About a year ago I was visiting New York and went to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art where there was an exhibit on modern art. It was amazing and had painting from history's most famous artists. Among this, I noticed, were some works that felt... simpler than I anticipated. I thought to myself:
I can do this.
So I came home and decided to start painting. At the time I knew practically nothing about art. I had taken classes in grade school like everyone else, but aside from that I didn't even know about most of the popular mediums (still don't know a lot of them).
Turns out I was super wrong. Painting is hard, even if it looks simple. Nevertheless I have been painting at least once a week (some times daily) ever since. I chose watercolor for no other reason than I had heard of it having done a little as a child, and oil painting seemed much more complex / expensive to get started. I started off on watercolor by visiting a chain craft store and buying the student grade paints and cheap paintbrushes.
Over time I've learned a lot. I use better paints. I've invested in good paper. And I've gotten a little better but I'm still very much a novice. Here's a select few examples of my art:
A slightly bruised bananaA lake view
More recently I started doing oil pastels as well. Here's one of those:
Painting instead of side projects
Like many developers I have had many side projects over the years. Some open source projects, others are attempts at products. Like a lot of developers, many side projects I've done eventually have been abandoned. It turns out even small projects can require a ton of work. No matter how much you try to contain the scope.
Some times you spend months (or more) on a project and it doesn't turn out the way you want. Or maybe you solve the hard problem and what remains is no longer fun. There are a variety of reasons things can go south. Some times your enthusiasm simply fizzles out. When you spend a good portion of your spare time on something that doesn't get completed it can be discouraging.
A painting, on the other hand, can be completed in one sitting. A watercolor usually takes me a couple of hours. Some times less, some times a little more. But I usually don't spend more than two sessions working on it at most.
Even if you are disappointing with the outcome it's no big deal, you lost a few hours of your life. And next time you might be in love with your creation. You still get that fulfillment of having created something from your own mind.
For this reason painting has replaced a lot of what I got out of side projects. I still have side projects from time to time, as I still have the itch. It's nice having another hobby that gives me a quicker fix of satisfaction. I recommend painting and art to any programmer who needs a second hobby.