The little boy who lives next door has become my friend. He struggles in school but he is bright as a button, so it makes no sense.

My friend Jon, who is a teacher, suggested that he may have something called Erlen’s Syndrome. It’s a reading difficulty caused by light sensitivity and can be corrected with colour overlays. I told his dad, who told the school, who tried the overlays and voila! He can read! Apparently it’s a huge transformation.

A few days ago, I asked if he would read to me. He said no because “I’m not very good at it, even though I’m better than I used to be.”

But this evening, he ran round to my house right after school. He had his book bag with him and hadn’t even changed out of his uniform.

“Want me to read to you?” he asked, trying – but not succeeding – to suppress a proud little grin.

I was so excited that I messed up. I see now that I should have acted as it it was no big deal. But I made a fuss about it, said how thrilled I was, said I couldn’t wait to hear him.

Suddenly he changed.

His defences went up.

I saw it happening but I couldn’t stop it.

“I’m not going to read,” he said.  When I asked why not, he just shrugged and said he didn’t want to anymore.

But I know what happened. He saw how excited I was and he thought that meant I expected big things. He thought his reading would be a disappointment to me and he was scared of making a fool of himself.

He’s only 8 and already he’s building walls to protect himself.

Once upon a time I would have felt the same way about today’s painting. I wouldn’t have shared it, because I’m not happy with it. I would have worried that you might judge me, find me lacking.

But I’m past that way of thinking. I know what needs to improve here. I see what mistakes I made. I need to learn to leave some white on the page when creating skin tones in watercolour – this is too heavy-handed. But this is the painting I did tonight, so this is what I am posting.

I wish there was a way to show my little friend that it’s the trying that counts.


This in #69 in a series of one-a-day self portraits. See them all here.


9 thoughts on “Heavy-Handed

  1. Tina

    Do you need to leave more white? I’m just asking? Is it “wrong” the way it is? Do we always have to have something that is perfect? Why not just let it be, making no excuses, no corrections, no self criticism. Why can’t it just be. Why can’t we just say, it’s just mine and it’s where I am in my life. When is a painting, a drawing, reading, perfect? Who decided art is about the right technique? The “right” this, the “right” that. I understand about the learning, growing, changing part, but I also believe our art is about how we see. And we all see differently. I’m just wondering out loud. I actually really like your portrait.


    1. Louise Post author

      I think for me its because I know what I want to achieve, and I know when I didn’t get there. I think accepting and being open about the imperfections is good – but I don’t want to settle for something I know hasn’t achieved what I wanted it to. I think constructive self-criticism is a good thing because it gives me my next challenge.


  2. Kristy Brenner

    I think you can show him, just as you are showing us. You could start with ” Have I ever shown you the paintings I’m making?” Show him the ones you like and that there are some you’re not so happy with, then tell him what you just said today. I bet he would feel a lot better if he knew there was a grown-up who feels as vulnerable as he does. (Look what you’re learning from this challenge! Rock on.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Louise Post author

      Thanks Kristy. I did tell him I wouldn’t have liked reading to people at his age either. He gave me that little side eye thing kids do when they’re interested but trying not to show it, and asked ‘why?’ Am still kicking myself this morning. I hope he comes back to try again.


  3. Sharon Gorberg

    This is such a beautiful post Louise. It is very exciting for me to hear you say “this is today’s post and I know what I need to do going forward”!!! As far as you little friend goes he will come round again and you will say “sure”. Your confidence has grown exponentially.Your selfies are tremendous.


  4. Cathy coffey

    Louise, I so enjoy your posts on this challenge you’ve taken on. This one in particular struck me as I often won’t post drawing I feel are unworthy. Please continue your exploration as I may learn to be as bold as you.



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