This week I discovered the wonder that is Rajiv Surendra. He is best known for his role as Kevin Gnapoor in Mean Girls back in 2004, but he has since left acting and developed businesses, given Ted talks, and as of 8 months ago started a YouTube channel. Most of his content revolves around taking care of yourself and your home, and his attitude exudes patient, loving care toward everything he does and has; a complete juxtapose to everything I am as an artist and as a human.
This is something I really got to thinking about Sunday night, as I began a 30-day drawing challenge for myself. The challenge for day one was to draw my “chibi self”. Generally knowing what the style was and what my face looks like, I just winged it. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well. While small bodies are part of the chibi charm, my legs were like 1/3 of the size of my torso because I ran out of room on the page within 2 minutes. There was no pencil outline or planning beforehand, just drawing 3 more faces around the original which each looked less and less like chibi and more like me scribbling some wavy hair and circles ‘cause why not?
When I got finished I kind of just looked at my paper square and wondered “Why did I just waste this paper when there were 15 things minimum I could’ve done to fix this?” I could have looked at literally any reference image. I could have watched a video on “how to draw chibi art”. I could have used a pencil sketch and then gone over it with the marker. I could have done those steps on any one of the 3 follow-up attempts as well. So why didn’t I?
Going back to Mr. Rajiv, his video that I watched today was over deep cleaning your home. This man gets a bucket with soap, and Cinderella-style whips out a rag and mops his floor on hands and knees to keep it at its best. The reason he gives (aside from having a spectacular floor) is that when you put some physical effort and you know there is an end to the task in sight, once you complete it you will feel a sense of accomplishment. And I agree - sometimes. I’ve had that feeling on chores such as when I get all of the dishes clean and the counter is clear, it just feels nice. I even get that when I finish a blog post like this one. When it’s something small, which I already know how to do but maybe I’ve just been putting off, finally completing it just feels good. It’s out of the way. I did something worthwhile with my own hands and mind.
Where the problem is for me is on things I want to wing, and want to already know how to do, but can’t/don’t. In this case, that would be my drawing. I really like doing the digital one-lined drawings because for the most part, it’s basically tracing an image. It looks halfway decent almost regardless of what you do, and it’s easy enough to pull off a “hand-drawn” sort of style when the smooth tool isn’t doing its thing. Actually hand drawing though? That is a lot of thinking. That is a lot of understanding proportions and erasing every other line to get it just right. And it never looks like it should in my head. I don’t actually have technical skills in this area. I don’t really know how to tell where to shade, or what tool is going to best achieve that. And it really frustrates me that I have to go and find a way to learn that before I can really get what I’m looking for. By the time I have that information, the image I wanted will have vanished from my brain space. The challenge for actually putting effort into something I care about is in part because of my impatience: I just want to get it done, and I want it done somewhat well before I lose it. But if I can’t do that, then what’s the point? So I end up redoing the project in a frustrated haphazard way as a way to make a joke out of the work and feel better about my abilities. Which brings me to the next point, that it’s hard not to feel like if I actually put effort into a project, the first few times it’s more than likely going to not be any better than if I didn’t put the effort in. So why do it at all? I have to actually practice, for quite a while, to get the results I want. It sucks not to have a win for that long. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a way around it.
What this boils down to is purely a confidence issue. What if I never achieve the product I want? What if I can’t find the right help? What if I lose the idea? The fix to this is just going through with it anyway, and seeing what happens. Honestly, making bad art every day with the intent of eventually making decent art for a year is not going to negatively impact my life. Even if it’s just continually bad, I still got to create something. And there is no way I won’t pick up some amount of hand-eye coordination in the process. If I’m going to be doing it every day, I might as well watch a video or two in the process. If I’m going to watch a video or two, might as well take a couple of notes on simple techniques to implement.
This is less about the actual work and more about just realizing it’s okay to be bad at something, and honestly, it’s not going to hurt anything to try to improve it either. If I try to improve it, and it doesn’t work, I still got to create so what’s the difference? As far as losing the idea, I’m probably not going to seriously need a chibi portrait of myself anytime soon anyway. Cleaning is nice because I know if I take the extra minute to wipe away some dust, the dust will be gone. Art on the other hand, I don’t know that my brush stroke is going to land right every time. To get that sense of real accomplishment, it’s going to take both a lot of time and acceptance of the fact that I could just stay bad at it, and that’s fine. I don’t have to be good at it. But I also don’t have to let a lack of confidence keep me from trying either.
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Liberty Jensen • Writer
Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.