Dedication? I think.
Last week was my birthday. It was on January 4th, landed on a Friday. That morning I worked on editing my first public blog post, making sure I was saying the right things, making sure it all looked right communicating in the best way possible, and overall hoping to have a strong debut post. Later that afternoon I worked on a few drawings, some on paper, some on the computer. All the while, I was being called and asked “what are you doing for your birthday?”
I didn’t have an answer. There was one thing I specifically wanted to do, and it was off the table. In that case, I was content in staying at home, working, writing, basically being alone. However, my friends and family, being as they are, made sure we went out that weekend, made sure I had fun, and made sure the weekend’s subject was me, the birthday boy.
My desire to stay home, or rather, lack of desire to go out on weekends, is not very new. If there was nothing specific to do, I had no problem staying home. If my friends wanted to go out clubbing or drinking, again, I had no problem staying home. That meant I could write, draw, read. Lately though, I’ve been wanting to stay home. Rather than leaving things in the air, having my personal projects become a plan B, my personal projects have now become my plan A which means being alone with my computer, my pen, my sketchpad or my Nook. I’m not exactly sure what this means for me or about me.
A few years back, when the idea of becoming an illustrator was still, a pipe dream in my head, I contacted a few artists whose work I admired. I asked them a few questions like “how did you get started?”, “what did you do to get better?”, and “do you have any advice for someone who wants to start?” Among all answers were a common link- hard work and practice.
The idea of hard work and practice stayed imprinted in my head, and it wasn’t the last time I heard about the merits of practice. The 10,000 hours point is very common and, whether factually true or not, delivers a message that is important enough; to become good at something, do it, do it well, and do it often. One needs dedication.
I ask myself if I have dedication, and I’m not sure how to answer that. I try to draw everyday and I often hit 5-6 days out of the week. But, being honest with myself, I purposely half-distract myself. It’s hard for me to sit down and completely draw; there’s always a video going on, or I’m always listening to something that needs my attention. I tell myself that the two activities are different enough that neither suffers, but there’s always an internal doubt.
In general, I’m somewhat hard on myself and, knowing that, it’s hard to be objective. Am I dedicated because I draw 5 out of the seven days in a week, consuming hours of each day? Or is my lack of dedication what stops me from completely immersing myself in the act? Even worse, I don’t know what part of me is answering, the honest me, or my inner critic?
Right now, I’m leaning towards dedication. I had a conversation with a friend recently, he’s finishing his bachelor’s degree and only in the past two years has he expressed interests in the arts- acting, theatre, film, writing, directing, but he’s scatterbrained and, in the past, rarely acted upon his desires or interests. He told me of a small reading his university was holding and invited me to come. We could both learn from the Q&A section, he mentioned. I couldn’t go but encouraged him to attend regardless of company. In blunt honesty, he told me he probably wouldn’t go. Having nobody to go with, he knew he’d be distracted, daydream, and gain little from it. I told him, basically, that if he really was interested in something, if he really had a passion for it, then he wouldn’t be distracted, he’d be excited to be there and it would be natural for him to absorb even the smallest tidbit of knowledge, easily worth the 2-3 hours. If he found himself bored or distracted, then he should really ask if that’s what he was interested in.
I was saying that to him as much as myself and it brings me back to my birthday. As the evening descended on my birthday, I had no desire to go out, nothing specific I wanted to do with my friends, and that was the same for the next day, Saturday. Having posted my first entry in my blog, I could only see myself working on a project, drawing, coloring, and reading. I still think like this. I can stay home on a Friday night, on a Saturday night, and I can work for hours and be okay with that. With some of the drawing I’ve imposed on myself, sometimes it feels tedious or like it’s busy work. But I know it’s worth it, I know it’ll pay off in skill, knowledge and experience. I can always see myself drawing. More importantly, I always want to be drawing, it’s become a compulsion I’m eager to fulfill everyday.
I think I can say, I am dedicated.
Rather than only show finished work on this blog, I thought it would be cool to show work in-progress. This is a current piece I’ve been working on for the past week and a half. I did quite a few pre-planning beforehand, the idea I had in my head was really a light shining off a person in a dark room. That was an image that looked intriguing to me, and the idea quickly snowballed into the light from a computer and some contraption holding a person up. The idea of a computer controlling the person easily followed. Here’s my sketchbook drawings
1) This was me trying to get the rough composition of the entire piece. The majority would be dark with an off-center area serving as the light source. Even from there the details were beginning to emerge; the computer, the machination by which it would control a user, and the user itself.
2) I played around with a lot of poses, roughly shaped at first. But eventually, as you’ll see, I had to get larger. I originally thought the user would be more upright, but looking at the way the user would be held up by the computer, it didn't make much sense to have a traditional pose in the way one uses a computer.
3) This was the computer details and aspects, I wanted the controlling aspect to be segmented and the computer to resemble an Apple Desktop.
4) I went through a few iterations of the controlling portion of the computer, angles, bases etc. The biggest change from the sketchbook and the photoshop file is the actual controlling portion. On the digital canvas, the angle was very hard to pull off in the dark without it looking wonky.
5) Here’s a more detailed aspect of the computer, it doesn’t show on the more completed image but that’s because it’s hidden in a different layer.
Here’s part two of the sketchbook.
6) I have the hardest time with human bodies. It’s basically what I try to draw everyday because I am just not good. Here was a specific pose I wanted the user to have. Very submissive, and the individual needed to be large bodied, the pear shaped looked good to me.
Looking back at what I have, there’s still a lot to be done. I’m not sure about the color scheme, in my head, the entire scene was monochromatic so I might revert things back to tints and shades of blue. I also had to change the lash-like implants, and with that, there isn’t the strong feeling of control. I need to either change the way the implants dig into the user (maybe a hook like end?) or just keep the lashes tighter, they look more like they're floating here.
However, one thing that was different in its creation was that I started out large to small. Usually with a piece, I start with specific details and build from there. When I opened Photoshop though, I used a huge soft brush, lowered the opacity setting and started from the outside in. I’ve seen various tutorials and time lapses of pieces of art being created the same way. Large brushes, darks and lights being applied first, and then details were implemented and I’ve always wanted to do that. This was my attempt and I think I can finish it soon with the way I've been working on it.
Thanks for reading,
 I wanted to go skiing or snowboarding of some sort, but for various reasons, it was not happening.
 Amazing people.
 And doing very little while imbibing.
 Frank Stockton, Steven Belledin, and Steve Argyle, I thank you immensely for just responding to me.
 Along with a somewhat casual reminder that it wouldn’t be easy.
 To master something, it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice.
 Sounds strangely familiar…
 Paraphrasing and with the magic of editing.
 Which I’ll talk about in the near future.
 Or, title still needed
 Of which I have very little anyway.
 Labeled for your comfort.
 Subconscious message? Probably. Not an Apple fan.