Love and paint

Life after divorce: How a watercolor class and a foul-mouthed 13-year-old helped me to lose (and find) myself

Maria Dal Pan


Painting by Maria Dal Pan, created Feb. 13, 2021 in a Zoom watercolor class hosted by Uncommon Goods.

Since the pandemic has spoiled so many of my favorite activities, to avoid a complete spiral of despair, I have made it my mission to try new things.

Last March, at the height of my covid anxiety, I began a nightly bath ritual — with candles — as a way to cope with the stress. Then, like a million other people, I tried gardening, hacking up a chunk of yard and triumphing months later when I had enough cucumbers to start having daily Greek salads. I bought pink Nikes and discovered new running routes through my neighborhood with wonderfully vicious hills. And when the weather turned wintry, I purchased a pair of tap shoes, click-clacking the tile floor in my basement each morning to The Pointer Sisters and Jay Z.

So when I saw a friend post that she was helping the online retailer Uncommon Goods launch a new service called “experiences,” I was intrigued. I clicked the link. They offered three choices, all Valentine’s Day themed: a pasta making session, a mixology course and a watercolor portraiture class. Its description caught my eye:


You’ve gazed at your love for hours upon hours — just like artists do with their subjects — and now you’re ready to paint their portrait. This hour-long live Zoom class led by Brooklyn-based art teacher Stacy Antoville starts with an introduction to the materials in your Watercolor Station. Then you’ll get the hang of things with a practice portrait. Now it’s time to paint your masterpiece. Beginners, never fear: you don’t need any experience or special talent to create a wonderful portrait of someone you adore. Your signature style will probably be somewhere between realism and abstraction — and guess what? So was Picasso’s.

Materials needed: a photo (printed or digital) of your subject, a pencil, a pen or permanent marker, and a cup for water.”

I added the session to my cart, then quickly abandoned it and closed my laptop. As someone without a romantic partner, who would I even paint?

I thought about the last time I painted with watercolor, a favorite activity of mine many years ago when I…



Maria Dal Pan

Writer, editor, collaborator and expert on visual language. Interested in working together? Find me at