Today, our art challenge prompt of bicycle, brings back many wonderful memories. I haven’t actually ridden a bike in quite some time, as riding one in city traffic seems more terrifying than fun. As a kid, I could simply ride around my quiet neighborhood and go exploring with friends. Even though I haven’t ridden a bike in quite a few years, it’s a generally accepted notion that were I to hop on one again, I would instantly still remember how it’s done. It’s a fascinating trick of the unconscious mind that we all possess called procedural memory. Unlike our conscious memory that can both help us remember a story from childhood and equally forget that it ever happened in the first place. Procedural memory is much more resilient, as it should be, since it also helps us walk each day without falling down all the time. Once our bodies learn how to do something, it’s never really forgotten, though our level of skill may atrophy. This is equally true with art. Learning to draw and paint when we’re young means that we can always decide to pick it up again as an adult. Though we may not start out as masters, we can definitely make something wonderful!
As with many things we learn, whether mentally or physically, it’s also easier to do when we’re kids. We are like a sponge at that age, soaking up every bit of wisdom we possibly can. This is why I have such a passion for getting art supplies for kids, and the reason I made it the centerpiece of World Watercolor Month in July, and why a portion of everything sold on this site goes to the same cause. If a child doesn’t have access to art supplies or art classes, they won’t grow up with this important procedural memory. And, they won’t have that longing we felt when many of us spent years not doing any art, only to pick it up again when we were older. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like were it not for those early art classes and especially those wonderful art teachers. Suddenly, I didn’t have to memorize and parrot back facts, but could explore the amazing world of my own imagination. There were techniques to learn, but never really a wrong way to do something. Just ways that might work better or be more appealing to others.
Granted, back then, when the main audience was mom and dad, the odds that something would be declared “art” were always 100%. And even though they were just being good parents, they were actually 100% correct. Art is really just an expression of human creativity and imagination. If you made it, it’s already art. Though, yes, sharing with people who aren’t trusted members of your own family is sometimes a daunting step. To be judged by others, often complete strangers, takes a touch of bravery. But, art isn’t something we make to hide, it’s something meant to be shared. This is, indeed the magical final step that truly turns something into art in the first place. We knew this instinctively as kids and it was at that time that our artistic destiny was already predetermined. So, I’ll just offer up this friendly reminder that we’re never really learning to make art, as it’s not something we could ever forget if we tried. We’re just trying to get a bit better at it, find the right balance, and eventually make it to the top of that steep hill to get a view of the other side. After all, art is just like riding a bike.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Benzimida Orange, Quinacridone Red, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!