Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

It’s said that if you want to add something new into your life, you need to make room for it to grow and flourish.

So it was with me.  I wanted to develop my creative side but it was all talk and no action. Investing big chunks of time dabbling with paints and markers seemed so “wasteful”. There always seemed to be something more important to do.

I finally recognized that anything worth pursuing deserved to be scheduled and so it was that I designated a day every week as my “artsy” day.  

At first I got my creative feet wet experimenting with rocks.  Those of you who follow my Instagram account Wise Rocks have seen some of my handiwork.  Pretty basic stuff.


It didn’t take long before I felt like I was ready for more, so I decided to up the challenge. I had been assured by many different people that we all have an inner artist ready to be engaged and inspired, so I took my paints to canvas.

It was an exercise in frustration and I had to concede that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I could either throw my hands in the air and quit, plod along blissfully ignorant, or try to get some instruction.

While the former felt very attractive, I chose the latter.

After looking at a few online how-to videos, I quickly came to the conclusion that I was in over my head, so I moved to Plan B – I went looking for an art studio where I could take lessons.

I prefer human interaction in a learning environment but I don’t believe that one-size-fits-all, so finding the ‘right’ place was important to me. I wanted a place that would be friendly and nurturing for a newbie like me to learn how to stretch my artistic wings.

It took weeks, but I finally succeeded. I found my place.

Under Sylvia’s guidance, I completed two small rather simple canvases but then she strongly encouraged me to try my first landscape painting. Her enthusiasm was contagious and so with blind faith I dove into this new project at the end of November.

She guided me through blocking out the canvas and working each box to sketch the image. I was thrilled with the result and could have happily ended here, satisfied that I actually drew something recognizable. This was a major accomplishment for someone who always felt like they couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler.

But, no … apparently I was just getting started.

Over the past 2 months I’ve been slowly getting more comfortable with mixing colours, softly blending edges as I paint, and making corrections when something doesn’t work quite the way I intended.

… and now my landscape, which I’ve titled “On The Trail”, is finally finished.

“On The Trail”

I couldn’t be more thrilled with the end result. As I said to Sylvia as the finishing touches were completed, if she could guide someone like me into painting a landscape like this, then she must be a mighty fine teacher.

So, back to my original question in the title of this post – I have no doubts that an old dog can learn new tricks. Regardless of our age, our capacity for learning should never be underestimated.

If I can learn to paint, then surely just about anything you can imagine is possible.

105 comments

  1. I am thrilled to hear that you are taking art lessons and loving them! I spent many, many years taking community art classes and am grateful to the different art teachers I have had over the years. I also really liked the sense of community and support that often develops in a class, and the chance to see the interesting variations in people’s techniques and artistic visions.

    Judith

    p.s. your site doesn’t recognize me anymore and makes me put in my credentials every time I comment.

    Jude

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is exactly what I’m experiencing – that camaraderie among students and sharing in each other’s discoveries. I’m simply loving this process of creation 🙂
      Now I wonder why it took me so long to try it!!

      Sorry to hear you are having problems on my site. This seems to be a recurring problem many of us have had. For months I couldn’t even put my credentials into your site.
      Are you by any chance using an Apple product? I’m finding that the problem is more prevalent with people using Safari.
      On a recent upgrade, a privacy setting was changed which was causing my problems.
      Under Safari/Preferences the website tracking was turned on to “Prevent cross-tracking”. Click the other option and see if that helps.
      Let me know.

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  2. Your piece is lovely! I love the process of learning and taking classes with others. I spend much more time engaged this way, than producing art on my own. Congratulations on completing this landscape!

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    • I think we all have different learning styles. It also helps that this studio is relatively easy to get to with good parking, etc. If it was a pain to go to class every week, I might feel very differently about it.

