An urban watercolor sketch and its inspiration

Watercolor Wednesdays

What a week! Since I last posted, more things have broken in our home (a lamp and a mug), my skating rink started its reduced session summer schedule, and I utterly failed at my first attempt to make popsicles. If you haven’t ever tried sucking on barely flavored ice, I would not recommend it.

In the same week, though, I started wedding planning in earnest, I discovered the joys of grownup vacuums, and used a coworking space for the first time. And while I will not be cooking again until our dishwasher comes back from vacation, I did make several more Austrian dishes I’ll share soon.

I’ve also been hard at work on another creative outlet: watercolor.

When I was little, the first thing I ever wanted to be was an artist.

Maybe it was because my cousin stayed with us while completing her art degree, or maybe it was because being an artist seemed like such a cool thing to be. So I told my mom, and I took a few lessons outside of school art classes, but all I remember from them is that children’s watercolor set didn’t seem to be of any use at all, and that I really hated working with oil pastels. Too smeary.

Mostly, though, I doodled. In kindergarten, I made my mom valentines by coloring hearts within hearts with pastel markers. In first grade, I drew horrifying representations of my family and illustrated a story of us and our nonexistent cat. In second grade, when I discovered Sailor Moon, I copied all my favorite characters in a style I now remember as “strawberry heads.”  And in middle school through college, when I discovered that drawing helped keep me awake, I filled both sketchbooks and the margins of my notes with all sorts of doodles, from Harry Potter to fantasy heroines.

As I entered the workforce, I stopped having time to just sit down and draw, but doodling saved me during a lot of tedious meetings and became a party trick. But even though figure skating became my creative outlet, I still missed creating.

When I planned my Europe trip in May, I noticed that AirBnb had started offering Experiences – everything from tours to cooking classes to bar crawls – that, because they were mostly offered by locals, seemed more authentic than the more established tours on TripAdvisor and other side. And for Budapest, the experience that caught my eye was Watercolor Urban Sketching with Odett, a local artist.

Odett, who was so kind and helpful

So, on a Thursday morning in May, still damp from my visit to the Gellert Baths, I met Odett and the other students at the Budapest Eye. The weather was “grumpy,” as Odett put it, so we went to a little coffee shop where she had set everything up. We got a drink, settled in to learn about perspective and composition and lighting, sketched out our buildings, and then we began to paint.

Laying out the composition with pencil

I think one of the reasons we travel is to imagine who we could have been if we’d been born across a border or an ocean in another life. And when that first swath of water washed over the paper, and the colors bloomed and swirled, following its path, I didn’t just imagine – I became who I dreamed I could be when I was five years old. An artist.

My urban sketches

I didn’t want it to end. So when I got home from Europe, I picked up some student-grade paints and supplies. That night, I stared at the blank paper for a bit, afraid that the magic I’d found in Europe hadn’t come back with me. What if I’d only been able to paint with a teacher in front of me to fix my mistakes? What if I’d just wasted my money on a silly dream?

In all art forms, the first piece of advice you usually get is to stick to what you know. Write what you know. Cook what you know. And in this case, paint what you know.

So, naturally, I painted doughnuts.

And then, two days later after I’d eaten the doughnuts, and with a little more confidence, I painted Sailor Moon.

The culmination of a five year old’s dream

I learned that night that some party tricks never leave you. This, though, was better than I’d ever done as a kid. And yet when I showed my paintings to my mother, she saw it a bit differently.

“It looks just like your drawings from when you were little,” she said. “Exactly the same.”

The same spirit, I think she meant. Either way, I know my five year old self would be very proud. And if I can keep doing things that make my inner child proud – which is one of the points of this blog – my thirty year old self will be, too.

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