Recovering from Perfectionism by Enhancing Creativity | Cat Painting Tutorial
If the last years have pushed us to do something, that is re-prioritizing certain areas of our lives. For many, spending less time in the office made them think their work was of less importance. For some, practicing more and more of a hobby made them realize the role it had on their well-being. Connecting with friends online awoke some ideas about relating to others. Spending more time with family made many realize they missed that quality time.
I am not immune to any of these myself. Working in the mental health field, I felt the weight of burnout and loss of passion in my soul. And those areas of my life that were just pastimes became crucial in maintaining my mental health. When combined with being pregnant and having a baby all while far away from family, it was clear to me that my reprioritizing my passion for art was no small thing.
While I still work to sustain myself, my art not being enough income (it rarely is right?), opening my store, YouTube, Facebook, and sharing on Instagram are actions that have become part accountability, part connecting, and part showing up for myself. Pushing all fears aside, I also started streaming, and if you believe this was easy for me, let me tell you I am a clear introvert in the Meyers Briggs.
But while perfectionism has run my life, there is a moment in which braving, being in the flow, and creating came to the forefront of it, thus why I call myself a recovering perfectionist.
I will show you easily how to start creating and messing up, and how to still go on with it. In this project, we are going to be painting a cat. This is a cutie cat closeup from a reference photo by Leonardo Pascual. I will be painting in watercolor but you can use any material.
During the project, I will ask you to do something that may feel scary: choose a weird color, something that would look nothing like a cat. I will show you how to do this and how to overcome the fear. Finally, I will encourage you to share it on social media and please do tag me so that I can see it and share it as well :D
- A&O watercolor notepad *
- A&O watercolors
- Holbein watercolors **
- Regular pencil and eraser
- Markers or pens for accents (OPTIONAL, I used A&O)
- Graphite paper for tracing (OPTIONAL)
All right, for starters grab this template and a piece of watercolor paper. You can use any paper just something that can hold water. We will need a couple of brushes, but even one could do. Remember that since perfection is not the key here, I don’t want you to focus on the “right materials”.
We will start by tracing it with a pencil. I have a light box that works wonderfully but you can do it without, maybe on the window with some tape, over the computer light, or with some tracing paper.
Once you have that ready, make sure the pencil lines are not too heavy, if they are, use an eraser softly to make them softer, since watercolor is transparent, we don’t want them showing too much.
Now I will ask you to pick various random colors from your palette, and of those, without looking at them, choose three. These are going to be your only colors for the palette. What did you get?
The basis is the same, we will use a fundamental tone for the whole fur, a stronger one for the nose and certain furry effects, and a different one for the eyes.
Apply a watered-down value of one of the colors. Wait for it to dry to start working on some of the areas. Now go with the darkest color (around the nose and eyes). When you do this, take a pause and look at it. Are you horrified? Is it weird? Are you using judgemental statements about your work or abilities?
It’s time for a little pause. Take three deep breaths, making the exhale longer than the inhale. After that take a scrap piece of paper and write a mantra that will keep you going. This is unique to you! Mine was “ it cannot be wrong if it brings me joy”
Let’s keep on going. Now add the medium values to the fur and lighter values in the nose and other areas. If it is all dry go to the eyes and use a unique color. Remember to leave a little bit of space for that reflection. Wait to dry and add more depth if you feel it needs it.
Finally, when it’s all dry add the final details, maybe some hairs (no need to paint them all), darken the darks, some texture on the nose, or some white for the reflections. I decided to leave the reflections untouched but used similar colors for the nose textures with the A&O acrylographs. What’s more, I made several mistakes along the painting and went with the flow in whatever direction they guided me towards. Did you catch them?
I hope you liked what you created, but even if you don’t, make sure to share it. It’s part of the challenge! I am on Instagram as @ainhoa.creates so please tag me if you do it.
Some final project examples:
If you want to see the progress, see this video here:
Other ideas for making mistakes and continuing your work:
- Spill paint on top of your drawing
- Breaking part of the paper
- Making a scribble on top of your sketch
- Using too much water
- Tilting your paper
*I am an A&O affiliate, you can use the code “BREATHE” for a discount on their products.
**I am an amazon affiliate, for the links you use I make a small commission so even that support is appreciated.
***This blog post does not constitute any medical or psychological advice. If you are experiencing an emergency, please contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.