Jan 2, 2019

Work in Progress

"Eventually, I just didn’t see the point. I hated anything I made and lost talent as quickly as I lost my motivation. I forgot who I was as an artist and how far I had already come since a few years prior."

In the summer of 2014, I took a pencil, a pen, and some Crayola colored pencils and began to draw regularly. Looking back now, they weren’t very good. I typically attempted to draw Disney characters, but they somehow always turned out as some deformed version of that. I would always show my work to others, so incredibly proud of the whole twenty minutes I put into it, content with the final result, and ever so hopeful that people would like it. I kept practicing and with that came great improvement. I found what kind of art I liked to do best and discovered a way to draw Disney characters in my own style. A year or two later, I found myself stuck. I still liked drawing, but it just felt like a heavy cycle of all of the same characters, poses, and ideas. I would try something new and end up hating it. I would take one drawing off the wall and replace it with a newer one, but they all looked the same to me.

As I was in this phase, I moved to a different state. Within the first few days of arriving, I couldn’t find the box that contained all of my art supplies and even some of my artwork. I was upset, but once we found it I didn’t really care. I lacked the motivation and inspiration to create anything. I went months without doing anything, and any art I attempted was either left uncompleted or was only a piece for someone else. I tried to come up with my own ideas and attempted to figure out which mediums I liked the most. I wasn’t good with watercolor, I hadn’t fallen in love with painting yet, markers were too expensive, and colored pencils were my happy place but I eventually got bored of them and felt limited in what I could do. Eventually, I just didn’t see the point. I hated anything I made and lost talent as quickly as I lost my motivation. I forgot who I was as an artist and how far I had already come since a few years prior. I would look at my art from a few months before and wonder how in the world I came up with the idea or how I followed through with finishing it, recalling how hard it had been to complete. I missed being that free and happy with the art I completed and beat myself up over it, thinking I’d never feel that way again.

This same cycle went on for a while; I’d find something to draw or paint, do it, love it, but then not find the motivation or inspiration to do something else for weeks or months. I constantly critiqued my work that it eventually became altogether unenjoyable to do because nothing ever felt finished, and any stopping point I came to felt like I still hadn’t done good enough. Over the last few months, I’ve done a few paintings I’m proud of and others that I’m okay with not looking at for a while. But here’s the thing: that’s all I ever did. It eventually was all just paintings. Any sketching I did was just to get the basics of a painting down on a canvas so I could paint around it. I forgot how freeing it was to just draw and not have to worry about it becoming some massive, time consuming piece that I would end up hating a week after anyway.

There was one night in November when I wasn’t doing too great emotionally. I don’t remember why I felt that way, but I decided to read Psalm 56 which is one of my favorites. Verses 8-9 says, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me.” An image immediately entered my mind of a little bottle with water in it and although it was late, I decided to grab any sketchbook I had and to write it out and draw the image that came to my mind. It was nothing incredible or amazing, but I loved the simplicity of it. I then proceeded to do 3 or 4 other sketches in a similar style. I loved it, and best of all I wasn’t so upset over what I had been just an hour before hand. That was November 20th, and today is the 2nd of January. Ever since that day I’ve only gone one day without drawing something and that’s just because I was insanely busy and didn’t get home until 11 p.m. I’ve still done time consuming paintings (one took about 15 hours), but I keep taking time out of my day to at least draw something. I see my perfectionism peeking in here or there, but for the most part I’ve just been working on actually drawing something rather than making it something that everyone will love and compliment me on. The intent is to be happy while doing it, rather than worrying about how “happy” and satisfied I’ll be once it’s finished. As a result, enjoying simply drawing and/or painting in the moment helps increase my overall happiness once it is actually finished.

I’ve rambled on about all of this for a long while so at this point you might be wondering why I’m even writing about it. I think what my art journey has been like for the last few years, although more specifically the last few months, can relate to a lot of other things you or others may be experiencing. You may be stuck in a rut or feeling unmotivated to do what you’ve always loved. Perhaps you’ve forgotten why you fell in love with doing those things in the first place. I hope that what you can take from this is that it’s okay to have those drawbacks, to feel unmotivated, unaccomplished, and altogether just bleh about anything else you’re doing. But honestly sometimes all it takes is just pushing yourself to do it anyway. It’s kind of like waking up early in the morning; it stinks at first, but once you’re entirely present and alert it’s okay. But don’t feel the pressure to do what you’ve always done. With my art, I only did the same things over and over and I think that’s why I lost motivation and got bored with it. I wasn’t willing to start something new by trying out different styles or mediums and so I just lost myself in what to do. You can change it up, and maybe by doing so you’ll find something you love that you never thought you would. You have to push yourself and eventually I think you’ll remember why you loved those things to begin with.

Another thing that could be helpful is to get rid of the perfectionist mindset. I’m still struggling with it, but once you realize that whatever you’re doing is good enough then you can really have the freedom to do something you genuinely love instead of feeling like it has to be perfect. Our abilities constantly limit us to doing things that aren’t entirely perfect, so I think we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we can actually reach, so why even try? Obviously work towards progress, but it’s difficult to see improvement when all you see is a lack of perfection. Do what you can to be content and satisfied with what you do.

I’ve been talking about art essentially this whole time, but in case you haven’t noticed I haven’t posted on here in a few months. It’s for a lot of different reasons, but it’s mainly just a loss of motivation. I had to push myself pretty hard while writing this, but it’s been enjoyable since I’m basically preaching to myself. I tried posting every week, and then went to bi-weekly, and then not at all. I want to push myself, but not so much to where I burn out like that. I have lots to say, but not always the emotional capability to do so. It’s my hope that I do at least one post each month this year, so hopefully putting that down here will keep me more accountable. So, like I said, all that I’ve written here has been specifically about art (and now writing), but it can really apply to something you may be experiencing so I hope this has been somewhat hopeful.