My new mantra: ‘Putting in the hours’

I am already feeling a bit overwhelmed with this study sabbatical. There is so much to learn! Of course I have been working in illustration for nearly 10 years and I am doing pretty well, so that is not the problem. But I am not professionally schooled as an artist and that makes me feel like I am lacking a lot of skills that would make my work – and life – a lot easier. Also that nasty self criticizing voice in my head has been a little too loud lately. Recently I have felt less proud of and less joy in my work. I hope that is only because I know it could (or should?) be better and that I am not actually making lesser work…. I decided to take a bit of time to address some of the issues that that little voice may be right about. But where to start?

Getting my priorities straight
Well, I started with a global list of the things I want – or need – to get better at: perspective, shadow and light, figure drawing and anatomy, color theory, loosening up my finals. These are all things I use daily in my work – and struggle with sometimes – and I feel learning more about these thing will improve my current work dramatically. But even more important I need to find that fun in creating again, just for the fun of it and not only when a client requests an illustration. Maybe I can make originals I could sell or start a pattern collection. Or, heck, just paint as hobby on the side… So more self initiated work instead of client-input driven.

Pictorial Sketchbook wth Gouache on Domestika by Maru Godas.

So I started checking out online courses I wanted to follow and found a dozen on Domestika. I already started painting with gouache (and loosening my style) with Maru Godas. I absolutely love her colorful and loose paintings and seeing the introduction to the course I got really excited to start right way. She makes it look super easy and natural. Big loose strokes, bold colors, fun! Of course I have been struggling, wasting paper and paint and got frustrated by not being able to do as she does. I need to be a bit more patient and remind myself that I am learning and shouldn’t expect to get it right the first time around while she has been practicing and developing her style for years and years. Duh… Putting in the hours! That’s my new mantra.

I got encouraged and excited enough to order a whole bunch of new gouache paints, so I’ll be continuing with the course as soon as they arrive! Another medium I would like to get better at and am always in awe of when done right is watercolors. I’ve been playing around with that lately as well, as you could have seen in my previous post. I have also painted a little fish yesterday.

At the same time I realized I can learn to control a medium, but if you don’t know what you want to draw and/or are able to draw it properly, what are you going to do with that paint you can apply so well…. So today I have been drawing circles, ellipses, cones, lines, spheres and boxes for hours after searching for ‘improving drawing skills’ on youtube. It feels a bit ridiculous on one hand, but so logical on the other. Everything you see around you can be reduced to a simple shape and that is the key to being able to draw even the most complex things: breaking it down and building from there. I guess the biggest lesson for me is that I shouldn’t (want to) skip ahead. And remember that consistent practice is key to mastering any skill.

A face a day…
I find this study sabbatical such an exciting idea and I had some extra time on my hands since a big project has been postponed, I have also started my daily practice project: I am drawing a face every day for at least 100 days. I try to take the time and make a proper pencil drawing, but when I don’t have the time or the energy for it something more abstract, a blind contour drawing or even just a smiley face will do. Just draw a face every day. I am one week in and it has already been a rollercoaster. First day I really liked the outcome and felt confident this would be a great project. Day 2 was also okay, day 3 a bit less, day 4 and 5 very disappointing and discouraging. Day 6 was okay again and yesterday – day 7 – I was actually really pleased with the outcome. I guess I have to learn that one bad drawing doesn’t mean you suck at something. You just need to show up again and give it another go. You might surprise yourself. I’m quite curious to see what happens today…

I seem to be better at old grumpy faces. I guess it hides the unintended asymmetry.
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