to choose between acrylic or oil-based paints.
The Smith house was starting to feel like a Starbucks. Rectangle …white…acrylic…decaf!
Finally, I got to sit at a table with a canvas and a sponge brush. My picture looked awesome after I applied a coat of white paint.
That was my chance to walk away with a job well done. Instead, I pressed on and sketched the names on the canvas.
I was still feeling pretty good about myself when it came time to draw the angel’s wings.
We looked up some sample images on the Internet, and Brylee and I experimented with recreating them on a piece of paper.
Although hers looked much better than mine, she was afraid of making a mistake on the canvas. I looked deep within myself for inspiration. Then I told Zac to do it.
His first wing was beautiful. Unfortunately, the second one didn’t match it.
Brylee drew a couple but wasn’t pleased with her efforts either. She finally suggested that I move on to something else and work on the wings later.
Their errors were nothing compared to the baseball I drew in honor of my friend’s firstborn. It was big enough to be a basketball and had stitches that were going the wrong way.
Then I drew a daisy that bore an uncanny resemblance to a sunflower. That’s when the 10-year-old started making fun of me.
The love of my life said the angel’s wings I drew looked like open books.
The painting was such a disaster by the time Jennifer got home that the nicest thing she could say was “Brylee, why don’t you work on your own so they can have a different (code for “better”) interpretation?”
By that time, I was so stressed that I wanted a smoke break and I don’t even smoke.
Although my first art lesson was also my last, that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.
I have expected everything to come easy to me since I was a child. I remember slamming my first bike to the ground so hard that I busted the seat because I couldn’t learn to ride within the first 10 minutes of getting it.
I’m not multi-talented; I just refuse to do things I’m not good at. I am the ship who never leaves the harbor because I know I’m safe.
That’s not what ships are for, though. I need to get out of my comfort zone every now and then and really struggle with something. If nothing else, it’s a good way to keep my ego in check.
Painting also forced me to slow down. I thought it would take an hour, two if I participated in chit chat.
I have one deadline — yesterday. But paint doesn’t dry just because I don’t have time to wait on it.
I am learning that life, like painting, is a process. When I rush through it, I miss the beauty of the experience.
Mistakes are inevitable and impossible to erase. Even if I gloss over them, I’ll always know they’re there.
Although the finished product may be messy, my goal is to end up with something that makes me proud.
Or at least makes me laugh.