Patience Is a Virtue

I’ve never been a patient person. When I want something, I want it now — a fact that Amazon Prime loves. But this isn’t a post about my shopping habits. It’s not even a post about art supplies, although, goodness knows, I have a lot of those — and do still want more.

This post is about patience itself and about the most surprising benefit I’ve gained from my pursuit of art. I am becoming a much more patient person that I’d ever thought I could be.

I was so nervous about doing this project, I would only work on it a little each day.
I was so nervous about doing this project, I would only work on it a little each day.

It first happened when I started working on the sea turtle project from The Virtual Instructor. I was excited to be using colored pencils for the first time.

Now, I have heard that being excited and being nervous are very often the same thing — and yes, indeed, I was nervous about my sea turtle. From the beginning, I doubted I could successfully complete the project.

I drew the contour lines and began following the instructions for using my colored pencils.

It actually didn’t look too bad, I realized. So, I did a little more. It was time-consuming. Colored pencil drawing, I learned, isn’t something you can dash off in a few minutes. It takes time to carefully layer the colors, time to blend and burnish. And time, of course, requires patience.

I did sort of shake my head a bit and think that maybe I’d have problems with colored pencils. I’d recently given up on learning pen and ink drawing mainly because I didn’t have patience enough for it. Was it going to be the same with colored pencils, too? I hoped not! I loved looking at my colored pencils and had spent months dreaming of the day when I’d know how to use them.

To be completely honest, I had a sinking feeling that even though I’d learned a few basic principles for drawing, I’d never get too far with art. Everything seemed to require patience — a virtue I didn’t have.

And then I looked at my partially-finished sea turtle. I was very pleased with what I saw. I wanted to savor that moment. I suspected that if I rushed ahead, I’d probably ruin the drawing. I couldn’t let that happen. This turtle, I knew, was going to be my best work, far better than anything I’d done in the past.

My progress was slow but steady. I loved watching this sea turtle appear before my eyes.
My progress was slow but steady. I loved watching this sea turtle appear before my eyes.

So, slowly but surely, I finished the turtle, working on a little bit one day and a little bit more the next. It required several days to complete, and in between my work on the picture, I’d sit back and admire it. It was fun to see the progress. In fact, each day, I took pictures and sent them to one of my daughters. To say that I was proud of my sea turtle would be quite an understatement.

Finally the sea turtle was finished. You can see the completed drawing here: Am I an Artist?

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from this turtle wasn’t about blending colored pencils but about taking time and enjoying the projects I’m working on. It truly wasn’t an easy lesson for me. I still struggle with wanting to hurry up and finish things. That’s especially true with watercolor…and that’s why most of my watercolors end up disasters. Patience is a virtue, and I’m working on it.

I saw myself developing patience again when I began working on the Dublin river castle last month. It was a challenge for me. I wanted to do the best I could, and while it’s not perfect, the proportions and the perspective are much more in line than most of my architectural drawings.

It was a nerve-wracking project. Always the temptation was there to just hurry up, just get this over with! I refused to give in. I worked on one tower, did my best, then set the drawing aside. The next day, I worked on another section of the castle. I put it aside again. I was learning about perspective, but I was learning more. The big lesson was understanding that I don’t have to finish a drawing all at once. Just as I did with my sea turtle, I could work slowly on the castle. It took nearly a month for me to finish the drawing. Like I said before, it’s not perfect, but it’s sure better than it would have been had I rushed through it.

This oil pastel landscape took four hour-long lessons to complete, and I'm pleased with the result.
This oil pastel landscape took four hour-long lessons to complete, and I’m pleased with the result.

Attending the “live lessons” at The Virtual Instructor each Thursday evening has also helped me become more patient with my art. We recently finished an oil pastel landscape painting. We weren’t able to complete it in a single lesson, or even two lessons. Working slowly, we concentrated on different areas each week, and finally finished it on the fourth lesson.

More and more, I see myself taking this slow approach to my drawings and paintings. I worked slowly on my “spring bouquet” drawing. And I’m working very slowly on a new colored pencil project.

It’s a snowy egret on a background which will be several different shades of green blended together. I’ll also have a few sticks and twigs across the background. The bird is perched on a limb, although that might be difficult to see at this point.

My snowy egret drawing will take time to complete.
My snowy egret drawing will take time to complete.

I have a lot of work to do on this bird. I not only have to lay down all the different shades of green I’ll be using, but I’ll also have to blend them and burnish them. The limbs will require time, too. I want to get the colors right and create the illusion of texture.

When I first started this egret, I wasn’t sure I liked the drawing I’d made. The neck might be a bit too skinny…well, no might be about it. It is a little too skinny. The beak isn’t quite right either.

Actually, I hated this bird for a while, but I kept working on it. I started putting down the background right away so I could see how much contrast it would create.

It is going to be very time-consuming, and I might not work on it every day. I’ve got new pan pastels to play with, I’m doing a few anatomical drawings, and Thursday’s live lesson at The Virtual Instructor will be using pastel pencils. Oh, I also signed up for a watercolor class.

It’s all right, I’ve learned, to have lots of different art projects “in the works”. Taking time to work on each one allows me to step back and really see the picture I’m creating. It’s an odd feeling for me, but for the first time in my life, I’m not always wanting to rush, rush, rush. I’m learning how much fun it can be to watch a drawing or painting develop — and to take pride in my work at each step along the way.

I never thought it would happen, but art is teaching me patience.





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