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  3. Oh, Joanne…I am so excited for your new creativity! I travelled a similar path several years ago and felt I only got my feet wet before taking on my house project. I can’t wait to be done so I can got back to the creative play I once dabbled in. And, I do want to take lessons. Your post is an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you are ready to dabble again in creative play, I do recommend taking some lessons.
      It might not feel like it right now, but your house project is a creative work-in-process. You have a vision of what you’re trying to achieve and that’s more than what some people are able to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree on both counts. The house project has been amazing and I’m learning so many new skills…soon it will be tiling. When the house is done I will begin on the landscaping…I’ve got some definite visions for that. But at the same time, I want to go out and do more photography day trips. I bought a course which I barely started and would like to continue it. I also would like to learn to do watercolor paintings, which I consider to be the most challenging because I have to create something and put it in the physical universe as opposed to seeing something that is already there…it will be pushing my limitations, which I know you can understand.

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  4. Hi Joanne, this is so impressive, but your beautiful photographs already showed an artistic soul. I’m sure that your initial foray into painting was a bit daunting but your end result was lovely! I can relate also to the feeling that “play” is not a worthy use of our time. Yet play is exactly how children learn..they are not afraid of mistakes; that’s a learned behavior that we need to unlearn, I think.
    Keep it up…maybe someday you can have a show!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. Young children aren’t afraid to make mistakes – we teach them that with our ‘don’t do that’, ‘you’re going to make a mess’, ‘be careful’, etc.
      Unlearning that is soooo hard to do …. and how often do we ‘play’ just for the sake of experimenting and letting our imagination run wild for a while? This is what I’m trying to learn to do. It requires a new definition of being ‘productive’.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joanne, I put both PLAY and CRAFTS on my vision board last week. You’re definitely inspiring me to move beyond the words and into action! Play and be willing to make mistakes. Have fun. Take a class. (Or at least look up some approaches on YouTube.) Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Experimenting and being willing to ‘make mistakes’ is SO. MUCH. HARDER than I would have thought. I think that as adults we generally forget how to really play.
      I’ve been contemplating collages for a long time. They both fascinate and puzzle me – I had no idea how to even start, paralyzed by the thought I would ‘do it wrong’. I finally came to terms with the idea there was no ‘wrong’ and I should just start doing something – anything. Now that I’ve done a couple, I think I’m hooked 🙂 I’m starting to like the idea of no rules!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your painting turned out beautifully Joanne! My husband always swears drawing is a skill learned through practice while I’ve maintained that it must come naturally (this is my bias because it did for my father). It seems as though I’ve been proven incorrect. Maybe I should try again. But with a teacher this time! 😉 I love how you keep pursuing all of your in interests. It makes me want to do the same!

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    • I used to think like you, Amy … and I still believe there are those who are truly artistic and HAVE to create. They can’t not create. Clearly I’m not in that category, but I have learned that with some basic skills and guidance, some cool things are possible 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m very impressed. As an art teacher I’ve always found it very frustrating when people say they can’t paint or draw. As with everything in life it takes practice. No one sits at a piano for the first time and just starts playing. It takes months and years of practice to become good on the piano. Painting and drawing are no different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha! Actually I did spend months and years practicing the piano before I finally had to admit that I was just awful. When I finally gave up trying though, I knew I had really tried.

      I guess I had that experience in my head when I considered trying my hand at art. What I didn’t appreciate however is that art is an expression of ourselves and learning some basic skills just helps the process 🙂

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    • Apparently we all have a hidden artist inside … I just never thought that I’d actually get to meet mine 🙂
      And definitely kudos to Sylvia who tells us “just enough”. She encourages us to experiment and not be afraid of ‘making mistakes’. That’s one of the hugest learnings for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s taken months, but I’m finally at the point where I don’t feel guilty about ‘not being productive’ on my artsy day. It’s a different kind of ‘play’ than anything I’ve done before and I’m really liking it.

