Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Take on Comparison and Joy

I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to write more about our paintings of "Lover's Lane in the Rain". In case you don't remember, mine is on the left. Anyway, I like looking at these paintings together. 

I especially admire the results that Danielle was able to accomplish. It's funny that we painted these at exactly the same time with the same instructor and we were sitting right beside each other. At first glance, they may look similar, but I believe it's the colors that are the most obvious similarity.

In Danielle's painting, I love how she is able to achieve such straight and fine lines. The sidewalk/road edges have a lovely very thin fine line. D. has a steady hand. But she must also have a "steady eye". Somehow she can visualize how to place her lines on the canvas. I also like the straight thin lines she was able to do for the street lamps. And I love how delicate the lamps themselves are. 

Contrary to what it looks like in my painting, I really was trying. I wasn't taking a lazy or sloppy approach. I was hoping to achieve the symmetry and precision that Danielle achieved. Danielle is also a master at blending. I have only one painting that I've done where I was happy with shadowing and blending. 

I love looking at these paintings and I like to look at them together. The main reason is that I look at them and remember how much fun we had painting them. You have to imagine, D and I are beside each other in a class of about 20 others. Most of the others are having as much fun as we are...there is wine and everyone is enjoying the experience and their time with their painting group.

Whenever we go to these "classes" I'm always behind. I'll be whispering to D. "Danielle...what are we supposed to be doing? How do you do that? I don't understand". And she's like "Mom. I can't talk to you right now. I'm working. Just watch". 

Every so often I'll look at D's painting and know it's good. I have to whisper: "D, that is so good." She's super sweet and says thanks...but sometimes I think she's like, "Dang my Mom is distracting". 

Then I'll be like, "D. D. D. is mine okay?" I'm needy like that. 

The best part about this painting is the couple walking under the red umbrella.  That's like the whole point of the entire scene. They are the lovers in lover's lane.

Notice that my painting doesn't have this? Well, I was painting my little red triangle that was the umbrella and with every correction, I made to it the triangle got bigger and bigger. The thing lost all relationship to scale. It ended up being a huge red triangle in the middle of the road that took up the whole road. 

In a sort of panic, I whispered to Danielle: "D. look at my umbrella. What do I do?"

She looked and just burst out laughing! 

Luckily for me, the instructor saw my dilemma and came over and told me...wait for it to dry and then cover it up with white paint. And "ta-da" no more umbrella. Problem solved.

So, here's some of my take away thoughts/musings. Mr. Theodore Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of joy" and there is a lot of that quote that may very well be true. Although...I'm not quite sure it's completely fair or accurate.

I don't think I believe there is a one and only single thief. So, at the very least the sentiment should be "Comparison is a thief of joy". 

But, then again, I don't believe comparison is always a thief of joy. In fact, I think comparison can be healthy. {Emphasis on the words "can be". Do not translate this to be "is always" healthy.}

For instance, I get immense joy in comparing my painting to my daughter's painting. I appreciate her style and may actually like her painting techniques better than mine. But, I don't feel that my painting is hopeless when I compare it to hers. It's different. A different style. And perhaps a different level of skill (my daughter is inherently artistic). By comparing I can appreciate our differences. AND, I can see what I want to emulate in my next work. 

So, in my mind, the quote should simply say: "Comparison can sometimes be one of the thieves of joy". I know...that is awfully watered down. 

Comparison is natural (right?). It is also a fact of life. I may choose not to compare myself or my work to someone else....but the fact is, someone else will absolutely compare my work to someone else. For instance, say my daughter and I both decide to sell our "Lover's Lane" painting. And we sell it at the same booth (or same online shop...). The potential buyers are going to compare the two pieces to decide which they prefer before buying. I believe that there will be people that have a preference for each style. But, it's completely conceivable that the general populace will have a preference for one style over the other.

So, let's say we each sell our paintings. Not just the "Lover's Lane" one but all of them. And that we sell them a single subject at a time. And that we sell them in tandem in the same place. Now, let's say D's painting always sells and mine never sells. Well, then, I'd have to re-evaluate my hypothesis. There may not be an audience that has a preference for my paintings. Ah...ONLY THEN would I need to decide if that necessarily means that one painting is BETTER than the other. The evidence would point to a preference for one over the other. This may lead to a logical conclusion that it is inherently better.

So then the question is...if I know that D's work is going to be better than mine, does that mean I should stop painting? And, of course, that answer can't be determined without knowing "Why does Kimberly paint?".

The answer is: "She enjoys it. She likes color. She likes the mushy feeling of paint on her brush when she touches the canvas. She likes the IDEA of being an artist. She enjoys spending time with her daughter. And she even enjoys laughing at herself work in progress when it looks completely out of control."

So, in my case, the comparison result should NOT influence my decision to paint. 

Now, if it was something like if when D. bakes cookies they always taste better than mine? I LOVE cookies. But I'm not in love with the cookie making process. So, I can make the argument that I should stop baking cookies...as long as I can get D. to share hers. 

So there you have it. Mr. Roosevelt's modified quote should be: "Comparison can sometimes be, {but is not always or necessarily} one possible thief of joy. That is if you let it."

Happiness to all!


  1. I like the improved quote! I'm an artist, and I've been in classes where all the end results are different. When it comes to sales, you NEVER KNOW what will sell, usually. Although here in Birmingham, if you paint sunflowers you can sell them all day long!

    1. I am going to have to try oils. Isn't it cool how a group of people can paint the exact same scene and it comes out different. I love that.

  2. HAHA I will never forget that moment when I looked over and your umbrella was unrealisticly huge! That was hysterical! I have to admit theres never a dull moment when you and I go painting... better yet whenever we hang out! ;) To tell you the truth though, I do love painting but it can be more exhausting than fun sometimes because I'm so focused on making everything perfect (OCD) and often I wish I could just relax and let go-- you always seem to be good at that!

  3. I think the quote showcases the difference between a man and a woman talking, ahhahahaa. I love both paintings, and I could see the scene w/you showing off your umbrella & your D laughing. :) Great post!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. :) --I can't believe how long it took me to respond. Oh my, when my daughter and I get the giggles it's a struggle to keep it together. :)

  4. I love these paintings and I am touched by the relationship you and your daughter share. :) Precious.

    Although the original quote is much easier and simpler to understand and share, it's underlying meaning as you e described it totally exists. I like it!

    Have a great day!

    Kate @ http://seriouslykateblog.blogspot.com

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. I can't believe how late I am responding to your comment. Anyway...I'm so my daughter & I touched you. It is so cool getting to hang out with my daughter in her "young woman" stage. We make each other laugh so much!

  5. I really like both of the paintings. They each have their own unique quality. You should be proud of your daughter's work, but just as proud of your own. The colours in both are really great.

    I heard that quote by Roosevelt years ago, and it really stuck with me. For a long time, I let jealousy and comparison get the best of me. My husband really helped me snap out of it, and I'm so much better off because of him. I still get occasional moments of jealousy (I'm only human!), and I still tend to compare Canada to France WAAAAY too much, but I'm getting better, and happier, as a result :)

    1. You are so kind about the paintings. I like to see how different my daughter's style is from mine. It does reflect our personalities. I love hearing that you are getting happier in France. I have often thought living abroad would be a fun adventure...but I don't know if I could really do it as well as you are.

  6. I so love this. You two are so talented. Congrats and what a fantastic way to do mom and daughter time together. LOVE it. = )


    1. Thank you so much. :) I love that you think we are talented. I'm learning that a lot of things can be learned. :)


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