April 06, 2022

Beg Mercy

By Kayla DeVito
Beg Mercy

I've taken up a lot of hobbies over the years. Some just for fun, and some for the necessity of saving as much money as humanly possible while running a small business. One of my favorites is photography.

Here's the thing: when I take up a new hobby, I dive all the way in. I immerse myself in literature, videos, study fellow artists in their craft and process. I eat, sleep, breathe, even dream revolving around my new hobby. Eventually, with much practice (and failure), I become better at it until the next thing I know, I'm being asked to provide photos for magazine articles at 300 DPI and some-magical-how, I actually know what that means without a Google search.

Oil painting though... it's been a different ballgame. Most times I feel like I learn the ins and outs of the plays, only to realize I'm on a different field, playing a different sport entirely.

With other hobbies, the more you practice, the better you become.

With painting, the more you fail, the better you become.

I am a perfectionist through and through and have struggled with clinical OCD since a child who insisted on reading all signs and titles forwards, then backwards, or else I felt anxious and irritated. I would often walk around a coffee table, and felt like I couldn't breathe until I walked back the other way.

Oil painting is more difficult for me than most. Not only does the paint do whatever the heck it wants to do (with or without my input, triggering my OCD) but I also deal with chronic health issues that affect my brain's ability to retain information.

Sometimes I forget how to get to my home even when I'm driving in my neighborhood or I'm on a route I've taken thousands of times.

I could learn how to paint a certain thing or way, become really quite good at it, only to forget everything by the next day.

It's frustrating and I feel like that little kid walking two different ways around the coffee table all over again.

Matt found me crying in frustration last week. I had tried and tried to paint something, but I had all but forgotten everything I knew to do. Nothing was turning out right and Matt had just left his job of 12 years, meaning I would need to sell my artwork pretty much full-time in order for us to have an income. I felt all this pressure and a dark, hazy cloud followed me into my studio. More than that, I felt like a failure. I seemingly couldn't retain anything I had fought to learn about oil painting over the last year and a half.

I told him I was going to give up painting. Not in a pity-me-I-need-attention kind of way, no. I was serious. I was exhausted trying to fight for something that I couldn't get right. I was tired of making all this artwork, only to have maybe 1 good one out of every 5 paintings.

He held me and reassured, "You know how to do this. Give yourself a break. Step away. Let it come back to you. Painting is different than anything you've ever done. You learn through the failures. You're not used to failure. You're used to perfection. You have to let that go."

The next day, I was angry with my body but in the best way. I challenged my tired and forgetful mind to a duel, as I was hellbent on making something beautiful happen. The spark he set forth ignited into a full, raging fire.

I got to work.

And you know what? It was the best day of painting I've ever had. I finished up paintings that I once loathed, and turned them into ones I was actually proud to call mine. Techniques and things I had learned in various classes came flooding back in. I felt at peace with painting for the first time in a very long time.

I felt - dare I say - confident.

And then I realized that confidence is the absolute key to turning failures into successes. After all, confidence is just trusting yourself, but with a little more oomph.

Shortly after, this quote popped up on my Instagram feed. It felt like the universe was winking at me:

"The moment you're ready to quit is usually the moment right before a miracle happens. Don't give up."

I was reminded that I have seen miracles like this happen again and again and again; they're part of the reason I began these journal posts.


Happy Wednesday friends. May you hold so tight to your miracle that it finally begs, "Mercy!"