I think it’s pretty safe to say that I am having a legitimate mid-life crisis. It feels so cliché, so true to form, I have an immediate knee-jerk reaction to the notion. But really—given life expectancy in this day and age, I am indeed facing the count of my years to come likely being fewer than those I have lived, and it’s a sobering prospect. I’ve been doing a lot of self-examination about where I am in life, what I’ve done with the time I’ve already passed (and sometimes squandered, especially the 10 years I got to stay home with my kids) and what I’m going to do with those that remain.
One of the main conclusions I’ve come to is that I am going to spend more time going forward drawing. Since I left the animation industry in February of 2000, I have mostly neglected this skill area. I have a long list of excuses I could trot out if I wanted, but at the end of the day, excuses onlykeep you in the place you’re apologizing for being, so I’m not giving that list any air time.
One of the external motivators I’ve latched onto in an effort to do more drawing is to participate in Inktober. The challenge is simple: do a drawing, in ink, every day, all month.
Three days in, and I’m doing pretty well. But as we all know, it’s tough to maintain momentum on anything for a whole month—especially on those days where you just can’t draw if your life depended on it. I’d love to find some research that explains why some days, the lines just flow, and others, I look like I’m back in junior high in terms of skill.
I’ve made a couple rules for myself to try to beat the threat of petering out.
Do the drawing first thing in the day
This has actually been very good for my state of mind. My job right now is stressful and I'm taking a lead from my author artist friend, Jennette Mbewe, who has taken on the challenge too, because of the therapeutic nature of drawing. I love her perspective. When I’m tempted to browse the #inktober feed on Twitter and feel instantly inadequate, I remember her gentle reminder that this is for fun. It’s a personal quest, and it doesn’t have to be measured against what anyone else is doing.
Give ‘em what they want
To try to stretch myself outside my usual boundaries, I’m letting my friends submit suggestions as to what I should draw the next day. Some, I admit, I will throw out if I have a specific objection to drawing the suggested material, but beyond that, I’m hoping to let views have a say. With any luck, that will motivate people to interact with the drawings, in the hope their suggestion might get picked next.
Keep it short
Because of the fact that I’m trying to do these drawings before my workday begins, my love of sleep dictates that I will only have about 10 minutes per day to get this done. The short time frame forces me to frame my expectations of each drawing accordingly. It’s hard not to immerse and gold plate each attempt. But I’m using the short time frame as just a mental warm-up. Maybe the weekend drawings will be a little more detailed. (Or not. Sometimes our weekends are worse on the busyness scale than the work week.)
Post it—even if it’s not great
My friend Ruth’s daughter was looking at my portfolio a while back, and as a young artist, she gasped, “Everything you draw is so awesome. I’m never very good.” (This is a paraphrase—I wish I remembered her exact words.) But the point behind her words struck me. Budding artists (and even mature ones) often operate under the false assumption that the stuff we see from other artists is “business as usual” for them. When Ruth’s daughter exhibited that mix of awe and discouragement, I dug out a sketch book and started leafing through it with her. I wanted to show her that behind every finished drawing that the public sees, there are dozens of failures or partial thoughts or blunders or changes.
Just like the way I’m tempted to tell myself that I have no business in the art world when I look at the fabulous work filling the #inktober feed, if all I ever put out there are my most polished works, I risk being a discouragement to others who are just getting underway on their journey. So, no matter how my drawings turn out, I’m going to post them—however painful that may be. Hopefully, those that turn out well will be a viewing pleasure for my friends, and those that don’t will encourage others newer to the world of drawing than me that all artists are humans who sometimes fail.
So, onward into Inktober. I hope you will journey along with me. Ink is bold and risky, so I hope that makes the adventure one worth remembering for all of us.