Art sometimes feel like a thing I do, from time to time. When I have the time. When I have the energy. When I have the art supplies. When I can suppress the voice of negative self-talk inside my head that tells me everything I do is wrong.
In truth I spend more time thinking about creating art than I do actually creating it. There are many traps that you can fall into. There are many time sinks that can devour all your creative time. Some of my personal favourites include:
* Thinking I don't know enough to get started. This usually manifests itself as a need to read everything on a subject, to Google relentlessly, to watch YouTube videos. Always "one more video" or "another book." And while there is some genuine benefit to be garnered from such research, it should be a supplement - not an alternative - to actually trying to do stuff yourself.
* Browsing eBay's art supply section for hours, just in case you come across some wonder product that will make you a better artist (or, at least, make you feel like less of an artistic fraud). Even when you don't need to buy anything, you can still while away the hours with this technique. Every now and then I'll see something I want to buy and think... wait, John, you already own that. Why do the pencils for sale seem so much more enticing than the pencils I already own? Why do they seem to offer so much more promise? I always conclude that it's probably because it's easier to shop for art supplies than it is to use them. And you get the instant gratification of the novel new thing in your life, without all the strain of trying.
But sometimes I skip these moments. Sometimes I just dive into doing something. Sometimes I genuinely get lost in the enjoyment of the process of actually creating something. Sometimes I find the way the watercolour paint runs by itself beguiling. Sometimes I am intrigued by how the waxy pencils combine, how the order I use them when layering changes everything. Sometimes I feel like a kid in school simply colouring in, joyfully. And that is lovely.
And as I begin to reflect on my deviantArt experience, I think I've found a prism through which to imagine it. A guy I barely know, named Corey, in fact. A guy who publishes photographs of himself as stock photographs. I get the impression the photographs are probably meant for photo manipulation, but I use them as reference for drawings and paintings. And as nice as he has been over the years, as I've followed him on a few different accounts here, some of the work I've produced has been pretty ordinary. Sometimes the likeness is barely there at all. And yet the kindness he has extended has encouraged me to keep on trying, and over time I think I am starting to improve. I've put all* the drawings/paintings into a folder on my profile called "Wampe Muse" (because he is something of a muse, an inspiration, to me).
[* I say 'all' but there are things I've created that haven't seen the light of day on deviantArt. Several attempts to create a vector portrait, for example, have all ended pretty woefully. lol]
There is something very meaningful about working in this way, working over many mediums with the same subject. At first I realised I wasn't really "seeing" things the way they were, and that was probably the main reason the likeness was missing. And the longer you look, the more you notice. Things like the shape of the nose, the shape of the lips, details about the hair. Of course I don't always get these right because I'm still fundamentally a beginner, a learner, but that I'm beginning to become more and more aware of them is important and, I think, encouraging.
So to Corey I would like to say 'thank you.' You've been a huge part of my deviantArt experience and I hope you'll indulge me by allowing me to draw/paint you more in the future.
And to anyone struggling to create something - anything - all I can suggest is to keep trying. It'll never be perfect, but it can exist, it can be meaningful, it can be an expression of the self. And all of these things are worth much more than anything that might attempt to stop you from being who you want to be and doing what you want to do.