Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to learn to paint. An opportunity to do so finally presented itself in late 2009 – long after my initial wish, and several years after obtaining my Bachelor degree in graphic design.
For my first painting, I was instructed to choose a landscape, and since I love Hawaii I chose a gorgeous pink sand beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It took roughly nine months of painting, several hours each week, to finish this first masterpiece (pictured here). Since then, I have completed three additional paintings, and am currently working on my fifth.
As you might expect, I have learned a ton about painting. But even more than that, becoming a painter has made me a better designer. That’s because many of the basic skills I’ve cultivated as a painter are also applicable to my design work:
- Color: There is nothing like mixing paints to teach a person about color. To reproduce the complex color variations in the natural world, it is necessary to blend as many as five or six different colors to get the perfect mix. Trees are not just green and brown; if you look closely, the leaves contain many variations of green, with highlights and shadows, and the trunk and branches are not simply brown, but have red, purple, and gray undertones.
- Composition & Balance: Nature is amazing in that colors are often repeated. Colors appear when light bounces off of objects; therefore, the shade of blue in the sky will also be mixed into the grass and in water. For example, in the painting above, the wet sand is pink and there are also pink highlights on the palm tree trunks. This repetition of colors makes the painting come together as a whole.
- Depth: I’ve learned how important color, light, and texture are in portraying depth. Faraway objects are faded, with very little texture, but as they get closer, their color is brighter and more saturated, and their texture is more visible.
- Attention to detail: Painting has opened my eyes to the intricate details of the world around me. In order to bring an object to life on the canvas, I have to pay attention to the colors it is made of, how the light hits it, how close or far away it is, if it has texture, and many other details. This heightened awareness comes in handy when I’m doing a really detailed or complex design.
- Creativity/Flexibility: Last but not least, painting has broadened my creativity. I’ve learned that I don’t have to reproduce things exactly as they are in nature, that the painting can be my own interpretation. If I think that old dead tree should be brought to life, I can make it happen. If the hillside looks barren, I can paint in fields of wildflowers. I’ve always been told that I’m good at “thinking outside the box”, and that skill has been honed even more through painting.
All of this goes to show that when we have several diverse activities or hobbies, the things we learn from one discipline can be applied to others, and also to life as a whole. And with every new experience, comes new insights and the kind of “aha!” moments that can change us for the better!
SO, what hobby or activity have you picked up that has helped in other areas of your life? Tell me about it in the comments!
About Barbara Austin
As the graphic designer & founder of Sweet Dreamz Design, Barbara loves working with women entrepreneurs to brand their businesses. She shares a variety of small business advice and anecdotes here on the blog. Check back every week for new tips, inspirations, and how-to articles, or subscribe to get regular updates in your inbox each week!