I grew up drawing pictures - filling notepads, the backsides of used typing paper, and even the white cardboard inserts from pantyhose that my grandma saved for me - of my world. God bless her, my mother has boxes and scrapbooks of these efforts to sketch Donald Duck or Garfield the Cat. I come from a family that communicates visually; each of my siblings artists in their own right. 12-hour car rides often consisted of my brother and me making a shared doodle, trading back and forth to add one element to the picture at a time...me always trying to stump him and never succeeding.
I began college as a studio art major, and my favorite classes were drawing and figure drawing. Charcoal and conte crayon were my companions on easels and sketchpads. I identified with the title "artist," and I had gallery showings to prove this point.
So why would a whimsical series like the 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge throw me for a loop? Nicki and Kim were great enthusiasts and artists so it sounded like a great way to stretch a bit and warm up the old muscles again.
I pulled out my bestest pens, my favorite kind of paper, and I sat in my most inspiring spot. I began to draw. I started sketching objects around me.
Hmm, is that worth a drawing?
Oh, wait, the line looks bad.
I think that shape is way off, and the proportions look goofy.
This does not look good. Seriously, I should redo this one.
Starting over. Urgh. This one is worse than the last one.
No, not like that.
It was loud, I tell you. That inner critic of mine came racing out to greet me at every sketch. I didn't even notice it at first (we do, in fact, live together all the time so it's not that surprising), but as I began to take "too long" to finish I realized that I was becoming more and more self conscious of my work.
And I didn't want to finish.
And I didn't want to photograph it.
And I didn't want other people to see my work.
That gal who used to identify (with even a hint of arrogance) as an artist now felt embarrassed to show simple sketches.
So what's a gal to do? Well, nothing. I mean that's what I had planned - nothing.
Inevitably, my children had other thoughts. Lovingly nosey as they are, they wanted to know what I've been up to.
"Mommy is drawing!!"
"Can I draw, too?"
"Will you draw with me?"
"This is so much fun. Ooh, Mommy, are these your drawings? Oh, I love that one. Oh, and this one, too. You're so good, Mommy."
I won't deny their enthusiasm and affirmation felt good to my wobbly ego. But it wasn't as much their input that made me move from my nothingness.
It was my need to be more for them. I couldn't expect them to push past their mistakes or less-than-loved creations if I couldn't. What kind of mom is fearful of her own imperfections? Well, this one, but I decided to push through it.
With my big girl pants on, I took my photos and posted. Some enthusiasm and affirmations came from kind and generous people on the internet. I took a deep inhale at every SEND to Instgram.
And somewhere around Day 4 or 5, I caught a glimpse of one of my sketches on screen. In the first millisecond I didn't recognize it as mine, and I really liked it. Sinking in that I had in fact drawn the piece, I looked carefully at the details. And then I went through and looked at other sketches. I began to see my style, my technique coming out.
I remembered it from ages ago, and yet it was something new, too, and fresh.
And I've discovered "it" in other artist's work as I follow along with these drawings. One day you'll see a breakthrough - a new subject or letter creation that really seems to hum uniquely from that individual - all from committing and sticking with the journey.
I've asked that noisy critic to take a seat up in the balcony where I can't hear her as well while I move on and create a whole bunch of what needs to be made.
And I'm pushing on through because I know something new and even better awaits.
Happy doodling and discovering.