How painting in watercolor can help you be a better leader

How painting in watercolor can help you be a better leader

2022, Apr 20    

Last year I started painting again after а 10 years pause. I used to paint a lot, but I stopped mostly because I became more interested in programming and tech and I just wanted to learn to be a better programmer and later leader. But last year, I wanted to get into painting again and I chose a medium that was foreign to me - watercolor. I’ve always admired watercolor artists, but I never had the chance or better said - the bravery to try it out. Last Christmas, I got myself a watercolor set, some nice brushes, good paper, and a Schoolism account and tried it out. Initially, the results sucked. Mostly, because I used to paint with oil and pencil and later in digital. But watercolor is just a completely different beast. So I had to unlearn everything I know about painting and start pretty much over. After a while, I started liking and enjoying what I paint. I’m still very far away from any good watercolor artist I admire out there, but it’s getting better. For the past year, I have been thinking a lot about watercolor and what it gives me and have found some tremendous benefits that came with it that I didn’t expect before I started this journey. They came as a bonus with the activity.

  • Watercolor is not like other mediums (oil, pencil, etc.) It is quite unpredictable. You can’t control water even if you wanted to. For people like me, who have the tendency to control the situation and hyper-analyze, this is frightening. So having the courage to let go of control and just enjoy whatever happens, is a great learning opportunity for me. It simply makes me a better leader, parent, and human being by simply being more accepting.

  • In watercolor, you need to be fast. If the paper gets dry, it’s over. You need to start and finish within an hour or so. This teaches me to “live in the moment” - something else, I’ve struggled with all my life. In the past, I’ve constantly looked for “what’s next”, rather than enjoying “what’s here” in front of me. A trait that has caused me weird issues with colleagues and friends in the past. Some people just can’t keep up with me and I’ve found that it’s not them that needs to hurry up, it’s me that needs to slow down and enjoy the moment.

  • Watercolor needs some planning, but then that plan is over the moment you start painting. You can’t really plan a watercolor painting, yet you need to in order for it to work. This is how life seems to be - we need good plans, yet nothing goes according to plan. And that’s ok

  • You can’t produce the same painting twice. That’s why there are no counterfeits of watercolor paintings. The learning here - accepting change and that whatever happens, happens once and that’s it. Next time it will be different.

  • Watercolor requires you to be brave and not hesitate. This is an especially good exercise for leaders as we are often put in front of many different and sometimes equally good paths and opportunities. Choosing one and going with it requires you to make a firm choice and act.

Here are some of the paintings I finished last year: