Starting Again

It’s been ten years since I first started the Fine Arts Associate program at Northampton Community College. Six years since I took my last class towards the degree.

Finishing my the associate was on my bucket list, something that I thought I would get back to when I was much older. But life throws us in unexpected directions and last week I found myself join the horde of students descending on the main campus to start again.

I’ve got five classes left to take before I complete my degree. This semester I get to take Drawing 3 and Digital Photography, so I’ll be posting a lot more about my art projects and the process. This is only the start of week 2, and my enthusiasm will likely die down some as the work piles up, but right now I am enjoying every minute of being back in the work.

 

For Drawing 3, we got to explore the woods on the campus and place an object somewhere in it. We then got to choose two compositions to draw with that image. Here is the first one that I am working on.

I love the vines. They remind me a lot of playing up the hill behind my house as a kid and also of something like out of the forests on Middle Earth.

For Digital Photography last week, we got to experiment with our camera’s shutter speeds and apertures…

 

…and take some selfies….

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(It’s an online class, so we used them as part of our introductory Blackboard post. It made sense, but I still found it amusing.)

There is so much for me to learn and I am really grateful that I have this opportunity to start again! Looking forward to what this week brings me.

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Mistakes Are What?

Responses to this question get me a combination of enthusiastic chants and rolled eyes. Both for the same reason: my students know the answer very well.

Mistakes were first re-framed for me by the amazing Larry Silverberg in his first workbook in “The Sanford Meisner Approach” series.

“THERE ARE NO MISTAKES.”

That was the mantra he set in the first several pages of his book. (And yes, it was in all caps.)

“On stage,” he continues, “there are no mistakes, you must accept and embrace everything that happens!”

This was the first concept from my study of Larry’s work on Meisner that I incorporated into my training at my theatre. Working with young kids and self-conscious teens, the fear of doing something wrong is one of the most common and debilitating block to their enjoyment in acting and growth as actors.

So we started working on viewing mistakes differently — as opportunities!

I’ve found it really helpful to approach mistakes on the stage as a chance for me to have an unexpected new moment to respond to – something fun and exciting, rather than something to be feared.

While I certainly don’t encourage my actors to be flippant about their work and lazily use mistakes as a way of not putting in the effort needed to do their absolute best, I also don’t want their dread of “failing” and “doing it wrong” to immobilize them.

I’ve found that when my actors can embrace the idea that mistakes are opportunities, they are much more relaxed and focused. (And as a byproduct, usually have fewer mishaps as they aren’t stuck in their heads!)

I’ve found that the lesson can be applied to other areas of my life as well.

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Untitled. India Ink, India Ink marker, acrylic paint. 2017.

The above is one of my favorite pieces of work, one that is developing through the mistakes I made on it. It’s not finished. This is merely the first draft. At some point, I will re-create this piece, some of the unintended aspects I will keep, others I will correct.

The piece came about in out a desperate longing to connect with Jesus and thinking about all the ways that C.S. Lewis makes parts of Him accessible through the allegorical character of Aslan.

I didn’t want to draw a picture from the stories (for one reason the illustrations to the series are already so beautiful); instead I worked to draw Narnia as I envisioned it then on that February day. Everything went pretty well, the trees, the lamp post, the snow, until I tried to add the imprint of Aslan to it.

The idea evolved from including a lion relief on the lamp post to making the shadow of the lamp post cast the image of Aslan, as though everything in Narnia is bursting to proclaim the King of Beasts, the one who sang their world into being.

(Even though the lamp post is from our world, I’ve got to think that the many years being in the woods, it has to have come to understand who Aslan is….)

I still am very found of the idea, but the execution…well, that’s where mistake number one and two come in.

#1 – The perspective of the shadow is not right, so it looks more like the black blob is hanging from the lamp post arm. (Or as my one friend described it, “Singing in the Rain meets Narnia”.)

#2 – Even though I watered down the ink, I didn’t water it down enough. It is too dark and looks much more like a distinct creature than a shadow on the snow.

Both of these mistakes ended up being really important for me. #1 confirmed for me that I have a lack of understanding about perspective and how to work with a light direction in a piece. Wanting to be able to avoid such mistakes in the future was part of what lead me to decide to finish my Fine Arts Associates.

Because the “shadow” ended up looking much more like a black blob than a lion, and because there was no way to go in with darker ink to add the detailing of the mane, face, and paws, I had to improvise.

Utilizing my gold paint was my solution. One I really liked.

