Is there something in your life that you are naturally skilled at? Something that seems to come easy to you, therefore you don’t necessarily spend time at perfecting it? For me, that one thing has been illustration. I’ve always been creative, and I learned to sketch in school. I had an infatuation with markers and pens as a kid, and I loved to draw. I’d color for hours on end, and my grandmother would snatch each drawing out of my hands, showing me how it could be better, or pointing out where I had colored outside of the lines. She was lovingly, trying to improve my skills (well..it was a bit of tough love, actually).
Over the years, I’ve worked in the fashion industry. I am immersed in it, to say the least. The end of the day rolls around, and I can’t bring myself to look at another piece of clothing, or even think about it. The same applies to shopping, which may surprise you. Shopping can seem like a chore sometimes, because of what I do. I love working in fashion, however there are times when I lose my own sense of creativity.
Before I met Grant, I would spend my weekends in coffee shops, sketching for hours, while sipping a latté, and I was happy as a little bee. I’d meet interesting people, who would walk by, and ask what I was drawing, or they’d sit next to me and watch. I met some truly incredible souls. I loved those weekends.
Over the past few years, I’ve found myself sketching less and less. When I did pull out my sketch pad and markers, everything I created looked the same. I got rusty over the years. It’s like riding a bicycle. You never really forget, but the first few rides are a bit wobbly. I let life get in the way, and I was satisfied, even with the illustrations that seemed to look the same. I’d work on them for a few hours, as mental therapy, and that was it.
I’d show them to Grant, when I came home, and he called me out it. (Although my grandmother is no longer here, he seemed to inherit her tough love mentality, and didn’t hold back). “What? This looks great. I worked for hours on it. I like it.” “It all looks the same he said. You need to learn. You need to study this, and you need to improve. Open your illustration books again and work at it. Don’t create the same sketch that you always do.” At first I was frustrated, and after some thought, I agreed. I lost myself in what became an easy habit; satisfied with satisfactory work.
Over the weekend, I found it tough to sleep in. My week was jam packed, and I thought sleeping in would be easy peezy, but I woke up at the crack of dawn with my foot tapping, while still in bed. I tossed, turned, and scrolled through my phone a few hundred times, before I decided to be productive. I could have rolled over several more times and tried to fall back asleep, but that seemed like a waste of time.
I pulled out my old illustration book, packed up my markers and headed for a coffee shop. It’s where I do my best work. With a hot cup of coffee in hand, I opened my illustration book, for the first time in years. Old papers fell out, which I had used to mark pages and I looked through them. The first one being my very first job description, when I moved to New York, for a job as an assistant designer. Another being the very first flat sketches I created during my internship, for my first interviews. It was if the pages I was turning, mimicked the pages of the last 13 years of my life, and I watched them unfold. I looked through each sketch, comparing it to the last. It was a walk down memory lane, to say the least.
And so I sat, for hours, just as I always had. I flipped through the book, and studied the body, the silhouettes, draping, textures, flat sketches, and fabrics. My pencil glided along the page, as I watched the figure come to life. The illustration was Valentine’s inspired, and so I created a cascading, ombre print gown. I took out my markers, and began to add color. My hand was tense, and the color was heavy. That’s the way it goes when I begin. It’s just like warming up for a run. I’m always stiff at first. My brain tries to plan each move, but eventually my eyes, and my hands take over with confidence. My marker flies along the page, and I get lost in time. Before my eyes, I had created a brand new illustration, and I surprised myself! It looked incredibly different than my previous work!
Similar to years passed, I had visitors stop by my table, interested in the project. That gave me confidence. I had never really forgotten my craft, it just needed a bit of fine tuning. I took the entire weekend creating the sketch, and I didn’t rush through. I studied, and perfected my work. It makes me happy, and I’m proud of what I created. My goal is to master illustration, and improve upon my skill.
Never stop learning. There are always greater tasks to master. So my suggestion for you? Turn your weaknesses into strengths, and your strengths? Fine tune those, creating your own masterpiece. I hope you learned something. Scratch that…I hope you learn everything! Wishing you a fabulous week, love bugs.