Nesting Instinct and Painting

The photo that I copied for my painting

This post is mainly to showoff and to document something that may never happen again. Also to all the pregnant women or moms out there who have similar experiences, you will know that you are not alone.

I have heard of this Nesting Instinct thing before, but didn’t think much about experiencing it myself. According to many websites, your nesting instincts start as early as month 5 into the pregnancy and everyone goes through it differently. Some people will rearrange all the furniture, some people will wash everything or throw away things and buy a lot of new things. I found myself obsessed with not cleaning, not cooking, not even buying anything for the baby, but with something I haven’t done since high school – painting.

It all started at my neighbor Gary’s party in mid September. Gary had a set of 4 paintings on his dining area wall that are 4 stretched canvases in 4 different colors. Simple, elegant, modern, and the coolest thing was that he actually painted them himself! I got inspired and wanted to create something for our new home that desperately needed to be decorated and furnished. Against Albert’s wish, and big thanks to my new good friend + neighbor Melissa, I started a 3-week journey of making my first “real” painting.

Melissa took me to a nearby art supplies store and here are the basic items I got.

As a “serious” beginner, I bought a canvas, and a box of paint with just a few basic colors. I also got a set of brushes for beginners, a palette for mixing and a color chart as a reminder -- the primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. They can be mixed into secondary colors: purple, green, and orange. By adding white, black, and gray, you can then adjust the darkness or lightness of the tone. All of these things cost about $60. They are not professional-grade products, but are certainly good enough to make me take this seriously.

After I got all the necessary equipment, I spent a lot of time deciding what to paint. This actually turned out to be the most important step of the whole creation. Not having used the acrylic paint before, I did a practice round to familiarize myself with the brush strokes and the effects I could make. The exercise immediately ruled out many ideas I had that were too complicated. No animals, no flowers, no cartoon characters; but instead, I should paint the ocean, sky and just walls. And they needed to be in primary or secondary colors.

So, I found a photo of one of the cities we visited last year in Santorini. It is colorful, meaningful and fits all the requirements. (the first picture of this post)

The process took about 12 hours in total. I probably spent 2 hours each night in 6 different nights. Here are some pictures showing the progress and the final result.

Started with the easy part -- sky and ocean

Added yellow and red

Added green and grey

I am very happy with the final result and will probably hang it in our guest bedroom. And I can’t wait to paint more little ones for the baby room. Hopefully my baby is benefitting from this artistic calmness that I experienced while I painted.

Lessons learned:

1. Invest in the equipment - get the best you can afford within your budget and consider your serious level

2. Have a strategy – do a test practice round, consider your capacity, and choose the right thing to paint

3. Find good partners – you want someone who has done this before, but is not too serious about you doing everything right. It is just much more fun when you can do this with a friend. (thank you, Melissa!) If you are considering taking painting even more seriously, finding a teacher/mentor would be important.

4. Don’t let other people’s negative comments stop you – even if they come from your significant other! Albert initially wanted me to promise that I will not hang my paintings in the apartment and told me that I needed to respect professional artists… blah blah blah. His attitude finally changed when I was half way done with the painting and started to say good things about my efforts. I think he either realized that I would not give up, or noticed that I do have some talent. Anyway, remember to enjoy it and have fun!

Important P.S. - Pregnant women should not be exposed to certain paints and their fumes. There are chemicals in the paints that might cause miscarriages or birth defects. I don’t even think the acrylic paint I use is 100% safe, so I kind of feel guilty about what I did. If you must paint during pregnancy, read the labels, ask your doctor, make sure the room is well-ventilated, and don’t eat or drink while you paint.

* Added in December 2010 --

Despite the guilty feeling about breathing paint fumes during the pregnancy, I still painted two more pieces after my original post. These two paintings represented my best wishes to two dear friends of mine who have been supporting me over the years and came over to visit me just recently.

We played music together in our college days. One was the bass player, and the other one played the keyboard. They both like this Paul Frank monkey very much, but ran out of time to visit the store in San Francisco during their October visit. These are very small gifts, but I was really thinking about them and our precious friendship over the years while I was painting these.

Here is a picture before I wrote something with their names on these, because my friends are quite private on the web.

The two paintings for my two musically talented friends who also like Paul Frank a lot, for their birthday. (Paul Frank, please don't sue me.)