September 9, 2022


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  • The quest to get, and stay, artistically fit

Use it or lose it.

I mentioned before, I’ve had two surgeries on my drawing hand, and I’ll tell you, coming back to the table and tablet each time was like learning to draw all over again. 

My hand seemed scrubbed entirely clean of any recollection of any of the particular marks one might associate with my work.

Twice now, I’ve had to basically get born again, artistically, on the fly while still attempting to create some stuff I can pawn off to make rent. 

Errrr… I mean, while continuing to make works of art for their future forever homes. 

(OK, I probably actually very much meant the first thing.)

It doesn’t take much time at all for drawing skills to fall off.

I don’t even need a surgeon to slice me back to novice– I can be lazy for a weekend and will probably have to take most of the following week to remember what a straight line is supposed to look like.

It doesn’t really matter where or how you learn to draw, sooner or later, you’re going to get one particular bit of advice– sooner or later, someone’s going to tell you, “If you want to get good at this, you’ll have to do it every day, for a long time.” 

Maybe they’ll also tell you, “If you want to stay good at this, you’ll have to keep doing it every day, forever.

They probably won’t tell you, “No matter how good you get, or how long you’ve stayed that good, you’re never actually going to think you’re any good.” But that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, there is no substitute or workaround for the endless grind. 

First, we build good habits.

Then we build good muscle memory.

And then we rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat, for as long as we expect to do this and do it well, because if we ever stop, it all goes away, and it all goes away quickly.

Look, it probably doesn’t actually go away overnight. 

If you haven’t recently had a masked man stick a sharp thing into your hand down to the tendon and jiggle it around a little, you can probably afford to take a night or two off– in fact, it may actually be healthy to do so from time to time.

But if you’re in it to win it, get ready to tally up a great many hours drawing over your lifetime.

You’ll love it, you’ll hate it, and probably, once you’re rolling, you won’t be able to help yourself regardless of which one you’re feeling on a given day.

Here’s what a day might look like:

1. You’ll get the first few drawings– the bad ones that need to be burned off before the good ones can come out– out of the way early, over breakfast. No really. Fill up a sketchbook page with your morning cup of coffee, your eggs and toast, or whatever’s in front of you while your brain remembers what awake is. 

2. Catch up on news, deal with the dogs, etc. Then sit back down for some more focused practice. This doesn’t have to be something you’re struggling with, but hey, it certainly could be. It could also just be something you’re looking to build on or trying to approach in a different way. 

3. If drawing’s not your means of making a living, go do whatever you need to do, and skip ahead later to No. 4. And if you do make your living drawing, well, you’re hopefully all warmed up now, so it’s time to start thinking about whatever’s on your doodle-to-do list, and getting down to the business of getting it done. Get comfortable– you’re going to be here a while. 

4. It’s been a day. Take a walk, make some dinner, and knock off the stuff that needs knocking off before you can call whatever’s left of your evening yours. Now’s maybe a good time to spend a couple hours working on something that isn’t whatever you spent your day on. 

5. Pencils down. G’night.



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