Have you ever found yourself trying to re-create something you did a long time ago? Something you didn’t think so much of back then but somehow seems so much better now? I ran across a few old drawings and was marveling at the fact that I never finished them. Why didn’t I keep going? This could have been good! It would be easy to redo it or even just continue it. But should I?
There’s something exciting (yes, really!) about doing the same thing over and over again. Every artist has a drive for perfection, and what better way to satisfy it than by continually working on the same technique or subject? There’s always just one more thing to try, one more way to look at it. Seriously, I could do cloud drawings for the rest of my life and never get bored. But another drive every artist has is the drive to grow, to expand her abilities, to accomplish something…different. Which means at some point you have to let go of perfectionism and go back to doing Really Bad Art in a new medium or technique.
Of course, it’s frustrating to start back at square one, especially when you know you still have so far to go on those cloud drawings! But there’s a fine line between perfection and stagnation. And when you do something new, even if it turns out badly, all the energy going into learning the technique spills over into areas that used to be well-established. So you find out what happens when you dump a bunch of graphite powder on that almost-finished cloud drawing and smoosh it around with a brush.
It makes a mess.
But it’s heading in a different direction—and that’s exciting!
Well, after thinking it was going to be a very busy summer, I’m now in freefall. Kind of like driving along thinking there’s going to be a bridge over the thousand-foot-deep gorge and realizing halfway across that there isn’t one.
All right, the Really Big Job I was working on got cancelled abruptly and the smaller jobs that were making me frantic to keep up are all done. So, now, nothing. Which puts me back to the question of “What do I do with my downtime?”
There are a number of things I could do. Like clean up my studio.
Or maybe finally finish that drawing on the desk. Now there’s a concept.
The point being, I need to work at not working—all those things I could have been doing except that I was too busy to do them are still there waiting. Time to make a list and get started.
It was a fun project and it reminded me of when I was a kid and could spend all day drawing stuff that no one ever saw. I don’t even know where that stuff is, now, but I remember having a good time doing it all. So I’m all about drawing now and can’t wait to get some of my own projects going again…that is, unless a whole bunch of work shows up…which is a possibility….
I guess time is of the essence!
I’ve been doing this lately. A lot. I used to crosshatch all the time in the old days, when I had nothing but time on my hands. Not so much anymore. It’s hard to get enough hours in the day to fill a piece of paper with crosshatching.
But since I have an excuse (that would be The Sketchbook Project) I’m not only making the time, but remembering how much fun it is to make lines over and over and over…. No, really, it is fun. It completely numbs the mind from worrying about how the drawing is turning out and allows the hand to just go on without direction. I can actually read my accounting textbooks while crosshatching—I just have to look down now and then to make sure I’m still on the paper.
Of course, in spite of all this zen I need to send this book off in about a week, and I’ve still got the covers to do. So maybe it’s time for concentration!
…but it’s all I have. At least it’s all paying projects. But I haven’t been a slacker on my side (non-paying) project:
I’ve been putting my waiting-room time to good use. I made a special page for my Sketchbook Project, so I can show the drawings at a larger size; check it out! As I finish more spreads, I’ll upload them.
I’d forgotten how much fun it is to just draw stuff without worrying about how “real” it looks or if someone is going to like it. I’m making an effort to just draw without looking at anything—just making it up as I go along, the way I used to do it when I was a kid. It’s amazing how many ideas come up when I know I’m not going to censor anything! My hand starts moving and stuff comes out on the page. Just like it should be!
Just to prove I haven’t been a total slacker, here’s a spread from my Sketchbook Project:
Yeah, that leaves 30 more pages by April. But I’m working on it!
Of course, as soon as I get a personal project with a deadline, I get hit with freelance jobs. Which is good. Even though it cuts into personal project time. But it brings up the question I’ve been avoiding for a while now—am I a freelancer?
When the company I worked for closed down in 2010, I started freelancing to pay the bills and go back to school so that I could find a “real” job. It was just a temporary thing. It’s been a temporary thing for over a year now. And how often have I gone around looking for something permanent? Not often at all. The thing is, when I take on a freelance job I commit to it, just like a “real” job. Because it is a real job—and one that I’m totally responsible for. I don’t have the safety net of co-workers making up for me if I can’t meet a deadline or just can’t do the work up to the client’s standards. So I don’t know how well it would go over if I called up a client to tell them I have a “real” job now, and I won’t be able to finish their project.
It’s hard to commit to being a freelancer. I never know if the job I’m working on will be the last one. I have to live on a tight budget because I don’t get paid regularly. When I’m busy, there aren’t any weekends or holidays or vacations—or sick time, for that matter. When I’m not busy, I’m stressing that this is it, I’ll never get work again. Yeah, it’s a drag to get up and commute to the cubicle job every day, but the pay is regular, you’re surrounded by supporting co-workers, and you generally get to go home at some point.
So why am I still here at the kitchen table, working? I don’t know, really. I guess it’s the challenge. It’s getting the job done early and being called a lifesaver by someone at a company 1500 miles away. It’s the siren call of that next job—what if it’s something amazing? It’s that I’ve never done this before and…well…maybe I can.
I said challenge, didn’t I?
…well, maybe not so much “out.” More like “continue.” I can’t say it was a bad year, but it was a bit uncertain, and I’m pretty sure 2012 will be the same. I could make resolutions and goals and plans and all, but I don’t know that it will get me anywhere. Mostly I plan to keep going and see where I end up. Maybe not the best way to do things, but I think it will work out in the end.
This is not to say there aren’t things I plan to improve this year. I really need to learn to organize my time. I find that when I’m crazy busy, I’m far more organized and efficient than when I don’t have much to do. I need to keep that efficiency all the time—because, let’s face it, I should always be crazy busy. There are so many art projects in my head that I don’t know how I can keep stuffing more in there—and, yet, I do. Every day. I need to get them out and finished.
I also need to figure out how to work this Internet community thing. If I’m going to continue freelancing, I need to get out more, even if it’s just virtual. I need to learn how to use LinkedIn and Twitter—and more importantly, I need to actually post stuff. I tend to treat the Internet the same way as the old office Christmas party, where I stand in a corner and listen to everyone else’s conversations. Not that it isn’t fun, but I’m never going to get anywhere if I don’t say something. Which leads to…
…do more stuff so I have stuff to say. Which, once I’m crazy busy all the time, shouldn’t be hard to do. I hope.
Anyway, here’s to a great year for everyone.
Happy New Year!