Tag: diyartschool

Comparisons

[Please note that all images in this post are either by me or John Tenniel from his illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass and taken from “Annotated Alice”. Tenniel’s illustrations are in the public domain…and better than mine.]

I love to read books and look at art. I love to read books about art. It is inspirational to see what others are doing and the way they solve problems. I observe, “This is how this person showed texture. That was how that person created a relatable character.”

Sometimes I just like to take it all in and try to enter the world they created. Or try to understand what the work is trying to tell me. Or what the author or artist was trying to say.

But sometimes there are bad days where I look at or read something wonderful and I think, “I could never do that. Why am I even trying?”

Tenniel’s “Annotated Alice” p. 184 and 185. Tenniel’s illustrations are on top and mine are on bottom. You can see more comparisons between his originals and my reproductions in the flipbook at the bottom of this post.

These are days where the distance between where I am and where I want to be seems immense. Impossible. Comparisons can be discouraging, especially on days where nothing I do seems to go well.

It may seem obvious that comparisons like this aren’t helpful. I am comparing the practice work I do at home while I’m learning to something someone did after they’d put all the practice time and learning time in.

I may be right, and the work I’m figuratively hitting myself with will always be beyond my skill. I may be wrong. In any case, it’s impossible to know right now.

I once read that comparisons are like climbing a mountain. When you look up, the top of the mountain seems so far away. But, you can get there, if you keep climbing.

I think that if you’re always looking up, it’s hard to appreciate where you are right now. On discouraging days, it might help to look back for a moment and see how far you’ve come. If you can get this far, why not a little farther? Just keep going. Better days will come.

What do you think? Do you sometimes have a problem with comparisons? What helps you when you feel discouraged?

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My Growth Spurt Theory

As children grow, they have growth spurts. Out of nowhere, they are suddenly ravenous. They eat and eat and eat and eat. As a parent, you get used to feeding them extra at every meal, and in-between meals, and in-between the in-between meals.

And then, one day, they aren’t hungry. Instead of wanting seconds, they’re picking at their firsts. Instead of being hungry, they sleep. They fall asleep on the couch watching cartoons. They sleep in late in the morning. They go to bed on time. They sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep.

And then none of their clothes fit, and you realize that all the strange behavior was actually quite normal. They just had a growth spurt.

I think that there are creative growth spurts. Just like kids don’t grow steadily, one millimeter a week or something, talent improves at an inconsistent rate. That doesn’t mean that practice should be inconsistent. Talent relies on regular meals just like children do.

It does mean that when you are drawing along, doing what you normally do, things can change out of nowhere. Suddenly, the lines go all funny and everything just isn’t working right, and all of your self-confidence can go right out the window.

Why can’t I draw anymore? Why does everything look terrible today/this week/this month? Growth spurt. In my experience, if you keep practicing despite the terrible results, eventually you’ll come through to the other side. Everything starts to work out again. Things look better than they have in a while.

At this point, you may feel like you’ve returned to wherever you were before and the bad day/week/month was just you feeling off or rushing through things or something. But, I think if you compare your new normal to your old normal, the new normal may be a little bit better than it was before.

That’s my growth spurt theory. Is it always true? I don’t know. Probably not. There are probably times where you are just sick or rushing things or something.

However, on days when I’m trying really hard and nothing seems to come out right, it is comforting to know that maybe this is just a normal part of the creative process. And, instead of being a bad thing, it may mean good things are coming if I just hang in there and keep practicing despite my current difficulty.

Has anyone else found this to be true? Is it sometimes hard for you to practice when things don’t go well? How do you push through your artistic bad days/weeks/months?

 

 

Perfectionism

As I mentioned last week, sometimes I have a hard time with perfectionism. Today’s post includes many of my imperfect drawings. A lot of the time, right after I write or draw or paint something, I feel like it wasn’t very good. It’s easy to see all the mistakes and want to just throw it away and pretend it never happened.

Cross hatching in grass wrong. Tenniel from Annotated Alice p.26 1-5-18

Giving it a few days usually changes my mind, and the mistakes seem less obvious or critical.

Her head is too big. redo? 1-9-18, Tenniel, Annotated Alice, p. 31
Well, it’s a little better, 1-10-18

Sometimes, I’ll write or draw or paint something and I’ll feel pleased with it right away. By some happy accident, it will turn out better than I expected. Did I do that? I feel a sense of wonder. Sometimes, weeks later I’ll return to these happy accidents and they aren’t as good as I remember. That feels rather like being crushed. Ouch.

Arms too close to face. Argh.
There. Not as careful, but her proportions & spacing are better. 1-4-18

Sometimes, years later, I’ll read something I wrote and it is funny or interesting and surprises me. Wow. I did that? Maybe I’m better than I thought. Am I still that good?

What can you do if you feel like you have no way to objectively judge your own work? Especially when you really want it all to be perfect but never feel it quite hits the mark?

Gesture drawings of people around the neighborhood.
I do them very fast to practice embracing imperfection.

My solution is to keep moving forward, trying to finish things, even when there are terrible mistakes, and it feels like I should just abandon the whole thing. I try to be consistent with my practicing, even when I feel discouraged and want to abandon it all.

head at wrong angle. Rt. arm too high.
Tenniel’s “Annotated Alice” p. 58, 1-23-18

You’ll have fun if you just start, I tell myself. And afterwards you can have a peanut butter sandwich. And call your mom. And maybe you can take a nap.

(I always promise myself naps. I never take them. Someone I admire recommends twelve-minute naps to increase productivity. Maybe I’ll try one after I write this. I told myself I could. Maybe.)

So, that’s what works for me. Any suggestions from other perfectionists? Anyone know any good rewards that aren’t related to food? I eat too many peanut butter sandwiches.

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