While part of me wishes I had worked in small, incremental layering and done the shadow in a blueish gray like I did the footprints, I’m glad I didn’t. If I had, I might not have used the gold to make the suggestion of a lion. And I also might not have made mistake number three!

#3 – I was careless in squeezing out my paint, which ended up squirting out a large streak on the page.

At first I was mortified. This was a mistake that I could have so easily avoided if I would have just slowed down and gone through the extra effort of caution. (This is something I really need to work on. I am way to found of cutting corners.) But even the mistake borne from laziness (the worst kind of mistakes in my opinion) brought about something in the piece that I really like: lines of gold darting across the page.

When I get to work on my second draft of this piece, I will keep the gold streaks and detailing on the lion and fix the perspective and coloring of the shadow.

Until then I have it framed in my kitchen, to remember that sometimes you correct mistakes by learning how to avoid making them again, and other times you learn from them by embracing them and incorporating them into your work.

That’s much easier for me to accomplish in my practice of art than it is in my daily life.

Messing up in life causes greater harm, greater embarrassment, and don’t usually offer the chance to do another draft. Whether I make an innocent mistake or a full blown sin, the impact is not easily dealt with.

I think about the ways I have hurt my friends, overspent my money, wasted my time, rebelled against Jesus…I can’t just draw another version of those moments and throw away the reality of what I’ve done.

My shame of sin often gets in the way of my needed repentance and restoration. I’ve had relationships go through long periods of awkwardness or tension because I was so embarrassed by the fact that I had hurt or failed them (thus proving I was not perfect) that I often didn’t want to even face them. This did not help matters.

In the spring, I taught a Meisner class for my younger actors, and we often talked about how mistakes were opportunities. I like to apply as much acting technique to every day life as possible, so as our question and answer routine got hammered into us, I thought a lot about how mistakes provide opportunities in my relationships.

When I realized that my pride prevented me from being able to honestly face the ways I had hurt my friendships with people, I began to see how I needed to practice the humility of admitting I was flawed and to accept their grace and forgiveness.

Much like the first streak of gold that marred my drawing, my sin against others mars them. When I can put aside pride and seek to make amends and they are able to forgive me, that wound can get incorporated into our story in beautiful and amazing way.

The other thing I realized was that my mistakes and sins in my day to day life are opportunities of remembrance. If I can get off my high horse and let go of my pride which insists on trying to prove how perfect I am, I can view my blunders as reminders of how much I need Jesus to save me.

Now, I’m not suggesting we should be flippant about how we hurt others or fail to worship God with all our soul, (The apostle Paul makes it pretty clear in Romans that grace is not a free ticket to do whatever we want) but I have found that in striving to accept the grace that Jesus and others offer when I fail makes it easier for me to actually learn from what I’ve done wrong.

Instead of my horror at my lack of perfection driving me to hide in shame, or trying to seek my own absolution by beating myself up for how terrible I am, I can be more focused on the ways that I have hurt others and Jesus, more concerned about them then any exposure of own imperfections. Accepting that mistakes and sin are opportunities to practice humility, to depend on Christ, make it easier for me to go to people when I have wronged them and be grieved by the wound I’ve caused. All this drives me to Jesus.

It’s tricky to both extol the grace that covers all my sin and at the same time strive to conquer my sin. It’s easy for me to either beat myself up over my mistakes or to view it as not a big deal because Jesus has paid for it all.

The past several months, I’ve struggled a lot with my binge eating again. And for a while, I was so convinced that I was finding something like life in over-eating that I did not want to change. I wanted to just sweep it under the rug because Jesus is so gracious.

But because Jesus is gracious, He began to show me how my binges ended up driving me away from Him. My decision to seek life in food instead of Jesus actual made it really hard for me to experience the grace I told myself I was living under by just eating however I wanted.

I realized that I need to learn from my mistake, my sin, of turning to food instead of Jesus.

Does that mean I’ve stopped bingeing? No. This past week in some ways has been worse than other weeks.

But as I’ve struggled this week with over-eating, sometimes successfully, often not, each time it’s a chance for me to reaffirm that I am not able to save myself. That’s something really needs to sink into my soul. And while I don’t want to purposely to show how desperate I am, God exposes my need of a Savior to me in the aftermath of my sin.

Another area of sin that God is using an opportunity to revel Himself to me in a deeper way is my anger towards Him. I struggle to trust God’s goodness, I doubt that He actually cares about me, and I have spent most of the last sixteen years of my life hurling accusations against Him, while at the same time desperately clinging to His grace and patience.

