I created the top illustration 4 years ago. The bottom one I created last week. Why did I redraw this illustration? I don’t love or hate it, but I knew (or I hoped) I could re-approach it and do better. I remember creating that illustration years ago and even now I don’t see much WRONG with it. It contains all the elements I focus on today: character, storytelling, composition, mood and lighting.
The differences between the two are fairly clear. I understand the clothed figure better: arms and necks can be skinny if that’s your artistic style but not so tiny that it wouldn’t be able to hold up that large head. I know that it’s quite rare to see a table directly without any perspective. I am no longer sloppy with my lines and shapes, a trash can has a bottom, top and sides, and the legs of a table and chair have to feel solid and secure. I utilize reference to draw a lamp so it isn’t simply my mental idea of a lamp. My understanding of color has also improved. I know when to make a light warm or cool, I understand better how strong and mild highlights and shadows are depending on the light source. I add texture for an organic feel, which I have come to love and appreciate in any digital work.
How did I learn all of these things? I read articles, talk to artists but the way I’ve seen the most direct improvement is by drawing. Sketching from life, with different materials, creating and sharing complete illustrations, comics, and painting. Each time I try something new I am not just nervous – I am TERRIFIED!
Draw a shark – Um, what does a shark look like? Like JAWS?
Draw a crowd of people – No, why!? Whyyyyyy! Can we just change the scene?
Draw a bird’s eye view perspective – Okay, that’s it. I give up. I’m going to pursue a career in kitty cuddling!
Even the idea of a throwback illustration made me nervous: what if my new version looks the same? I was very worried the early version was better. There’s a spontaneity and love that comes with original work – revisiting or copying doesn’t hold the same passion. Ultimately, I am happy with both. That’s not typically how I feel about my work. Those changes are the result of 4 years,1,040 weekdays, and probably 4,000 hours of drawing.
Creating regularly, sharing regularly has taught me that it doesn’t matter if I love it. As the creator I will always wish I could change. I have to get out of my own way. I must focus and produce, even if it means sharing work that I am not pleased with. I used to think that if I didn’t love it, as long as someone ELSE did that was okay. But it’s not about me, you or anyone else loving the work.
It is quite simply about making art.
Making art is joyful and painful. It is an awful feeling when you sit in front of a blank canvas and struggle with your limitations. And when people walk past your art without noticing, or worse yet when they comment negatively. It is the greatest feeling when a stranger can connect with a piece of art you’ve created. It will always make you happy when someone says they have your art proudly displayed in their home. I have been lucky enough to experience all of these things – even the negative experiences help me grow, thicken my skin and push me forward. But I wouldn’t be able to experience any of it if I didn’t keep making art. I didn’t wake up good at art. If I didn’t try and fail again and again and AGAIN, I wouldn’t be able to share either of these.
Keep drawing. Keep making art.