Give a memory, not a moment

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Earlier this year I took a branding course for artists at Oatley Academy called Dream Machine, which was basically an in-depth dive to what we want to do in our life with our art. Some students wanted to find a way to get a job they want, getting their content in front of art directors or people who need to see their art, basically to create an income.

For me it was different. Since I already have a job that I love, my aim was to find clarity to what I actually want to achieve with my personal work and build a more powerful personal brand generally. The mentor – Disney artist Chris Oatley – gave me a friendly push towards creating my own art book, which I have been going towards since the course. I realised that what I really wanted was the increase empathy in the world, and since I haven’t been able to get the effect I want through just one painting, I’m going for storytelling in a book form. I believe in empathy and see it as the most powerful thing to create bridges over labels. I have a LOT to talk about that, but I’ll do it in another post.

Since the course I have been thinking about social media a lot and about the meaning that my art has, and how the art that others have created have influenced me.

If you read my blog you know that I also do watercolor plein air. Because that doesn’t often interest my audience on IG, I tend not to share my watercolor works and I ended up creating an individual IG account for my watercolors. But they didn’t really have a story, often, because they are my studies from nature.

”A single picture, without story, has no influence in the world”, was my general thought.

But something about the watercolors has been calling me to them again and again, even when I felt that making them doesn’t contribute to the world as much and I saw them mainly as a selfish self-expression.

Today I proved myself wrong in the most surprising way.

This week when I went outside to paint in a park, a beautiful gay girl couple came to sit in opposite bench of me. And it was really serene, they sat there, cuddled and sometimes they watched me move my brush on my paper. It was as if there was a situation from a movie going on. A serene moment we were all sharing.

After they left I also saw some people taking photos of me when I was painting.

For a moment I was a little bit weirded out, is it so weird that I’m out painting that they are photographing me like I’m a freak? But later I understood: they saw something out of ordinary. This is their normal walking route and they expect to see other people walking in there. But they didn’t expect to see a painter. This was new, that they felt like capturing. And I realised, to them, it was a little bit as if I was there playing an instrument. Creating something out of nothing, basically, using my brush as my violin.

And today something even more funny happened.

I visited a nearby island where I hadn’t been before. The views were new and inspiring, so I sat down, pulled out my sketchbook and started sketching a view of the sea, with a boat and blueness surrounding it with some colorful rocks on the foreground.

A dozen feet away, a little girl was playing with her younger sister on the beach. Their mom was with them, but was minding her own business, like me. In the middle of my painting, I saw someone behind me from the corner of my eye. The oldest girl, about age of 8, was staring at my painting and me, as I reached for colors in my palette. She was talking a lot in a foreign language that wasn’t familiar to me. I smiled at her, she smiled back and went away. But in a blink of an eye, she was back with her younger sister. They were both chatting rapidly, pointing at my palette and my painting and were really curious. I figured, that since I don’t understand their talk, I should just let them watch and keep painting and let them talk to each other.

To my surprise, their curiosity didn’t vanish and they followed my whole process all the way to the end. And at the end they went to fetch their mom to the crime scene!  She came and said something in their language that I didn’t understand, but I understood the ”wow” that she began with. I felt it was overly kind, but I was also pretty flabbergasted by the whole experience and their endless curiosity. I didn’t get a good look of them during the process, but my fiance who was reading a book next to me, was really amused and said that they looked like they were mesmerised by seeing the process and the painting emerging into the tiny sketchbook.

After the moment, I really felt like I had given a memory to them, I had influenced these girls in a way that really stuck with me and got me thinking… in social media I try so hard. Yet this time I didn’t even try, but I was able to do something that I know has an effect on them somehow. And it also had an effect on me!

And this would never had happened in social media. There is probably something very down-to-earth and touchable in the simple process of creating traditional art. It is not seen as trickery as much as digital art (even though it is not trickery at all! It is pure craft too). But digital art requires the kind of knowledge that can feel distant to a kid, and a raw process like watercolor painting is, I guess can be something that more easily says ”maybe I could do that too? It looks fun and I’d like to try. And it looks enjoyable.”

Funnily, I did struggle a little bit with getting the result I wanted, but mostly I did enjoy getting there. And the kids didn’t know what I struggled with so they saw it as a smooth show probably.

As artists who want to give the world our best work, we sometimes get obsessed about the result and we tend to forget that the creative process has true value too. Maybe sometimes even the most value.

Which one do you think gives a more influential experience: those same kids seeing my finished painting in Instagram for two seconds, or spending a whole hour with me on the beach, feeling and seeing it happen, on a beautiful day, under the same sky?

And we didn’t even speak the same language.

Hope you have an amazing week ❤

-Annamari

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This was the watercolor painting I did that the girls were really excited about.

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