The last two and half years in particular, my anger and sometimes straight hatred of Him has given stark contrast to the fact that Jesus left the glory and grandeur of heaven to die for me, someone He knew would doubt Him again, and again, and again.

I wish that I had a greater faith in Jesus, that I could trust His goodness even when His sovereignty is hard and confusing. It’s something I pray about often and continually seek to grow in. But as frustrating (and sometimes infuriating) as my struggle with mistrust and suspicion of God is, it has become a reoccurring chance to remember that God is faithful even when I am not.

So as I go through life and seek to live in a way that honors Jesus and blesses others, I am trying to grow in the quick humility that recognizes sin, repents of it quickly, and embraces the reminders of my dependence on grace and God’s faithfulness.

What are mistakes? Opportunities: to learn, change, remember, lean on and magnify Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

“Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley

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It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted. Life has been full but without providing me with clear things that I wanted to write about. Over the past several weeks, I had been thinking about missing blogging–I find the processing helpful–and wanting to get back into it, but I needed the right inspiration.

This past weekend, I got it with Players of the Stage’s production of “Doubt”.

Now, I could give you a review of how the show went, but that would be rather biased since my amazing sister was the director and had to step in as one of the nuns, and I was involved in many of the aspects of the show. If you want to review you can go here: Lehigh Valley Stage.

Instead, I want to say thank you to all the wonderful people involved in the production. It was such a privilege to get watch the staff and actors grow through working on this piece. There were a lot of stresses and disappointments along the way, but I marveled at how everyone pressed on and fought to do their best.

In my opinion, the hard work more than paid off.

It was also a growing time for our theatre. This was not our normal POTS (Players of the Stage) show. It was our first true *PANS show.

(*If you have a good acronym for this, please let me know. I’ve been trying to come up for one for years. I have yet to think of one, but I just love the idea of having a POTS and a PANS branch of our theatre company)

We got to work in a new place, with some new faces, with a different type of material than we had before. We tried some new ways of doing things; some worked, some we didn’t get to figure out in time.

It was exciting to get to watch audience members, who were used to our family productions, get to taste how powerful theatre can be when it asks, and leaves unanswered, difficult questions, and stand around after the show discussing it, or hearing from them later that they were still thinking about it.

It might be some time before Players of the Stage can put on another PANS production (our next show is a POTS run), but it was a good first stab at it, and it was nice to get to see a little hint of what it can be.

And in addition to the practical life lessons learned, I just loved working with the thematic material of the show and seeing how the different characters grew, or perhaps took a step backwards, in the text.

But my favorite part of the rehearsal process was getting to work on the opening monologue of the play. I just love Father Flynn’s homily on doubt and how it tends to make you feel isolated but in reality you are not alone, even as you struggle. As a follower of Jesus who often struggles with doubt, I loved getting that powerful reminder.

Thank you to the staff, crew, cast, advertisers, Relevant church, and audience members who made “Doubt” possible. I hope it was a growing time for all of us!

 

 

 

 

The Impact of Art

Last Monday I got to speak at a homeschool conference about why art, in particular theatre, was important. Since one of the main things theatre has done for me was help me find myself, I wanted to share some of those thoughts here as well.

The impact that theatre has on my life goes way back, twenty years ago, when I was a withdrawn eight-year-old girl.

My older sister, Anna, was very theatrical. She was always acting. One year for a Christmas present, my parents signed both of us up for drama classes. I don’t remember much from that first class, but I do remember the recital.

Our drama instructor had put me in a scene (debating whether cats or dogs were better) and given me an Aesop fable to perform. The scene went fine, but the fable….

It was a lot of words for a shy, dyslexic girl to memorize and speak in front of a crowd of people. So many words in fact, that I wasn’t able to do it. So I performed it with script in hand, not at all disguised by the pretty paper we put on the back of it to look like a book.

Ashamed of my inability to memorize, I ran off stage crying before I had finished reading the fable. No moral for that tale.

After that day, I was certain I would never do theatre again. Obviously, I have since I now help run a theatre company. For one reason or another, I kept returning to it. Through the years of performing, I came out of my shell and found a confidence that I did not have.

Self-confidence is probably one of the most obvious ways that theatre can impact children’s lives.

But there are others. As an adult, when I think about why art is important to me it is not because of the confidence it brings, but because it is a mirror.

In Act 3 of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark says of acting “the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere a mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image and the very age and body of the time his form and presence.”

