to this, and more

Today marks a milestone of sorts in my creative journey. 😉 I’ve finally started my exploration of the medium of watercolour. And its beauty really astounds me.

I’ve been meaning to try it out for the longest of times and because there are so many different types of art forms and crafts that I’ve been hoping to explore, it was always never the top most on my list. Until today, when due to unforeseen circumstances, I wasn’t able to get my newly ordered UV resin lamp to work, it seemed like there was no better time than to try watercolours out. I suppose sometimes things just work out that way.

Initially I’d planned on devoting the day to working on some crafts (what better time to do so when the hubby is in another city for work!), mainly with UV resin and the flowers that I’d been painstakingly drying and keeping aside for when the UV lamp arrived. Well, arrive it did, but to my disbelief, while the instruction manual says it can be used at 220V, there’s a sticky label on the back that says for use at 110V and…Made In China. I have a feeling it the fuse blew because a few seconds after I switched it on, the lamps went off. =(( That feeling of devastation and just not knowing what the next best move would be was… not pleasant at all. It was one of the moments in which I felt pretty helpless being in a foreign country, not knowing where I could get things or if the salespeople would be able to help. Assuming I tried to replace the UV lamp bulbs, I would need to remove the top cover which required me to unscrew it from the body of the lamp. I would need to obtain a screwdriver because there ain’t any in the house. Just where are the DIY stores anyway? That feeling of not knowing if I could get the item I wanted from the store/the location of the store/feeling that I would not be able to communicate my question properly over the phone with sales staff… just made me feel rather wretched inside. The thought that this is something that I have to get through because it’s not home, where I’m familiar with things. And of course, I was alone in the house with no one I could turn to for some advice or help. Not the most pleasant emotional state I was in for the next 10 to 15 minutes as I tried searching on the internet on electrical appliances/voltages in Germany vs SG/power transformers… while the sinking feeling in my stomach got larger, as I realised that I probably did just end up ruining the lamp in a span of 5 seconds of switching it on. After going to the large electronics store at the nearby mall and finding out that they only sold power transformers for very small appliances e.g requiring 40-50v, the frustration had more or less dissipated and I could resign myself to the fact that my next alternative was to order a UV lamp with the suitable voltage this time (which is not very common at all based on most of the models – Chinese/Japanese that I’ve found online) or perhaps get one in SG when I next go back because as I’ve found out, SG and Germany have the same voltage for appliances. Regardless of that choice, I had to learn something as basic as suitable voltages for appliances the hard way. Something that seems so simple really, that I probably should have bothered to find out early on after moving here, but just never did.

But in the end, not being able to work on my 1st choice prompted me to move on to the next option in line, which was watercolour. And boy, was it such a thrill, once I’d settled in with my watercolour set, watching a Beginner Watercolor instructional video on the amazing website Creativebug, an online portal full of arts and crafts classes that one can take for a small monthly subscription fee. I’d done a free trial for one of their sewing classes last year and found quality to be really good. This one that I viewed today was great as the instructor went through the basics in terms of techniques and simple projects we could do to further those basic techniques. While in the midst of it I remember just looking around at the lovely ‘mess’ I’d created at the table and feeling…such a thrill. Even though I really didn’t have a great idea as to how the piece would turn out (often time it didn’t look anything like what the instructor was painting), experimenting with different colours, creating gradients simply with the addition of water and creating what turned out to be surprisingly pretty (to me at least) was just…thrilling. And clichéd as it may seem, the thought that kept going through my mind was that art is probably the best representation of life. Or perhaps if I were to refine that statement, engaging in art is akin to engaging with life. Both are endeavours of which we have no control over the outcome. And there can be so many types of outcomes and the uncertainty of not knowing can be both thrilling and terrifying. But it can be so damn fun as well. (And no one has talked so comprehensively and beautifully about creativity as Elizabeth Gilbert has, especially in her book Big Magic, so I would recommend reading that if you’re the least bit curious about engaging in creativity.)

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(Today’s beautiful mess. Ahh. I quite loved it.)

While I was still the zone of creating/trying something new out, I decided to try working a little on polymer clay with acrylics and some glaze paints that I had gotten. That one, a little less ‘successful’ because it didn’t quite turn out as I had expected. But I had to start somewhere in order to explore the possibilities of the media at hand. It sucks when it didn’t turn out well/as expected, but it was a lesson in itself which I needed to learn. And in fact, I’m reminded of something which my current ceramics teacher E (just the coolest, most easy going and friendly Russian who happens to be living and teaching ceramics in Berlin) said in one of the earlier classes. Another student had remarked that she knew that she probably should have painted her vase with another colour because she knows it would have been a safer choice but she just wanted to try some new colours out. To which, E remarked that if we know exactly how it’s going to turn out it just means that we have already done it before hence we know that that’s the safe way to do something. It’s only when we try something with an outcome that we can’t predict that we are actually trying something new and learning from it. I remember thinking at that moment, I so wish she could have been my art teacher when I was in primary or secondary school. Then again, she’s definitely not more than 10 years older than me so that wouldn’t have been quite possible. 😉 But I always want to engage in the arts with that sort of mindset.

Because even though it was just an afternoon of dipping my feet into watercolour and a little bit of acrylics and polymer clay, already Grandfather Fear (Liz Gilbert’s great way of referencing our constant companion) was peeking over and hemming and hawing every time I tried something new. A lot of the time, at the back of my mind, I have these fears of whether what I create will be helpful to me eventually. Am I wasting my time trying this out? Will I be able to create something that I might be able to sell eventually? Or share with others? If what I create is not what I expected and I want to achieve a certain effect, what should I do if I can’t find the answer online? And worst of all, what if I realise that I am actually not good at arts/crafts and won’t be able to link it to any form of job or money-making endeavour?

Too many free-floating fears and worries at the back of my mind. But once again, thank goodness for Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, because for all those fears that I have, I think she’s addressed them all in one way or another. And with regards to making money from one’s creativity, she has said so wisely that she has never wanted to ‘burden’ her creativity with the need to provide for her materially so she always kept alternative streams of income until she was fairly certain she would be able to write full-time to support herself. And deep down, I know that that is the best way to do things as well. Because the minute you ask yourself if what you’re making is something that other people will want/want to pay money for it… it’s putting a lot of pressure onto something that could otherwise be so much more light and fun. I think that’s something I need to remind myself of. That really, engaging in these acts of creativity is something that I’m doing because it makes life that much more enjoyable. That much more beautiful.

I’ve been reading a couple of books on the French culture recently (though I know I should probably read more about German culture but I have always had that extremely soft spot for the beautifully…chic French approach to life) and one great quote that I love that keeps popping up in my mind is from the book What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind by Debra Ollivier. In it, she writes:

I’m reminded of an older French woman quoted in a book by Elisabeth Weissman titled Un âge nommé désir (An Age Called Desire). “I want to live everything with the most density possible,” she says. “My relationship to time is totally different. I am so conscious that life might escape me at any moment, that everything has become keener and more distilled….I tell myself: All this happiness still, but for how long? So I devour life.”

I devour life. What a beautiful statement. Doesn’t it make you want to pump your fist in the air and go, YESSSS!!! To Life!!! >:DD

So yes, time to brush aside those worries. And all the little anxieties that creep up on and again (What should I do with my time later? What would be the best book to read now? Am I making a good choice by doing xxxx now?)… really, I should take a deep breath, and  just enjoy life. Devour life.


Hope you are relishing it too.



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