The Fear of Starting: Work hard and let go of perfection

In the past year, I spent a lot of time studying. I signed up for online classes about painting, illustration, the children’s book market. I networked and met some awesome illustrators through Twitter  and with all that new information swimming in my head, I felt like the more I knew, the better I would be at illustration.

Except for one thing: I stopped drawing.

My desk became cluttered with computer equipment, and I lost the space for drawing. I had stacks of books filled with notes, and stacks of empty sketchbooks. I felt inadequate. I didn’t know enough! I wasn’t prepared. I felt anxious when I would start to draw and would think “I need to do this first, then I can focus on drawing” Things I needed to do first included but not limited to:

  • cleaning my desk
  • finishing my laundry
  • making lunch
  • plucking my eyebrows
  • organizing the towels in the closet
  • taking a nap
  • watch more tutorials
  • watching a movie
  • sharpening my pencils
  • You get the idea, right?

Then I got a stupid cold in beginning of the year. I felt sick as a dog. So I drew a sick dog. He looked awful. I drew him again, and again. Laying in bed, breathing through my mouth, I drew a familiar puppy character from college over and over until I was happy. I drew him in bed, I drew him sitting on a couch, I drew him everywhere, and before I knew it, he was in an environment (something I convinced myself I couldn’t do). I needed to draw him somewhere to really emphasize how sick he was because I wanted everyone to know how sick I was. Then I thought “I bet I could make him better.” But I decided he was good enough, and I really did  need to sleep then.

When I was a little girl, I drew horses. I loved horses. I wanted to surround myself with horses. I watched videos and studied books on how they moved and what they looked like. I studied their bone structure and how their muscles bunched up when they ran. I drew horses in class (and got in trouble a few times too!) and eventually when I was a senior finally got the knack of drawing a horse.

It occurred to me that I never doubted myself during those years that one day I could draw a realistic looking horse. I knew the simple truth. Art requires hard work, practice, failure and learning from mistakes before success is achieved. No where in that sentence is “perfection” part of the process.  Now I am armed with my education, with the internet (although I still kept my photography book “Horses”  and with a car to drive to places to look at things. Drawing the sick puppy reminded me that there’s no magic wand that makes a person draw better. There’s no guarantees of perfection, and perfection is non-existent. You just have to keep at it until you achieve the look you want and embrace the you-ness of it, which is that “style” thing we’re all obsessed over.

Well, that’s my two cents given ten times over.  For fun, here’s a look at some of the horse drawings I’ve done over the years.

Notice the fancy computer paper. You can see the back with lots of sketches.
 Elementary School Notice the fancy computer paper. You can see the back with lots of sketches.
Getting the knack of the proportions a bit better, but still a little wonky
Middle School: Getting the knack of the proportions a bit better, but still a little wonky
Finally getting the idea of it :)
Senior Year of High School: Finally getting the idea of it 🙂

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