If you don’t, maybe no-one else will…
Making art and crafting your writing can often be very difficult. Creating anything which even looks presentable can sometimes be hard.
But making is a part of who we are, as human beings – the creative species – and as individuals. Whether it is a lovely recipe or a beautiful house, or a neat and attractive garden, we are all creative in one way or another.
Some people decide to draw, paint or sculpt. Designers design fantastic graphics, which we continually consume online, and in the media. Some write. But, what does it take to make that leap of faith to put pen to paper, mouse to screen, and actually create something worthwhile?
Creating from childhood
Children draw from a very early age, creating highly original symbolic and compositional pieces. Analysis of children’s drawings from the ages of about 4-9 demonstrate the remarkable perceptions of children in representing what they see in understandable ways. In much the same way that the art of early cultures depict figures (for example, Egyptian Pharaohs are the most important, and so, are shown larger than others in paintings).
It is not until the age of about 10-11 that children develop the idea of drawing ‘realistically,’ and try to draw what they see. This is the hard part.
Betty Edwards in her seminal book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, explains that this is the stage where most children give up on art, because they do not think they can draw anymore. Because they cannot capture what they see. The problem, however, is not in the drawing, but in the seeing.
A child can no longer rely on their symbols, like a square to represent a house, which they used before. Now they must draw a cube. And the lines go the wrong ways.
“In fact, the child must supress knowing that the cube is square and draw shapes that are “funny.” The drawn cube will only look like a cube if it is comprised of oddly angles shapes…the child must draw unsquare shapes to draw a square cube, and the child must accept this paradox, this illogical process that conflicts with verbal, conceptual knowledge.”
Therefore, at the age of 10, we must be taught how to see again, if we want to learn to draw.
Unfortunately, many adults are not. Whether because of teachers who cannot draw (all too common now) or because they are lazy and will not try; or because of the most unfortunate problem of all – ridicule at a young age.
Practice makes perfect
So, we try to draw something and it turns out wrong, then our friend looks over our shoulder and laughs at the result – or worse – the teacher shows it to the class and they all laugh; or even the teacher might laugh at a very poor result. (I would hope not in this era). So, we grow up thinking that we cannot draw.
When we grow up, we may scribble occasionally, then a friend might say: “I didn’t know you could draw?” and you feel the urge to take it up again. But where do you start?
There are a lot of good courses out there, or you could go back to college. Or just watch plenty of YouTube videos.
But, then comes the time when you decide you want to show your work. Is it really good enough?
You might not have been making what you would be happy to call ‘art’ for long. Just drawing every so often will not make you a good artist. It takes perseverance and practice and hard work. You need to draw every day (which, having just attempted Inktober for the first time this year, I know is very difficult).
Then we have the magic number of 10,000 hours, which was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. This equates to about 10 years’ worth of practice. If you work at it every day.
I have recently started tracking some of the habits I want to improve. Art and writing are among them. According to my habit tracker for the month, I tend to spend about 1-3 days a week on either of the above. Which is not great. Especially considering that may only be a few hours out of those few days. Which over 28 years amounts to about 3,000 hours. Not even halfway. If that.
Which is why when I look at my artwork, I can start to beat myself up.
“This isn’t good enough. You’re never going to be good enough…” and the spiral heads on downwards into depression. If I’m not careful to catch it in time.
Sometimes it helps to give yourself a pat on the back.
The idea of appreciating your own work can seem big-headed and self-important, but it’s not. It is all about giving yourself some positive self-talk. Enough to carry on and keep making art. Because, when we are young, we often don’t get that encouragement to keep going. Especially with something as flighty as art or writing.
“You can’t make a living with that – try something else,” could be the mildest reprimand we get from parents. But creating is in our make-up. We must create. Or cease to be true to ourselves.
But, it’s not all about the hours. Or even outstanding talent.
“Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they're already good at - because they enjoy it?” (Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert? By Ben Carter, BBC News, 2014)
It’s about the enjoyment. And no matter how much you feel you must work at it to improve, always remember to enjoy it.
First, break it down into manageable chunks.
As we work, we should be continually stopping to reflect on our progress. Considering the outcome as a whole and areas which still need improvement.
If I draw part of something, say and arm, I will stop and appreciate it, if it is good. If I like the way I have managed to capture the lighting correctly, I give myself an appreciative nod and carry on. I do this throughout my drawing (this works for writing as well).
I take note of my strengths and not the weaknesses. For the duration of the drawing. When I am finished, is the time to address my weaknesses.
A drawing is a preliminary stage. It is part of a much larger process. As is writing. Creating, in any form, is a process. To reach the end goal, the final piece, is a journey. And even then, there may be many more stages, and many steps more to take. Which is why artists often create bodies of work at a time.
If my drawing is poor, I will redraw it. If my writing is bad, I edit. It takes a long time, often longer than the initial creation, to correct your mistakes. But this part is vital. Without it you won’t improve.
Remember, throughout this process, to love yourself. Love your work.
Be impressed by that cool flourish. Be impressed by that turn of phrase. Tell yourself that no-one else could come up with just that expression.
And you might be right. You are unique.
Follow your passion
So, if you think that by admiring your own work will lead to you getting a swelled head and no more followers, think again. By doing what you love, sincerely, and getting better at it, you will attract like-minded people. Who love your work.
So, love yourself. Love what you do. Appreciate your art and remember to enjoy the process.