Quite often, I’ll hear somebody say something like, “I wish I could draw,” or “I can’t even draw a stick man.”
Obviously the latter is an exaggeration. I’ve yet to meet ANYONE who can’t draw a stick man. But the statement about wanting to draw is usually made by somebody who hasn’t tried. I don’t mean, playing a game of Pictionary and not being able to get their idea across, I mean REALLY tried.
I’m still on the fence regarding the ‘talent’ vs. ‘skill’ debate. A lot of people will fall back on the crutch that they don’t have talent when most of the time, I’ve found that it’s just that they don’t have the interest. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
My wife is an excellent cook. She enjoys trying new recipes, experimenting with ingredients. I don’t cook well at all. I can BBQ a steak, make a pot of Kraft Dinner or throw something in the oven. Sure, it’d be nice to be able to cook, but I just have no interest in it. Who knows, I could become good at it, but I’m just unwilling to put in the time.
I never went to art school, and I used to be a very poor artist. I would draw from time to time, but I wasn’t good at it. It wasn’t until an opportunity showed up a little over 10 years ago that I figured I had nothing to lose by putting in a little more effort, and it became a fun hobby.
One thing led to another and I found myself becoming quite passionate about wanting to become a better artist. I read magazines, watched instructional videos, took a couple of online courses, studied the work of other artists, and worked very hard to improve my skills. In the meantime, I was building my business, getting more newspapers and clients, and about 5 years ago, I was able to quit my job, work full-time at home, and make a nice living at it. Not bad, for somebody who, for most of my life, wasn’t good at drawing.
In the interest of proving this point, here are some pieces of work that I did a relatively short while ago. At the time, each of these was my best work. I look at them now, and I honestly do not want to show them and find it hard to believe that anyone every hired me. But it’s important to see that all it takes to become better is time and effort. I was proud of each of these pieces when I created them. I spent HOURS on them.
Click on any of these to see them a bit larger.
I often wonder what I’d be missing out on if I had never pursued this course, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that led me here. Often I’ll run into somebody who hasn’t seen me in 20 years and when they hear what I do for a living, their response is, “I didn’t know you could draw.”
That’s because at the time, I couldn’t.
There is no magic formula to being an artist. It’s a simple matter of working at it. It’s a cliche, but as in all things, you get out of it what you put into it.
It will take time to become good at anything, and whether you do it or not, that time will pass anyway. Who do you want to be on the other side of it? If you want to draw, paint, sculpt, play music, dance, sing, or follow any other passion, it’s a simple matter of starting and following through, especially when it isn’t going well.
There are a few simple truths that anyone wanting to be an artist has to learn to make peace with, whether it’s a hobby or a profession.
1) There will always be somebody better than you are. Get comfortable with that or you won’t find any joy in it. The only person you are REALLY competing against is yourself. Seek out the work of better artists to inspire you, but don’t waste your time comparing yourself to them. Everyone has different circumstances, so nobody’s work should look the same.
2) If your work from this year is no better than your work from last year, than you are being lazy. Try harder.
3) Your best work should always be work you haven’t done yet.
For the record, the following two pieces are what I would call my best work of THIS year. I shudder to think what my impression will be of them five years from now, and am a little excited to speculate what my best work will look like then.