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  8. Lovely! Have it framed and hang it on your wall!
    I say this from experience. I did a small watercolour long ago, and it sat in a folder in a drawer for a very long time. I finally decided I would frame it or chuck it. Michael’s Crafts had a half off sale on framing – that clinched the deal. Best investment I’ve made in a long time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve had this advice from a number of people – including my teacher.
      Apparently it’s important to have your work somewhere where you can see it – even if only for a little while – for both the sense of accomplishment and future inspiration.
      Currently it’s unframed on the wall facing the desk in my ‘studio’ 🙂

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      • So, true about displaying your work. Though I have duplicated the process of painting, the idea inspiration is my weak point. By seeing my work proudly displayed in my house, I feel the accomplishment and it is encouraging…making me want to continue to persevere.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know what you mean about generating your own ideas. I may never get to that point. For now, I’m happy to take the images from others and remake them with my own ‘style’ – either deliberately or by accident 🙂

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  9. I love your landscape Joanne! And I love that you jumped into this and stayed with it to completion. You inspire me to get busy with an online writing course…something I’ve been putting off.

    I can’t wait to see what you do next!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yay! Get onto that course!! Is it going to be in poetry again?

      My instructor wants me to learn portraits next and has given me a lot of sketching homework. Yes – she gives homework and omg, I’m really bad at it 😏 I think it’s going to take a LOT of practice 😉

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  10. Oh. My. Gosh. Joanne! That’s so beautiful! I just love the way you captured the light on the trees, on the trunks and leaves. That is sooooo sooooo hard to do! And you pulled it off exquisitely. I’m so proud of you I want to cry with pleasure. Good for you for trying something new and not giving up when it turned out to be harder than you thought. Ah! You’re so inspiring. Hugs!

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  11. Joanne, I’m really impressed. You did lovely work. I hope you got over the “waste” thoughts. I know how that is, and I still get it in my head. No matter what I tried to learn (from art to cooking) my father always complained that I was wasting something.
    I’m so glad you allowed yourself the gift of creativity. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That whole feeling of guilt from ‘wasting’ time really is a major burden. I got it from my mom. “Playing” often meant we had energy to spare to do something else :/
      Learning how to ‘play’ again – just experimenting with paints and designs – has been harder than I thought it would be, but I am getting better at parking all the ‘shoulds’ for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow! You amaze me again:). The skating and now the painting. You are a busy bee! And I love the painting as much as I love the name of the academy (and your teacher’s attitude)! My boys had an art teacher who felt there was one right way to do things–her way. Her joy had left her long ago. I have a friend who is a sculptor who also teaches art and it’s like night and day. I am sure her students feel her joy and create joyfully because of it. Wishing you many more moodling hours!

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  13. I like your painting a lot and your adventure reminds me that there is time when we need a few classes (other times online works well or we just get it) and then finding the right teacher is crucial – so this really sounds like a double win –
    And in the rocks – the little one that said “new year new hope”
    Beamer some good stuff my way – I know January is almost over but I still feel the freshness of a new year and ponder what lies ahead for the coming year – so I really loved those rocks

    Like

  14. Joanne, once again I commend your tenacity in how you tackle new things. You truly inspire any one of us to not just talk about tackling a project, an adventure, a new experience, but to actually make it happen! Well done my friend. I hope you hang that beautiful painting in a place that continues to inspire you every day!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. As the would say when a dog learns new tricks: “Good Boy, Good Boy.” Stunning! Sylvia brought out your inner artist that is dormant for some time. From skating to painting. This gives me hope (speaking about me).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s more of a testament of Sylvia’s ability to teach, direct, and encourage, rather than any innate talent on my part 😉

      Obviously I’m a major proponent of trying new things and challenging your comfort level. I say go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janis. I am constantly amazed at what we are capable of doing if only we try. I had so much encouragement from a number of bloggers who made me believe it was possible … even for someone like me … to learn how to paint. Apparently it’s true! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow! Beautiful! I do admire those who can paint and draw! Trust me that is one trick I can’t learn!
    I do agree with your post though! 🙂 We do need to challenge ourselves sometimes and you never know what may be possible! Good for you in taking on the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

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