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My grandson Liam, at almost 14 months! So cute!


A few weeks ago I put a call out for questions, and I plan to answer all of them over time! Here’s one from Meg in Nelson:

Q: Why do you draw/paint, as opposed to other artistic endeavors such as tap-dancing, poetry, or playing the banjo?

A: For me, the reason is twofold.

First, and most important, it’s what I ENJOY the most. I LOVE to draw and paint!

I love (in a weird way) the moment before making the first mark and the leap of faith it takes to finally mar up the blank piece of paper. I love, then, reacting to that first mark with a second, and then a third, all the time trying to “solve the problem” of that particular drawing or painting by getting it to a finished point that I like.

Over the years I have tried formal dancing, writing poems, and playing stringed instruments, and enjoyed the experiences very much. But in all cases, I didn’t enjoy them ENOUGH to continue to pursue them and want to get better.

In the 1990s I worked as an art director for a magazine. My job entailed hiring photographers and illustrators, and then creating layouts with the illustrations and typography. I enjoyed my job; it was creative and I liked it. But I didn’t LOVE typography and layout. I remember after four years hitting a distinct plateau; I just didn’t have the motivation to improve. I had gotten as far as I wanted to go, as I just didn’t have a PASSION for design and typography. (That’s when I decided to quit my job.)

Today, I use those layout and typography skills all the time for my own projects; knowing “how to design” serves me well in both my artwork (composition, especially) and my business projects (postcard designs, website design, etc.). So I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I had the experience, but I’m also glad that I’ve moved on to working with the thing I’m passionate about: Drawing and Painting.

The second point, closely tied to the first, is that I’m good at it. (Not “good” in the sense that I’m so incredibly talented or anything, but “good” in that I really do like the artwork I create. For me — it satisfies me.)

Of course I’m really happy that others like it as well, and am grateful for all of you who encourage me so much. But I think I would do it for myself in any case. It’s something I feel “competent” at, and it feels right to do work that I’m good at doing.

– – –

This answer might seem that I’m advocating only doing things that you like and are good at.

In some ways I am, I guess, just because that is how it has worked for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in “cross-training” and doing other creative activities often, even if we “suck” at them!

Example: I am not a good dancer. At all. I’m kind of a big and awkward person, and not “at home” in my body for the most part, especially in front of other people. So formal dancing lessons such as ballet or tap dancing are harder things for me to pursue.

However, when my oldest son, Christer, was in high school, he was cast as The Tin Man in a community production of “The Wizard of Oz.” For fun, I decided to join the chorus ensemble, which included a few “dance” numbers.

And… I had a BLAST! I also learned that I’m somewhat of a ham on stage. (Sorry, Christer.)

But dancing in that play got me out of my comfort zone and gave me confidence that I took back to other areas of my life. I truly feel that everything we do works together — taking a ballet class would improve my painting; drawing would improve your cycling, etc. — it’s one of those strange truths of life!

Everyone has different levels of interest and passion when it comes to drawing, and it’s quite possible that your “drawing” is like my “dance” or “design” — a wonderful thing to do as “cross-training,” but not necessarily the thing to pursue as a passion; there might be something else out there that is a more perfect fit!

My goal as a drawing teacher (with my live and online classes, and books) is to just encourage everyone to give drawing a try. In some ways, drawing has gotten a “bad rap” these past decades, in that people are almost ashamed if they can’t draw realistically.

Being able to draw realistically is fun, but so is drawing in all other ways — even just SCRIBBLING all over a piece of paper can be a terrific way to spend a few moments acknowledging (in a physical, tangible way) the chaos of any given day.

It works for me!


If any of you have any questions about the above, or would like to add to the conversation, please leave a comment!