Maps & Diagrams

Original Photo Credit: Ussama Azam / Unsplash

Sometimes I procrastinate because I don’t know what kind of art I want to make.

Sometimes I procrastinate because I don’t think I’ll be able to make the art I want to make.

And sometimes it looks like I’m procrastinating, thinking about what kind of art I want to make, when really it’s a pretty important part of the process, and not procrastinating at all.

It seems counter-intuitive to step away from the making of the art, to just thinking about the art. But I’m learning that now and again (read: not all the time!), it’s super important.

In a way, it’s like checking the map and making sure I’m still heading in the right direction. In this metaphor, consider shiny new art supplies, techniques, and inspiring creators as various features on the map. They are very important, very distracting, and very much not the destination…I think…?

So, lately I’ve been “checking the map.” I have a general sense of direction that has been serving me well, for the most part. My, uh, leisurely, pace has avoided burnout, and I’ve learned all kinds of new and exciting things, some of which I’ve even brought along with me now (like, abstracts and gouache). But now it’s been time to get my bearings.

I took a lot of time this last month to really study where I’m headed, what I’m working towards. My goals haven’t changed, but it was more just making sure I’m on track to even get there…

I was sort of taking inventory on all the art media I use — how do I want to use my watercolors, gouache, inks, and colored pencils? What is the role of digital art in my work? That kind of thing. For instance, I realized that while I love that I have learned how to use gouache, I still prefer my watercolors, and would rather gouache play a supplement role. It turns out that the style I was using gouache for, looks better to me when done digitally. And that’s okay! But I had to really study and think about it to figure that out.

I also reviewed some of the main sources of inspiration and main learning resources for my art thus far. I kind of assumed it was a single circle Venn diagram — that I want to make art that looks like the art I really like. It seemed obvious. But as it turns out, I like a lot of different kind of art and artists. And there are really two different circles — there’s a lot of art out there that I LOVE but doesn’t look anything like the kind of work I want to do myself. And that’s okay! …I was getting so frustrated comparing my work to some of my favorite artists. I would really like something I’d made, then look at art I admired, see that they didn’t look anything alike — et voila — clearly that meant there was something wrong with my work! I am a failure! …Yikes!

Now, instead of asking myself “how do I do THAT?” I’m asking the much more generous (and interesting!) question, “what about this piece would be really interesting to LEARN from?” It’s not about copying anyone’s work, but trying to be much more intentional in how I learn. “THAT” gestures wildly is not nearly as helpful as “well, I love the shading they used…if I tried more defined shading, maybe my work would pop in a similar way?” YES!

This was not a simple process, reframing my approach to my work. “Checking in” on the road map this time was involved and I made it kinda tedious (so many lists! mini-essays! (why?!)). But honestly, I’m so glad that I did it. It was worth taking the time. Because for the first time in a LONG time, I’m not really procrastinating at all. Because I know where I’m at, and what I want to work on moving forward. (Fun fact — it looks a fair bit like the work I made when I first got started. But, maybe a bit evolved? Is that pretentious? Or just progress? shrugs)


Sometimes, like now, I’m just making the art.

And procrastination is just refilling my coffee and spending five more minutes on a puzzle before getting to work, and not contemplating (and being overwhelmed by) the art world and my lil’ place in it… Whew!

One of my newest illustrations. Isn’t it CUTE?!

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