Just Quit Quitting

imagination, resistance

There’s a part of every moderately ambitious drawing where I start to hate the process, and kind of hate everything else, too. In this case, I had sketched a couple of the branches, but there was so much more to do – so many painstaking details to figure out. I had second and third thoughts about finishing this piece at all.

I was on vacation doing nature drawing with my mom and my ten-year-old daughter, which was an interesting window into the artistic process. My mom recently retired from a library job, and one of her goals is to learn to draw and paint. She’s doing a good job, but she’s still in that stage where it’s hard to figure out why the thing isn’t working, let alone how to fix it.

I know she has good observational skills, because I remember drawing with her as a kid. You know those artists where you look at their work and just feel like maybe you should quit forever? When I was little, that was my mom. I would try her get her to draw all the people for me, because her people had noses and things. She told me if I just kept drawing them myself, eventually it would work better, and it turned out she was right – almost all my people have noses now.

My daughter is a little past this stage, but we went through the same thing in reverse. At ten, she’s really serious about her art and getting pretty confident. Things don’t always turn out the way she wants, but I’m constantly impressed by her process. She always asks me what I like best about her drawings, and what I might consider changing.

So our backgrounds are pretty different, but the funny thing was how we were all running into the same problem. All of us hit this point in our drawings where it was harder than we expected, and we weren’t sure how it was going to turn out – or if it was going to turn out, even.

For me, years into an illustration career, that moment hasn’t really gotten any easier. I guess the better I get at drawing, the bigger my expectation gets, too. I always imagine that I’m going to do things slightly better than I actually can.

The thing that has gotten easier is that now I know what I have to do when I slam into that block – I just have keep working, even if this thing is going to end up in the trash. Quit quitting. One branch after another.