When is the last time you created a painting?
Seriously?! Grade school?! Why?!
Wow… creative expression with color and canvas seemed so normal when we were 6… what happened?!
Let’s reclaim our youth! Let’s revive our creativity! Let’s have an unusual day…
It’s easy and fun. All you need is this, this, and this. Grab a paper plate, some paper towels, a paper cup, water… put it all in a bag, go find a scenic spot… sit down and enjoy a couple quiet hours documenting your impressions in vivid color!
I’ve been bringing paint back into my life lately. It started as I was planning a family vacation this summer to Yellowstone. Rather than photograph everything, I wanted to paint some highlights with my family.
We did that and it led to some fun times, pleasant memories, and personal stuff for our walls!
I thought why not bring this back to work?
At Endertech we have a regular practice of recruiting the team to help produce content for our site. Recently we decided to spice it up and match team members together to work collaboratively on articles. I was matched with Willem and Josh.
We brainstormed some of the usual suspects for blog articles… something about tech… something about design… and then I thought, “Hey, why not mix it up a bit? Let’s go painting one morning and just write about the experience interview style… we can call it a ‘company culture building’ exercise.”
And so we did…
We structured our written component with 4 sets of questions, before, immediately after, end of day, and end of week. Here are each participants responses:
Before the Park
- When is the last time you painted anything? Describe the situation, what you painted, and any thoughts or feelings you remember.
- Willem: I think the last time I painted anything was in high school for an art class. It would have been a paper mache mask. I remember creating the paper mache structure over a balloon and leaving it over the weekend, only to come back next week to be accused of stealing it (among others). It seems as if there was one mask short for the students in the class at that time. I remember painting the mask while still wondering “whodunit?” Did I have the correct mask? Were the newspaper clippings displaying the same ads in their now hardened state? I remember painting the mask, glancing over to the student who effectively drew the short straw and needed to create a new mask, even though I distinctly remember seeing them create one the previous week. I tried to make the design of the face silly, even though it was a somewhat awkward situation.
- Josh: It’s been a while since I’ve painted anything with real brushes and real paint on a real surface (I do a fair amount of digital art, including using PS brushes etc. on an ongoing basis). The last time I painted something very intentionally (and not just with kids or whatever) was probably in art school quite a long time ago. At the time I was painting with the goal of completing some color theory assignments. I remember feeling very excited that by simply using color I was able to create forms that felt lit. It really upped my confidence that I could render something passably realistic if I needed to.
- Gabe: The last time I painted was during my vacation in Yellowstone this past summer (2018). I had brought a painting kit for the family much like the one I provided for Josh & Willem today. We went to visit scenes from the Yellowstone area to paint them! I thought it would be an interesting twist as opposed to the common activity of photographing everything. Amongst the scenes we captured were a bridge and stream along a hiking path, the Grand Prismatic Springs, and some waterfalls. The waterfalls were a popular destination, so I remember feeling a touch awkward with all the travelers looking over my shoulder. Still, generally speaking, I remember enjoying the quiet focus of painting… a bit more peaceful in the mind compared to, say, the quiet focus of software development or writing.
- What work do you have to do this afternoon? Do you expect your time spent painting to have any effect on your work product today?
- Willem: I will continue to work on a site migration for a Drupal 8 site. The kind of work seems to involve creating very miniscule changes for a migration procedure to execute for hours at a time to try and move over as much data as possible to the new site database. I am not expecting the act of painting to change the main procedure as the work itself is not as creative.
- Josh: This afternoon I will be continuing working on the visual design for CityGovJobs. I have no expectations about how painting this morning will influence this afternoon, but I hope to feel energized by the change in routine and hopefully inspired and able to see my current project in at least a slightly different light.
- Gabe: Well, I’ve gotta finish the accounting, catch up on emails, and if possible, advance the construction scheduling portion of Secard’s project. The park time definitely puts time pressure on all of that… but I don’t think too much, and I expect the happiness I’ll feel afterwards will make it a pleasant time.
Right After Painting
- What did you paint? What thoughts or feelings do you have about your painting experience today?
- Willem: I painted a landscape of some hills with some trees, bushes, grass, and the opening of a set of wooden stairs on the hill that I was sitting on. During this trip, Gabe, Josh, and I lifted a nearby log up those stairs to use as a seat while we painted. During this time, other patrons of the park, mostly little children and their parents, would walk by and even stand around to watch us paint. I overheard one little boy exclaim several times “Look! They’re doing art!” In general, it was a very calm, relaxing morning.
