I cannot draw to save my life. It is the one talent I am most envious of in others, because I’m particularly terrible at. In school, I stuck to a few stock images for art exams – the scenic landscape with the mountains and a cheery rising sun, with a stream of water running down to form a larger lake at the bottom, flanked by trees and huts, and the beachside with sailing boats in the water and beach umbrellas and mats in the sand. Wherever possible, I avoided drawing people because they were always disproportionate and front-facing, no matter the angle of the drawing.
I hated that art lessons were more about drawing than colouring or painting, because I wasn’t so bad at those. I hated colouring my own art work, but I loved colouring books, where things were already beautifully drawn and all you had to do was fill in the image with fun, vibrant colours while staying inside the lines. I was good at staying inside the lines. I was careful and neat, so the images always came out looking pretty. They were therapeutic exercises. Even these days, if I come across a cute colouring book for my niece, I’m half-tempted to buy one for myself.
But I don’t have to, because I have the adult version of colouring books. Thank goodness for whoever came up with the idea of paint-by-numbers, because since I discovered it, it has been my go-to for fulfilling all my artistic urges. In a standard paint-by-numbers kit, you get a canvas with a faintly-drawn image which is coded with numbers that represent different colours. You also get tubes of paint of the various colours, so your job simply becomes to paint the appropriate area on the canvas with the right colour.
The beauty of all this is that it’s possible to be a complete amateur in terms of artistic skill and still do large, complicated pieces because at the very core of it, it’s just about the basic skills of painting within the lines and following instructions. I bought my first, fairly simple painting on a whim and was very happy with the result. Even close-up, it looked quite professional.
I had so much fun doing this, that I got another one and even roped my mother into it. Hers was a more complex piece and she’d spend hours every day on it, but I could tell she was really enjoying herself.
Inspired by her, I got myself a nice, complicated piece, too and did it all in a few weeks while listening to an audiobook of Gone Girl.
Mom’s painting is up at my house in India, mine are up at my current place. That’s what I love most about these paintings – you can actually display them, and they look nice up on a wall! When people walk in and see them and you announce that they’re your works, it’s nice, for the five seconds before you admit they’re paint-by-numbers pieces, to be able to take pride in the impressed looks on their faces.
This must be what actual artists feel like!