25 January 2015

Let's Talk About Ugly

An exercise in seeing Pen and Ink



The other day I mentioned that I was going back to school.....Sketchbook Skool that is. As a student trying to broaden my skills and learn, not everything I produce is going to be good. Some of it is even laughable. As a professional artist, my first inclination is to always maintain a professional appearance. I think most professional artists are this way, and heavily edit which pieces the public sees. Not every painting is a keeper.

Why are we like that? Is there some kind of fear that if we show our mistakes and practice pieces the public will see us a fakes? I know most artists have that little voice in the back of their head that sometimes says things like "you're a hack", "you have no business trying to earn a living as an artist", "you talentless" and on and on with negative comments. But there's another voice that is far less dominant saying "yeah, right on", "you can do it", "this is brilliant", and other words of encouragement.

The need to only show our best and that fear of ridicule boils down to the struggle between confidence and insecurity. We all have varying degrees of either one on any given day, and it's easy to keep our laughable attempts buried. I had a long conversation with myself about the pros and cons of showing some of my assignments from my workshop.

I've ultimately decided to show them, so will be sharing some of my attempts - good, bad, and ugly - over the coming weeks.

The drawing above was about getting into a meditative zone and trying to map out toast; and observing all the texture, holes, nooks and crannies on the surface. You were supposed to zone out and spend 15 - 30 minutes drawing. Being gluten free, my toast was quite boring and I find it a difficult task to try to show what little texture was there, so I did a ripe banana.

Quick Sketches
In the one above I quickly sketched photos of my grandson each day trying to get some likeness. Using pen and working quickly was a challenge. Some sketches are better than others. Some are downright awful. But it's a learning experience and I'm starting to get more confident drawing with a pen which is totally unforgiving.

Showing the ugly helps me learn, and hopefully you as well. Or, at the very least, shows you that it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to make bad art because it means you are on your way to making better art. You are trying to actively learn rather that not doing something because you aren't good enough right now. Being awesome at anything requires a lot of hours of practice. It requires imperfection.