Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Simple Reminder on How Outlook Shapes Opportunity

(c) Ronald Searle Being an artist of a family of four, two of which I homeschool, I am finding drawing time very hard to carve out of my schedule. My oldest daughter has voice lessons, dance lessons, and performances which I bring her to. Recently, she had a sudden showcase with A&R guys tossed at her. My middle two daughters also take dance lessons, with my twelve year old an assistant teacher. They are busy, and they, too, have sudden performances thrust upon them. My youngest daughter has Cerebral Palsy and requires attention of her own. She's mild compared to many, but still struggles. All of this takes time since I am the stay at home parent and my wife, bless her heart, works two jobs. Frankly, my family's needs doesn't allow for me to kvetch about my disabilities. I need to be ON all the time.

I manage to squeeze in whistle practice around the edges of my schedule, sometimes even driving out in the middle of the night to find an empty parking lot to sit in my minivan and practice so I don't disturb anybody. Of course, I also work for my occasional clients. But drawing has happened less and less. I have tended to blame life for it's constraints on my time schedule. There is only so much time in the day, after all.

Then I came across this wonderful blog entry at the Temple of the Seven Golden Camels. In it the author, who works by day as an animator, muses about how he pales in comparison to some of the greater illustrators he has known by want of a simple principle - they never stop finding reasons to draw in their sketchbook. He relates thoughts on the sketchbook practices of three artists and how they've influenced them, and also relates lessons he's personally learned from them, like this one:

One other piece of advice came from the great Vance Gerry. Once a long time ago he mentioned that he always draws while he watches T.V. and I casually replied that I was too tired after a ten or twelve hour day of drawing to draw. I told him that after work I just sit in front of the TV and vegetate. 

Now it was unintentional on his part, but he gave me a look that cut me to the core and made me feel like an idiot. He was absolutely right, there's no excuse for not drawing while you watch TV. If you are just drawing things out of your head at work all day long then you probably aren't improving because you're not drawing from life or looking at the works of others. If you're not taking in any kind of new information your drawings and your ideas will become stale. So if all you can do at the end of the day is sit in front of the TV then at least draw what you see and give your mind some fresh information. Caricature the actors, draw the compositions or draw the coffee table in front of you...something! 

So, suffice to say, from that day on I always drew while I watched TV and I can tell you that, like I say, it actually gives you more energy and refreshes you better after a long day than just sitting there like a passive lump.

I feel renewed just reading that one part. I was so used to viewing television as a distraction that I had dismissed it almost completely as a learning tool aside from the occasional tutorial video I might watch, or the gesture drawing I might do when pausing a movie at an inspirational part. And yet I have longed to have the skill and freedom to just sit in public and sketch people. Oh, my AD/HD would never allow it, I was convinced. I simply couldn't draw fast enough before the subject moved. I simply couldn't block out all the distractions. In all honesty, these reasons are not far fetched. I am not the fastest artist. There is a lot of wall too push through before lines and confidence can flow, but without practice and effort we can never surmount our obstacles. Consequently, I have never been able to realize this dream.

Imagine my surprise to see the old boob tube in a brand new light. Instead of viewing it as a distraction that keeps me from drawing, I could be using it as a source of drawing. I could safely sketch all those people without fear of any of them noticing me, coming over and looking, and commenting on my abominable newbie gesture sketches. The wall between me and success in this front is considerable. There is a reason I have been daunted all these years. AD/HD truly does play a vicious part in preventing me from scaling this wall, but I never revisited the problem with my new attitudes. Without knowing, I held onto my old notions.

What old fears do you hang onto? What preconceived notions remain unchallenged within the current you? When we allow negativity to rule our thoughts, we miss out on life's opportunities. Only by keeping our thoughts positive and constructive can we truly our lives and see opportunities instead of obstacles. I'm so excited, I'm going to put this computer away and go draw. What will YOU go do?