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  • Qinghong Wei, PhD

Gift from Our Ugly Ducklings

In this season of gifting and reflection, I hope to become more aware of those less recognized gifts in my life. For example, I can easily see my successful paintings as gift of life. But what about those "failed" paintings? As I learn and grow, I have come to know that those "failed" paintings hold illuminating gifts.


Take my attempt to paint Colleena Shakti, my beloved dance teacher, as an example. The two paintings on the left were my first two attempts, and the one on the right was the third. As you can see, the first two attempts failed terribly and it is still vulnerable for me to share them with you. But I want to show you my true process. I don't get to paint successful watercolor every time I pick up my brush. But I can achieve successful learning all the time when I bring myself through the discomfort of ego, and really open my heart and eyes to see.


After each painting, no matter how ugly it may look, I will bring myself through frustration and SEE the painting carefully and ask myself: "What worked for me and what didn't? How can I strengthen what's working and improve what's not yet?" After reflecting on these questions, I am always informed and illuminated, and ready to move forward.


This is what I did for this painting process. After the second "failed" attempt, I was very frustrated. But when I really looked, I noticed the hand and the foot of this painting were really lovely - suggestive and alive, so I decided to keep this looseness in my next try. I noticed the proportion was terribly off, so I thought for the next try I would have a pencil sketch as the guide. After such reflection, I moved on with the third attempt. It turned out to be a solid step forward.


I still have a long journey ahead. Along the way, I have learned to love every little ugly duckling that shows up on my paper, treasure the gift they bring, and grow one little step closer to an authentic artist.

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