This weekend I was in Los Angeles visiting someone. They are a fellow art school grad and we reminisced about those days since we have mutual friends. Those who know me later in life might not know that I studied Studio Art in college with a focus in Drawing and Painting. I declared my major before I even step foot on campus and knew that’s what I would pursue.

The studio was my social space and educational space. I spent countless hours there. Our curriculum required us to take a foundation class of every focus area, but oil painting was my favorite. What I love about oil paint is that you could paint alla prima (wet on wet). This means you can just manipulate the paint to essentially do whatever you want. I loved it because it provided full control.

Watercolor, on the other hand, felt like the opposite. I took one watercolor class in college and struggled with it. I have not been known for my patience, and having to build up layers of washes to create form was really frustrating for me. It was the only watercolor class I took during my four years there (though my professor is awesome).

After graduating with a BFA, I took a year to really focus on my artwork. My intent was to get into graduate school to pursue my MFA. I ended up getting into the California College of the Arts (CCA), but deferred. During that time a certain device came out that pivoted my career to focus on design. It was called the iPhone.

Years later I find myself occasionally getting a spark of inspiration to make art again. Living in San Francisco, I have a much more condensed space so I don’t have a studio where I can have my giant oil paintings anymore. I ended up at the Blick Art Supply store one day after a great dinner at the House of Prime Rib. I thought to myself, “why not? and picked up some water colors and walnut ink (a medium I adore). My life is now constrained where I compose pieces that are walnut ink and watercolor on paper.

Heads down in work with the same type of iPod classic that I used to listen to in college.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed watercolors now. What changed after more than a decade to make me like watercolors? My life.

The things that used to frustrate me about watercolors now became something I took advantage of. Instead of complaining about the slow dry times and inability to control, I let the watercolors control me and let it guide me. It helped me uncover a lot of directions I wouldn’t have approached, such as layering watercolor over the dry walnut ink.

My role in design is a lot different than when the iPhone came out. I am now a leader of designers and don’t do much actual design work myself, but rather get the opportunity to see my team do great work and grow. The change from an individual contributor designer to leader was very much like my oil to watercolor process. In order to be successful with my team, I have to be patient, trust where the process is going, respond to it, and make brush strokes with deliberate intention.

Here is a work in progress (WIP) piece I’m doing. Be deliberate, trust the process, and be patient.

If you want to follow the progress I’ll be posting it on my Microblog.