January 7, 2011

Artists' Greatest Enemies (and the weapons against them)

I received a message a few weeks ago from someone who was struggling in their pursuit of art. As I read the message, I found myself nodding and smiling. I’ve been through all the same things before. Actually, I think every artist has! So what do we do with these ‘Art Enemies’?

*I have no confidence in drawing and my perfectionism gets in the way.
In high school I sat next to a girl who could take anything and make it a masterpiece...while mine looked absolutely elementary! I'd often walk out of the class feeling incredibly frustrated and disappointed with myself. But what helped me most in overcoming that was looking at each new drawing as a step in the right direction. I used to stick notes to my drawings and picked out what I did like in each piece. I called it my 'positive study'. It really helped me find my confidence in drawing. I kept all of those drawings. Every single one, even…or perhaps, especially if I hated it. I tucked them away in a folder and put that folder out of sight, slowly adding to it until I found that those sticky notes were getting fuller and fuller of the things I liked in each drawing. It seemed a little pointless at the time, but it became ritual. Not only did I get a lot of practice, but I gained a lot of confidence! I still do that mentally every time I’m working on a drawing. It helped me turn my perfectionism into a skill for me to use, rather than to despise.

*When I’m finally in the mood to draw, I can’t find anything too draw.
I think I hate this more than the perfectionism! So I started looking for ways to head off the problem before I ran into it again. I found a nice, fat binder and started filling it with pictures that caught my eye. For any reason. I collected magazines and calendars and newspapers and went crazy with scissors and glue! I call that bright, heavy binder my Idea Book. I’ve had it for years now and still add to it…and I still find myself referring back to it whenever I get stuck.
BUT: if you’re not such a great fan of glue and paper cuts, I also have a digital version. Just a folder on my laptop filled to the brim of pictures and art that I’ve stumbled across on the internet that inspire me. Works just as well.

*It takes me forever to even finish a drawing
Same here! Most of what I do takes anywhere from 25-45 hours to finish, spread over weeks…or even months! You just have to remember that you’re drawing for fun. Because you love it. Not because it’s something that needs to get done…even if it’s a class assignment. There’s no timer clicking down on the wall. Take every last second you need and don’t worry (or even count) how long it takes you. Just enjoy it.

*I get distracted and can’t focus enough to stick with a drawing.
Oh, the distractions and shiny things around us! The first thing I recommend is a space for you to draw. Somewhere comfortable and secluded where you can gather all your supplies to get creative. I usually choose my bedroom or my converted art studio.
But the key for me (and many others)? Music. Simply play your favorites or whatever you’re in the mood for and keep it playing in the background. Music not only keeps me focused, but I also find that I’m more inspired and creative when listening to music. I very rarely ever draw without it. (or else, I start singing some random song to myself instead)

We all have our own little quirks and tools, and I’d love to hear what works for you! Comment and let me know!