Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Power Of Baby Steps

If you remember all those long months ago, I wrote in my very first blog post that I hoped to blog about a variety of topics.  My months since then have been largely occupied with reading and writing, and thus my posts have reflected my life.  But as I've mentioned before, I think it's important to carve out some time to follow other interests and endeavors.  Yes, I know, I fail miserably at this--but I am determined to break the all-work-no-play cycle!  

Part of the problem with getting back into the swing of my hobbies is that the things I used to be good at, well, I'm not so good at anymore.  One of my lofty goals is to someday be an illustrator as well as a writer.  I used to do artsy things all the time in high school, from painting to graphic design movies, even sketching during my free time at home.  Then, after my senior year, I just stopped.  Literally.  I put down my pencil and rarely picked it up for the better part of a decade.  BUT, like a missing tooth in my mouth, my thoughts always went back to that empty hole in my creative life. 

Determined not to let another chunk of my life go by without art, I asked for a graphic tablet last Christmas.  And then, I froze.  I hadn't seriously drawn anything in so many years that I became rather petrified to pick up that pencil again.  My high school art loomed down at me from my walls, scorning me.  I used to be a not-so-shabby artist; I used to know how to shade sunlight and paint fur.  I don't remember how to do those things anymore.  With great trepidation, I opened my sketch pad, gave it a go, and was so repulsed by what came out of my pencil that I slammed the pad shut and stuck it back on the shelf, cursing myself and the horrific results of my artistic drought.  But after a few days, I realized it's not that I'd become a lousy artist after all these years; it's just that I was terribly out of practice!  Michelangelo couldn't have painted the Sistine Chapel if he doodled an angel only once a year; similarly, I'll never get any better if I let ages pass between each battle with my sketchpad, and I certainly won't ever become an illustrator.  The solution: Baby Steps!

In February, I initiated a self-betterment endeavor: drawing 30 Horses in 30 Days.  The goal was simply to sketch one horse a day for an entire month, forcing me to draw and hopefully resulting in improvement.  Since the sheer thought of drawing had become overwhelming, I returned to the simplest of basics.  The idea wasn't to get it perfect--just to get something on paper.  My first week or so, I drew circles and limbs in various states of horse movement for no more than 5 minutes per day.  When that didn't send me into a downward spiral of shame, I moved on to 10 minute sketches with simple details.  I progressed over the weeks to more complicated horse positions and defined details, allowing just 15-30 minutes per drawing.  The results speak for themselves:

What started out as embarrassing...

...became a little less embarrassing...

 ...became not too bad...

 ...became significantly better...

Until I finished day 30 with something I was finally proud of. 

This handsome, scarred stallion is my very own Ellis!

(And before you yell, "Cheater!"--I promise I drew an extra horse on two days to make up for the short month!) 

Am I Monet now?  No.  But did I improve?  Absolutely.  I highly encourage you to try the same exercise with one of your hobbies or interests that's been forced to the back-burner over the years.  (I know you must have one!)  Just a few minutes each day of piano playing, knitting, juggling, speaking Taiwanese or whatever other activity you sorely miss will make that forgotten skill-set not so daunting anymore.

BUT...this exercise is only beneficial if you keep up with it.  The months since February have seen my schedule stuffed, so I have only managed to sketch a quickie horse from memory a few times a week.  (Hey, it's better than nothing!)  But, I have missed my "unofficial" daily drawing time and would like to expand the program to a new drawing subject each month.  Today is September 1st and I refuse to let another month go by without artistic progress.  And so, in honor of the re-release of "The Lion King," I would like to announce:  

30 Simbas In 30 Days!  (Rawr!)

 I dare you to pick a hobby and try the Baby Step technique, too!  It only takes 5 minutes of your day--5 teensy, weensy, measly minutes.  (Heck, even once or twice a week is a good start!)  I 100% guarantee you'll be glad you did!  :)      

And in case you feel overwhelmed, just remember what the Winter Warlock learns in "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town:"

 Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you'll be walking 'cross the floor!
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you'll be walking out the door! 
 Time for me to go draw Simba #1!

 Picture and lyrics from "Put One Foot In Front Off The Other" are copyright Rankin-Bass  


  1. i think this is a GREAT idea! I may have to cheat and start tomorrow, but I do need to get back to drawing again. I'll let you know how it goes!! thanks for the inspiration! :) and your stallions look GREAT!especially ellis. And I havent finished reading your manuscript yet, but maybe by the next time we get together... great seeing you last night!

  2. Yes--cheating is totally allowed! :) Glad you like the horsies! Can't wait to see your drawing progress, too, if you're up for the challenge! We will definitely have to schedule another baby-puppy playdate soon.