Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Do What You Do

Bad scan of photo of a drawing
I did in high school. The original
was sent in to a contest and not returned.
I didn't win, but
I'm still really proud of this one.
When I was in school, I took as many art classes as I could. I particularly loved drawing. My favorite medium was charcoal. And my goal with pretty much every drawing was to make it look as realistic as possible. My ultimate goal was to someday draw so realistically my drawings would look like photographs. I never achieved that, partly because for years I put my art on hold altogether. And when I started drawing again, my goals had changed. 

My new goals had more to do with being creative. One reason I started painting was to force myself to work with color, rather than the black and white of charcoal pencil drawing. I also wanted to loosen up and create art with more distinctive style rather than just trying to make an image that looks like a photograph.

I have a dear friend who draws with colored pencil and her drawings are almost indistinguishable from photographs. I am in absolute awe of her talent. (You can see her work here.) And yes, there are even twinges of jealousy now and then, but I don't have her patience and dedication to the art of colored pencil drawing. I bring this up because the point of this blog post is: 

That's okay. 

It's okay to do art differently than someone else, even if you absolutely adore and are astounded by their work. 

I recently registered to enter two pieces of art in the Florida State Fair Fine Arts Competition. I've entered a few times before, and always in the "whimsical" painting category. This year, without having actually completed, or even started, the paintings I intended to enter, I chose "whimsical" for one painting but "scene" for the other. My intention was to paint something more traditional and realistic for the "scene" entry. Think Bob Ross or a lovely sunset beach. 

But I started working on that painting....and it was horrible. I got frustrated. And bored. Everything looked so stiff and emotionless, and not at all realistic. So I set it aside and started a different painting. Instead of focusing on trying to paint what I thought the judges expect for this category, I painted what I was in the mood to paint:

The judges are going to scoff, I'm sure. I'm already imagining their comments about not using color, about the overly simplistic composition. Blah, blah, blah. But I don't care. I painted what was in me.

I told my husband about all this, about how frustrating it got trying to work on that other painting, and he said, "It isn't what you do."

Yes. That's exactly it. 

Then, I went back to the other painting and began working on it for "whimsical" category, this time doing what I do.

I'm not quite done with this. It needs a little more pop of color and my daughter who is also an artist has already given me some suggestions. But the important thing is that I now actually like this painting. 

It is what I do. 

It's fine to have goals and push yourself out of your comfort zone, and to be inspired by other artists. Necessary even. But remember that being an artist is being YOU as an artist, not someone else. Your job isn't to do exactly what someone else does -- your job is to do what you do. 


Esther Jones said...

Kat, exactly. And the closer I get to "doing what I do", the more people are attracted to it. Here is a great video that encourages me in this. https://youtu.be/rdUeq09cGJ0

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thank you so much, Esther. And I agree that staying true to yourself makes your art more appealing.