It’s hard to find things to be grateful about when considering how 2020 played out.
However, without my isolation, I wouldn’t have sparked a side of my creativity that I either forgot about or simply never knew existed.
I Started Drawing
And darn it if I’m not kind of good at it! At least, if you ask me… or my mom.
I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking that I’m a pro, or that you’ll gain some secret knowledge on how to make each piece of your own work a masterpiece. (Although, if you do have that advice please let me know!)
What I hope to share with you is how I overcame my own self doubt and gained a new exciting hobby that I plan to continue for as long as I can. I tried something, and I liked it. I liked it, so I practiced. When I practiced, I got stuck, so I sought out help. If you’re considering getting started with something new – a hobby, a job, or just a new skill – maybe my journey can help convince you to get it going.
I grew up surrounded by art as a kid. My mom went to art school and was always working on a new piece for a friend or family member after her 9-5. At this point you might be thinking this is beginning to sound a lot like those articles titled, “This 23 Year Old CEO Paid Off Her Debt and Is A Millionaire, Here’s How She Did It!” only to find out she was given $1,000,000 by her grandparents after college.
It’s not that kind of story.
I don’t deny that watching my mom work and being immersed in art as a child influenced a lot of my own creativity. However, I never felt like I was any good at it so I stopped trying to draw when I was a child.
Maybe I was always trying to get my art to look as good or better as my mom’s and could never get there. I mean, she’s an amazing artist! So I gave up, not knowing that 20 years later I’d try again.
How I Got Started
Boredom. The end.
I love watching TV. Without being forced to stay at home and watch every TV show that exists, I might not have decided that I was sick of it. I know, horrible thing to admit.
I also enjoy reading comics and have plenty of them around my house. So, I decided that I’d start doodling some of my favorite panels in a few of my favorite books. I was having a great time laughing at my work and sharing with friends. I liked to show them a picture of the actual comic and then the copy that I made. My work would often look like the original piece accidentally was run through a washing machine. A melted nose, or chin that would completely distort the entire image.
But I think it’s important to laugh at yourself. I might do it too much. It is equally important, I think, to encourage yourself. I likely do that too little.
However, I did challenge myself to keep trying with these drawings. I started to see bits and pieces of drawings come together, and that made me feel like I did well. So I’d try again and improve on the parts of the image that didn’t look so good to me. Before I knew it, I couldn’t share the pieces with my friends anymore because I kind of felt like I was bragging.
I’m being slightly hyperbolic on the bragging part (these weren’t masterpieces), but my work was getting better. And that counts for a lot. Yes, I know, I know – that’s why the saying, “practice makes perfect” exists. But I’m telling you, I didn’t think I could do it.
Then, I just did it anyway.
How I Got Better
Okay. So, I learned that maybe I’m not so bad at this drawing thing after all. Now what?
Comics are fun and I’m still trying to improve that part of my artistic ability. I still have a million things to learn. But, boredom is persistent when you can’t leave the house to find distractions, so I wanted to try something different. I decided I’d try my hand at drawing my mom and dad’s dog, Cash. He’s a beautiful black lab mix who can run about 100 miles an hour and will fetch a ball until he passes out from exhaustion. I love him and he’s perfect.
I started drawing pictures of him with my mechanical pencil. This quickly became a lot of fun. I started seeing shadows and light in ways that I hadn’t before. It started to become clear to me how I like to start each drawing, and what I consider perfection (or in my case, “good enough”).
These I began sharing with my mom. While I consider my mom to be a professional artist, she wouldn’t call herself such, even though she’s painted commissioned pieces many, many times. Nevertheless, her feedback would be useful in my own journey. In true Mom fashion, her feedback was sparklingly positive (often resulting in her sending the mind exploding emoji).
She also threw in some useful hints and tips that led to me actually buying some legitimate art supplies, graphite pencils that I use for almost all my work.
Even though I felt like I was getting better at drawing, I still didn’t feel like I was any good. Or good enough to really share these pieces with anyone outside of my tight circles.
I would often start a piece, then toss it if it didn’t meet my early expectations. I knew this was bad form for an “artist”. I recall in elementary school my art teacher telling us to never erase mistakes and keep going.
Well, I was doing the opposite of that. If a line was off by a tiny bit, or a shadow didn’t match, I’d scrap the whole piece and start over again. This, it turns out, is a great way to exasperate myself, and didn’t actually lead to deeper learning. This was when I realized that perhaps if I wanted to really get better, I could seek some outside help. This help came from an art tutor.
How I Got Outside Help
Typically, I try to figure things out on my own. This is likely due to my younger years of mentors, parents, siblings, etc. encouraging me to…well, just figure it out myself. Instead of understanding that this was their way of telling me that I need to
1. Be resourceful on my own, and
2. Ask for help after I’ve tried something
…I thought this meant that one should never ask for help, and that feeling stuck with me. And it remains with me, if I’m being honest. I’m still working on it.
All of that aside, I especially thought it silly to seek out help for a hobby of all things. But then again, what was 2020 if not a year of the abnormal? And with great boredom comes great responsibility to remain sane in any way that I could. Seeking out drawing tutoring was my way of doing that. I found my drawing tutor on Wyzant, Skye G. I realized in just a few sessions that this resource was a huge help to me.
Connect with an art tutor today
One of the main things that Skye helped me overcome was the idea that I needed to start each piece exactly as I had it planned it in my mind. I learned to start each piece out as an outline, which essentially looked like a scribble on my paper. From there I could define the drawing and, with each modification, it would come to life more and more. What started as a blob on my page, became a pair of sunglasses, or a potted plant (I was drawing the nearest object at the time).
Seeking out Skye’s help allowed me to keep exploring new pieces, techniques, and of course, improve my hobby. After my sessions with her, I got excited to try new tools and new ways to make my art. I started working with colored pencils, water colors, and charcoal. Each time, just like before, I’d start working and feel like I was doing a bad job.
But, I just kept moving forward, using a few of the hints and tips I gained and would come up with something that I liked, and that feeling passed. In some cases, I even gifted my drawings to friends.
How It’s Going Now
I’m still drawing! I try to do a little after work each day. I give myself at least an hour to work on something. As it turns out, I’ve started to really enjoy and value that time, and I will often spend more than an hour on it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that!
Drawing has been especially good for my mental health; it helps to break a bad personal habit of ending each day watching TV until I fall asleep.
Now, instead of that, I’m producing something new almost every day, and I love it. I still allow myself to laugh at the work that I don’t think is the best. That work happens. I know now not to let it trip me up. Now, rather than toss something imperfect and start anew, I know ways to improve on those pieces, remain patient, and continue forward.
I’m glad that I finally decided to dedicate more of my time to improving a skill I had always been curious about. I am confident that my journey could apply to almost anything new that one might be considering. Just replace “drawing” or “art” with any other hobby or skill that interests you.
Who knows? I might even try something else in the next few years myself. What I know for sure is that this process of learning (and self-teaching, really) has proven to me that if I’m curious about something, I know how to start learning about it in a way that works for me. If I like it, I’m going to practice it. If I want to get better, I’m going to seek out help.
A little bit of work and self-determination (and a lot of boredom) was all it took to actually get me moving forward and doing something new. 100% worth it if you ask me.