I Wish I Could Do That

Why I paint outside

Welcome! This is part four in a mini newsletter series about my outdoor painting season this year. It's also a newsletter about creativity. I'm Kevin. Thanks for stopping by. Would you like some peppers from the garden?

When I paint in the park, people often stop to chat or get a closer look. The most common thing I hear is, "I wish I could do that." My response is, "You could. We're here every week. Come back next Tuesday. Bring paint."

I wish I could do that. I think there's a message hidden in that statement and how frequently I hear it. It's not, "I want that." It's, "I want to do that." Or maybe, "I want to do something like that." I'm not sure everyone specifically wants to paint outside or make paintings in general, although probably many would enjoy it. I think there's a nameless quality that people sense in the scene—the quiet light, the careful attention, the smell of the paint—a degree of life, freedom, and wholeness that people find enchanting.

I could let this public view stop me from painting outside. I might not want someone to see my unfinished sketches and worry about what they might think. But I go anyway, for myself. Painting outside is too much fun. And, I see painting, or practicing any creativity, in public as a contribution. For some passers-by, it might be a timely reminder of something important, or the encouragement needed to ask important questions. It might be a reminder that they "want to do something like that."

It's a gentle reminder that it might be possible to take a couple hours a week to practice creativity. It's a reminder that creativity itself is a learnable skill, not exclusively a matter of talent. It may take time and resources, but it can be a mundane part of everyday life rather than magical and rare (although it's that, too). It's an encouragement that you could do something like this, in small ways and small steps, and it would be wonderful if you joined us. It provides a real experience of other ways life can be. If nothing else, it makes the neighborhood more lively and interesting.

Yesterday I cut into a pepper from the farmers' market. When I did, water poured from inside, spilling over the kitchen counters and the floor. It was juicy, vibrant, joyous—unlike any pepper I had eaten before. I didn't know peppers could be this fresh and alive. It was a reminder of what life can be.