We use mirrors to see ourselves. We can’t get an accurate picture of our face without outside help. Art can be used to reflect a picture of our core being, our soul, our humanity. As I have been exposed to art in its many forms, I have found that can it challenge me, comfort me, affirm me, and give me hope.

I’ll start with a challenging example. I’ve talked about how I am working to change the subtle ways that I struggle with begin racist before. One thing that I did not immediately recognize when I first realized that I needed to repent of that sin was how dismissive I was of the extent of racism that minorities face today. It was easy to buy the line that the “mainstream media” was “exaggerating” things.

I gained a different perspective when I watched the movie “Dear White People”.

(As an aside, I have been upset by the controversy swirling around Netflix’s remake of it. Nothing about that movie was “anti-white”. Personally, I found it to be very fair and balanced. I fear those who feel like the movie was an attack, went in with the goal of being offended.)

The movie was a very eye-opening and disturbing look at how disrespected and diminished minorities are. In watching that movie, I had to wrestle with how easily I dismiss others pain “because I didn’t mean to offend them.” and realized that if I truly value a person, I am going to take their hurt seriously and do my undermost to understand that pain and seek to learn how to interact with them in ways that communicate respect and dignity.

 

Art can also provide great comfort. I’ve mentioned before how I lost a very good friend to suicide. In the first several months especially, I struggled with so many emotions that I didn’t know what to do with them, and I often pushed them aside and ignored them.

A few months in, I got to watch a one-act based off of a Greek play, “The Trojan Women”. In it, a mother is grieving the loss of her family and home. As I watched the actors go from tears to cold horror to screams of pain, I thought about my loss.

The tragedy of the play took on my tragedy. I found such comfort in seeing the tears that at the time I could not weep reflected back to me.

I found such comfort in seeing the tears that at the time I could not weep reflected back to me.

Art can also be a great affirmation of the beauty and hope that is in the world. The other weekend, I went to see the “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” performed by Northampton Community College. In the final scene, Jesus travels to hell to visit Judas whose appeal for release has been denied. Jesus goes to reassure Judas of His love for him, to offer him a way out if he would only take Jesus’ hands.

But Judas refuses. He instead accuses Jesus of abandoning him to his fate and literally spits on His face, screaming and swearing at Him to leave.

There’s a lot going on there to think about, but as I watched this struggle between the characters, I thought of my own relationship to Jesus and how I often scorn His love and help because I feel that He has abandoned me to my fate. When the character of Jesus was affirming His love for Judas, it reminded me of HIs love for me

When the character of Jesus was affirming His love for Judas, it reminded me of HIs love for me and His continual offer to free me from my doubt and bitterness that I struggle with if I would but accept His love and take His hands.

It was amazing to watch because though it looks different, I betray Jesus all the time. Yet He still loves me. He died for me. And He comes to me in my darkness to rescue me.

The reflective nature of art is why I think it is so important. It is why I wanted to keep my theatre going after my older sister stepped down. I want to invite others to have their own experience of seeing themselves more accurately because of a show, or a drawing. I want to encourage others to wrestle with the beauty and pain of life that we can often push aside.

Art often gets dismissed as unnecessary, an extra activity that can be removed if there is a lack of money or time. I strongly disagree. I know everyone is different, but in my life, art has been one of the most powerful tools to help me bloom into the person God made me, either in giving me confidence or giving me understanding.

Have you had similar experiences with art? What about it is important to you?

 

 

Longing for Narnia

The other week I had a deep longing for Narnia, and more importantly, for Aslan. C.S. Lewis created an amazing world and unforgettable characters. The lion, Aslan, has helped me grow in my understanding of Jesus. There are many times when I will repeat the words of Mr. Beaver, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Or when Shasta (Cor) asks Aslan why he scratched Aravis’s back, and Aslan doesn’t tell him the reason because it is not his story.

And many other things.

I’m planning to revisit those books soon, in my preferred order of publication, but I couldn’t wait to be in Narnia, so last week I drew it, spending twelve hours in that beautiful place.

 

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“A Visit to Narnia”. India Ink and India Ink Marker. 2017.

My visit to Narnia was one of the highlights of my year so far. I love how art, be it literary or visual, can transport you to other places.

 

Easing the Pressure

Lines drawn in the sand can get washed away. Hard lines drawn on a page can be impossible to erase. That is the lesson I learned when I was working on this picture:

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The photo is not the best quality, but you can see that the gridlines are still stubbornly present, refusing to cooperate with the eraser, or me.  I wrote a post about how I had to be patient with myself as I went through the process of growing as a writing, artist, and person.

