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Perfectly Still

A few months ago, wanting to improve my paintings and realize a dream I’d had since high school, I began looking for an affordable art school.  I wanted to improve my drawings, learn more about techniques and be in a community of other emerging artists. 

If you’ve ever looked for  art schools, however, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the word ‘affordable’ is REALLY subjective, and, realizing that getting a BFA or MFA would require mortgaging all my vital organs to pay for it, began designing my own MFA in illustration.  I looked at the curricula for a number of schools and set about finding inexpensive workshops that paralleled them as closely as possible, settling on an online classical drawing course.

The first part of the course focused on breaking bad habits — holding the pencil wrong, starting with the wrong subjects — and starting new, good habits. Ironically, the affordable drawing course had a fairly pricey equipment list. Wanting to follow it as closely as possible, however, I went online an ordered everything except the $250 easel. And then I waited.

And I waited.

I waited for the stuff to arrive. I waited for the next lessons on using it properly. 

And I didn’t draw a thing. 

Not a cartoon.

Not a single still life or even an recklessly abandoned landscape.  Even my book layout slowed to a crawl.

My art — and with it — my blog was perfectly still.

A friend pointed it out to me: “Your blog is static. You’re only posting every few weeks.”  And I wanted to add that the posts were uninspired because I was uninspired.  I began telling myself the posts were so infrequent because it took too long to illustrate them the way I wanted.

Then a friend invited me to test out a watercolor tutorial she had developed for an educational website.  The video turned out to be a fun review of basic skills, but what stuck with me was a phrase she kept repeating: “Be gentle with yourself.”

I  look at other tutorials on the site and noticed that, other tutors — most of them working illustrators that I want to be — all ambassadors of the “Be Gentle With Yourself” philosophy.  They were also doing was something I wasn’t anymore. 

They were drawing everyday.

My favorite video was a short segment called the “Three Minute Sketching Challenge.”  Inspired the Hundred Days of Sketching project, it advocated timed drawings that guaranteed an imperfect result.  It also guaranteed, however, that there would be a result.

I turned to my fish tank and set the timer. My guppy, Oscar seemed to know he was being drawn because he chose those exact three minutes to do his daily race around the fake bonzai plant, but three minutes later I had a fishy doodle.

Four minutes after that, it was colored in.

Five minutes later, I dropped the ‘serious’ drawing class and subscribed to the way cheaper site .

I did a few dozen timed doodles, cursing when the alarm clock announced it was time for my day job.

Nothing I’ve produced in the last few days is remotely serious. It’s miles away from perfect. I may chase perfect and sign up for a ‘serious’ art class again someday, but, for now, I’m too busy drawing.