- Josh: My first reaction is… painting is hard! Some of my art school stuff came back to me, but yeah, I’m rusty at it. The experience was exciting, I gotta admit.Normally, on mornings when I’m returning back to work after a weekend (or in this case, a long weekend) are rough because I have to get up super early and take the kids to school. Today, however, was different. With the challenge of portraying a vista overlooking “scenic” Torrance, I worked fast and enthusiastically. Laying down color, roughing in the basic shapes, trying to get the perfect horizon, and at the end, struggling to add in highlights which would help define forms. It was a gloomy morning so the color was necessarily murky for my attempt at a somewhat realistic rendering. Fun – but not easy! Feeling respect for my artist friends who draw and paint better than I do.
- Gabe: I painted a scene of the South Bay from a vantage point at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. There were lots of trees and dirt paths, with homes and industry off in the distance. It was overcast. I enjoyed the time painting, and I’m glad to have a memento to take back from the experience. It’s a nice change of pace to focus on tactile skills… mixing paints… brush strokes, etc.
- Now what effect do you think your time spent painting will have on your work product today, if any?
- Willem: During the painting process, I wasn’t thinking about work, just the land around me along with the quietness, only really thinking about the brush strokes and color mixing. So I think now that I am back at my desk, I can reevaluate my work plans. Maybe I will find a better or more efficient way of performing a task. In general, there is a bit less stress right now.
- Josh: Returning back to work, I feel a need to take a break, let the painting experience subside, and perhaps eat. But the feeling of being energized in a way that I don’t normally feel is still there. I’m looking forward to banging out some comps for CGJ.
- Gabe: I don’t really expect my work product today to be particularly influenced since mostly it’s about communications… but perhaps relating my experience today to someone will provide a bit more of a spark to the conversation than usual. I should add as well that today’s work inspires the content for our blog article!
Painting Day End
- What effect did your time spent painting have on your work product today, if any?
- Willem: It seems like there was less work done simply because of the time taken to paint. There were other factors that contributed as well, such as meetings related to the project along with several one-on-one meetings with other colleagues to help troubleshoot their issues. As such, there was less time to “get into the zone” and make significant progress.
- Josh: While my first-day-of-the-work-week weariness lingered throughout the entire day (as it tends to do), there was something noticeably different about how the afternoon went. What was it? I think most of all, painting at the park was a break in the routine. Next, I think painting at the park woke up a little bit of love for and curiosity about a certain kind of creative activity. Whenever an experience sparks excitement and curiosity about the world, I think it’s a win.
- Gabe: It squeezed my time available… I ended up staying until almost 6… but I got through everything I needed to do.
- Would you like to organize more painting days at Endertech? If so, what advantage(s) do you think there would be for the company?
- Willem: Having a day to paint seems like a fine idea to help relieve stress, so I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I suppose it would need to be scheduled well ahead of time on a day where the rest of the hours can be dedicated to completing smaller tasks. But I can see the benefit from it, just having some time to think about something other than work.
- Josh: I think ET could have group painting sessions and the company would benefit. I think the benefits would be: group team-building, routine-breaking, providing a creative outlet that might encourage us to think about our work a little differently, or perhaps even see the world differently. I’d just add however, that I don’t think painting alone is the only way to get these good things – other creative art-making sessions could do the same thing, and I think we would want to mix it up with other kinds of mediums too. Also, if we really wanted to take it to the next level, we could invite/hire a local painting instructor to help get everyone started.
- Gabe: I think it would be fun to bring the whole group to a location… hopefully a more scenic one with the sun out! It will be a memorable experience… probably create some bonding and give everyone something interesting to chat about… comparing each other’s work and artistry!
Painting Week End
- What effect did your time spent painting have on your work week, if any?
- Willem: I don’t think it affected the work week too much. I had some conversations with colleagues about my painting, but not so much that I couldn’t get work done. Since we went to a park, when I look out the window from my desk and see the trees, I can reminisce about the ones I painted.
- Josh: While our painting expedition made the first day of the work week different and more interesting than it usually is, I’m not sure it affected the rest of the work week much beyond spending good time with some work colleagues and creating a pleasant memory of a grey Tuesday morning in September 2018 (not unsubstantial things!).
- Gabe: I’d say minimal effect, if any. Gave us a bit of conversation topic internally and with visiting clients… and now we have something new to put on our walls… but the euphoria of the day faded quickly. We’ll see, if we do more of it and involve others it could grow into something more valuable.