Thursday, March 30, 2017
A Hippo and Breakthrough
I had a breakthrough yesterday that resulted in this little guy!
First, a confession: For years, I've hated drawing and painting. Seriously hated it. I guess it's evident in how meager this art blog is. I've dreaded picking up a pencil/stylus, putting marks on paper/screen, and feeling like a failure every step of the way. All the images posted on this blog until now were the product of many miserable hours filled with frustration and helplessness, hating every mark I made and dreading the next.
Painting this hippo, however, was unusually painless. I wasn't paralyzed by perfectionism at any point. I might even say I enjoyed the process. (Rocking out to Hamilton may also have helped.)
The breakthrough didn't just happen out of the blue. It was the result of months of deliberately crafting a creative process that would liberate me from the perfectionism that has plagued all of my artistic endeavors. I studied and experimented with the processes of other artists, noted what was freezing me up, and then figured out ways to trick my brain into bypassing its hang ups.
I also spent an obsessive amount of time hunting down, testing, and creating Photoshop brushes that simulated traditional media (the original brush sets are too obviously digital and uninspiring to me). I studied the elegant brushstrokes of Nathan Fowkes' beautiful gouache landscape paintings and then designed brush shapes and tweaked parameters until they laid down color just the way I wanted them to.
When I eventually sat down and doodled a hippo silhouette, I actually didn't mind doodling another, and another, and another. Usually after drawing one single character, a heaviness settles in me, and I feel I cannot pick up the pencil to draw ever again. Either I hate what I've drawn, and I don't want to draw another ugly thing, or I'm pleasantly surprised by what I've drawn, and I swear I won't be able to draw anything as good ever again; that's it... that drawing, right there, is the peak of my illustration career.
But this time, doodling hippo shapes was a form of play: "Let's see how else I can pose him!" "What if I made his legs smaller?" "Haha, he looks so funny!"... The silhouettes began to grow features and shading and colors. Shadows grounded him, and grass sprung up around him.
Essentially, taking the time to truly own my craft and artistic medium finally opened the doors to this spirit of play and experimentation and enjoyment of process that eluded me for so long. I no longer see painting as a rigid, unforgiving trap waiting to cage me into feeling like a failure.
Yes, it took me 15+ years to get here. Don't judge me! :]
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