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What painting taught me about innovation
I didn’t intend to share my paintings-in-progress on Zoom, but I’m glad I did
While I'm not a trained artist, I've always painted. Usually, my artwork was just something my family and friends saw in our house. But when the pandemic started, my painting nook became my home office, and I needed to figure out my Zoom background.
I didn't have space for a manicured bookshelf, but trust me — I wanted one. My kids were sitting in the hallway with their iPads, trying to do school, and my paintings had nowhere to go. So, I decided to keep my easel behind me, letting everyone on Zoom see my painting-in-progress.
I found myself staring at my latest painting in the background on every call and, eventually, got inspired to add to or change it.
Being a mom and an executive, I can't paint for hours at once. Instead, my painting sessions are 30 seconds between bathtime or 15 minutes when I was on a lunch break. When I had a moment, I would take a couple of swipes with acrylic paint. Over time, the painting started to reveal itself.
I didn't intend for it to be something that people would discuss. But over time, people did start noticing that the painting changed or that it was a new painting entirely. Eventually, my paintings became a regular topic of conversation.
At first, I was embarrassed to talk about them. I work with people who are professional designers and have master's degrees in art. When they brought up my paintings, I would disregard them. "Oh, obviously, it's a hobby," I said. "Don't look here, haha."
Yet over time, I got comfortable with the attention and invited people to give their thoughts on my latest painting. "Yes, I did add a color to it today," I would say. "What do you think of it? What do you think I should do next? I'm a little stuck."
It ended up being nice to have people comment on my paintings and, most importantly, to feel like I didn't have to hide anything about the messy process of getting to something complete. It's a lot like innovation because you need to invite people into your process and show the progress, the layers, and how you're getting there. You can't wait for something to be perfect because it never will be.
Personally speaking, I am a perfectionist. I'd rather people see the final product and not the process it took to get there. What if I made a mistake? What if something looks weird? And yet, sometimes my paintings did look weird, and I just talked about it with people on Zoom.
Now, you can see many of my paintings right here on Substack. Many of my recent posts feature my recent paintings with illustrations layered over them. You can also see them on my LinkedIn profile.
Since first sharing my paintings, I've gained the confidence to share things more in progress. I've realized that you can expose just a little bit at first if you're not comfortable. Then, slowly, you can peel back that curtain to let people see a bit more. What you learn from them and about yourself will surprise you.