In 2017, I began taking painting lessons. It has been fascinating, exhilarating, challenging, and, more than anything, educational.

I have a wonderful teacher. She’s encouraging and inspiring with a real sense of and ability to make the connections between painting and life. While having a competent teacher is vitally important, there are also lessons that are fundamentally inherent in being involved with the arts, whether music, visual, or theater.

In addition to the various artistic techniques, there have been three important life lessons that I’ve learned or reinforced through my immersion into the craft of painting.

First, you can’t be afraid to color “outside the lines.” The arts offer a place where you can test the limits and break the rules without penalty. Having “permission” to color outside the lines encourages, nurtures, and rewards creativity. From an educational standpoint, engaging students in activities that nurture creativity is critical today. The number one characteristic that business leaders look for in potential employees is the ability to imagine and think outside the box. Simply put, creativity is the currency of the future.

On a more personal level, painting teaches you not to be afraid to make a “mistake.” It encourages you to be fearless, “go for it,” and test the limits. It teaches you to be unafraid to try new things, even if it means you may make some mistakes along the way. That is an important life lesson, as those who aren’t afraid to make a fool of themselves get to dance a lot more. It’s what keeps life interesting. Once you stop testing yourself, you stop learning and growing as a person.

The second life lesson reinforced through painting is that, like music, you can practice it and enjoy it for a lifetime. Continuing to challenge yourself into old age keeps you vibrant and more engaged in life. In short, it keeps you young.

Finally, there is the notion that, like life, a painting is an ongoing project. As you work on a piece of art, you continue to evaluate, revise, and consider different angles, perspectives, colors, and shapes, to add to or paint over. You make mistakes, learn from them, and then paint over them. Like life, a painting is born through an idea or vision; from there, it grows and evolves. It is a work in progress, and there is no finish line.

Of course, at some point, life ends. And so does a painting. There comes a time in life and in creating a painting where you must let go. But in the mind of a painter, the work is never truly finished. Instead, it is resolved for the time being. Even after it is sealed and hung on the wall, the artist will always look at it and think, “I should have added more color here or made this line more crisp.”

It’s that constant push to reassess, reconsider and improve a work of art that applies so directly to life itself, for, as human beings, we are all works of art in progress.

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