BEDJ Day 2: On why painting is like coding

I’ve joined a group of awesome bloggers (Amber, Heather, Edwin, GirlFrmMars, Tom, Peter, Ashley, and Kitty) for BEDJ (Blog Every Day in June).  Here is my second installment.

The year was 2005 and I was in one of Zavitz Hall‘s painting studios. The instructor was making his way through the room. We students stood in front of our easels, painting diligently. Everyone had earphones in, working to our own personal playlists.

On one of those days I overheard a comment from the instructor that stuck with me:

You only need another three hours on this painting. The trick is, you need the right three hours.

And if you’ve ever gone to art school, you know those words ring true. You could paint all day and night and still be no closer to your finished product. You end up overworking it, and have to scrape off paint and start an area all over again.  You could count yourself lucky if you at least made some progress, rather than leaving the painting in a worse state than how you came to it. My friends had their own tricky assignments, but they knew if they put four hours’ worth of work in to it, they’d have four hours’ worth of a product on their hands.  Like a marathon. Yes it’s hard, but each time you put one foot in front of the other, you get closer to the end.  I saw no such guarantee in art. It’s more of a lindy-hop. There’s some shuffling forward, but a lot of backwards and sideways and spinning movement too.

But if you paint those right three hours, each stroke ends up being exactly what you wanted, with no mistakes, and the painting comes together without a struggle.

Since the epicness of Ladies Learning Code and FITC I’ve been working away at creating a personal website. I genuinely can’t wait to get home and bust out my Text Edit files and fiddle with HTML and CSS. But my coding sessions don’t always go well.  I can tinker with one element of my website for hours and still not get it to work. Or if I get it to work, it breaks another part of the website.

But like painting, occasionally you get right three hours of coding in, and every keystroke gets you that much closer to your intended result.

And yes, fine, I suppose in all things, those wrong hours you spend, where you find yourself back where you started, or worse, with more of a mess on your hands than before, are needed. You need to screw up and understand what you don’t want in order to work out what it is you do want. It’s still frustrating as heck.

Oh, and another reason painting is like coding – turns out I’m fairly awesome at both (you can see how awesome I am at coding in a few weeks).


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