How old is too old to paint a picture for your mother?
I have a new hobby: watercolors.
I picked it up while we were in Arizona. When I saw that our Sedona resort offered a watercolor class, I signed us up before they showed us the room.
My mom teased me. “It’s going to be all little kids.”
Actually, it was mostly women her age and older, but no matter. By the first stroke of color, I was smitten.
Love at first splat.
Back home, I’d barely unpacked before I went to buy my supplies.
New hobbies are a great excuse to go shopping.
But it’s been a while since I was a rank beginner at anything. The first time I went to the store, I was so intimidated by the potential presence of real artists, I researched my shopping list in advance and didn’t talk to a soul.
Of course, I got half the wrong stuff.
When I went back the second time, the cool-haircut-quotient among the patrons remained high, but no one noticeably judged me as a dilettante. No one was looking at me at all.
Serious artists are so focused.
This time, I sought advice, I asked dumb questions, I had much more fun.
People are nice to beginners, especially if you’re beginning at something they love. The salesman there was also a watercolorist, and he led me around like a puppy, even saving me from buying several items I didn’t need.
I didn’t clarify: “I’m not a starving artist, I’m just always on a diet.”
For less than a hundred bucks (far less if I’d asked for help the first time), I’m all set up.
And I absolutely love it. I paint mostly at night and mostly of Pip, but I’m expanding into other fauna and flora. It’s so fun and engrossing. It’s the one activity during which I can’t multitask.
I have to strike while the water is wet.
Afterward, I feel as refreshed and centered as I do after yoga, but I didn’t have to hold in my farts.
I also think watercolors are fixing my brain.
(Although I did accidentally take a sip from my mug of brush-water, so it might be the cadmium.)
Like most of my friends, I thought I had no time for a hobby. Yet somehow, I found time to check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram 20 times a day.
My brain has gotten really good at scanning, refreshing, multitasking, and generally behaving like a toddler on Pixy Stix.
We need to slow our brains down, stretch those attention spans beyond 140 characters, and rebuild the muscles of concentration. Now, when I hear some political news that would normally send me rage-scrolling Twitter, I can paint pretty flowers instead.
For the first time, I feel more recharged than my phone.
Sure, I haven’t entirely replaced social media. I started following a lot of #watercolor accounts for inspiration and tutorials.
More accurately, I’m following #акварель because it seems that as much as they love fur hats and sad novels, Russians love watercolors.
They must start painting with borscht as children, because every amazing watercolor artist I found on Instagram is in Moscow.
Either that or they hacked the algorithm.
Whether I’m following #FakeArt or not, my feed is so much more soothing now. Watching a video of someone paint peonies is much better than skimming filtered photos of better bodies, better vacations, and better brunch.
And I did share a picture of my first watercolor painting, a little Pip portrait, on my account. The encouragement from my friends felt great. My painting got far more hearts than my selfies, but I didn’t do it for the likes.
I felt proud of my artwork, and I wanted to share it with my new friends Ekaterina and Ludmila.
My generation is obsessed with life-hacks and #fitspo, living life harder, better, faster, stronger. The message is that free time should be spent on physical self-improvement or maximizing efficiency, something to make you more datable, employable, or enviable.
Can we carve out time for fun?
I’m into watercolors, but I have some cool girlfriends who knit, and who knows? Elaborate train sets could be the next hipster-dude craze.
I’d take it over the lumberjack beards any day.
So that’s my millennial argument for old-fashioned hobbies.
Do something today that makes you happy without a filter.
And I hope my mom likes her painting.
Look for Lisa and Francesca’s humor collection “I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places” and their coming July collection “I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool.” Also look for Lisa’s new domestic thriller, “One Perfect Lie,” in stores now. firstname.lastname@example.org.