Growth can take longer than we want. Even though I knew I needed to be careful with the pressure of my drawing, the paper of my next illustration was left scared by my heavy-handed execution.
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True, the grid lines and original sketch is lighter than in the drawing above, but they are still there.

Fortunately, Photoshop exists for those of us who have trouble with drawing lightly.

My issue is that I love intensity. I thrive on it. The other night (cooling down from a passionate debate), I described myself as a “Volcanic Crusader”. My favorite motto, despite knowing it is not true, is “Brute force is always the answer”.

When I work out, I want it to be extreme.

(Consequently, I’m starting to take boxing lessons this week. I cannot wait.)

When I play the piano, I bang. PP’s are FF’s and FF’s are

FF’s!

And when I draw, I lay down thick, bold, and rather unerasable lines.

Sometimes this works okay, especially when I am working in Ink. But as my previous pictures show, this is not always good. After I completed my last illustration of the kid pretending to be a doctor, I was frustrated by my inability to go light.

So I’ve been making a practice of it.

And I’ve learned something. Starting out gentle, light, tentative, leaves room for nuance and gives much more control.

Drawing my grid lines lightly and working layer by layer with the pencil has turned out so much better. And I was still able to bring intensity into it, it just came about more slowly.

So I’m learning that there are times when it’s good to ease up the pressure, on my pencil but also myself.

Because I struggle with wanting to be Superwoman all the time I often put high and unreasonable expectations on myself for performance. Pressure can be a great motivator. I think intensity is a lot of fun. But gentleness and working a little at a time is sometimes the needed approach.Taking thing nice and easy, step by step, being diligent and patient with one’s growth, instead of demanding instant results, can yield better work.

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I have more work to do on this drawing to finish it, but I will continue to work lightly and then go back with layers as needed.

Intensity is still amazing, and I will probably always joke that “Brute force is always the answer”, but I am now trying to practice developing intensity out instead of forcing it. So far so good. We’ll see how long it takes for me to forget this lesson.

 

Investments 

Black Friday shopping is dangerous: crazy drivers, crazy shoppers, but also crazy deals.

This past Friday was my second venture into the fray. My list was short: a pair of gloves and one colored pencil. This plan for derailed when I realized Dick Blick was selling a set of colored pencils I had been wanting for years at less than a third of the original price.

Impluse buying is typically frowned upon. That’s what I told myself. But I made the decision to calculate the price per pencil. 

Then I called my husband. 

I didn’t want to blindly throw away a large sum of money. So I asked his opinion. I presented the cost benefit and also the fact that I would be needing to buy several of these pencils in the near future for my next illustration project.

Being the great guy he is, he fully supported me in whatever decision I thiught made the best financial and artistic sense.

I wandered around the store for a while debating. 

For us, it was a lot of money. For the pencils, it was dirt cheap. I would need many of them for my next illustration project if I did it in full color. But I might just do it in monotone since I’m not that good anyway. 

These kind of thoughts went back and forth for several minutes. Finally, I decided to make an investment, not in colored pencils, but in myself.

Seizing the Black Friday deal was more than a purchase; it was a commitment. I made a commitment to myself to push past my perceived limitations, a commitment to develop a stronger technique, a commitment to believe that my growth as an artist, and a person, is worth the investment of money, time, and tears.

I know figuring out how to work in color may be frustrating, but I am committed to conquering that medium. 

Thanks to Black Friday, I have 150 pencils to reminded me of that commitment.

Sometimes you need to be willing to invest in your own growth. What’s a way you can invest in yourself this week?

Controlling the Flow

She spread the pages of her sketchbook, seven pages of paper, out in front of her, and she dipped her pen into the ink well. She pressed the metal nib against the paper and drew. A dark line of ink seeped out. Black blood took shape.

….

Splat!

A blob of ink darted off the nib. She relished ink as a medium. It was dark and unpredictable. The ink would flow exactly how you wanted it until–bam! It disregarded its wielder and did exactly what it wanted. She wanted to be ink in Anson’s pen. He had control over her now, but one day she would overthrow him.

– From my first novel, CHRYSALIS 

Little did I realize how true these words were. Expect for the unpredictable bit. You can predict that ink is not going to do what you want, in fact, it most definitely will do the opposite of what you want.

That is what I love about it. But I’ve learned with one of my more recent art projects that India ink does have its limitations.

 

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“Rose of Notre Dame”. India ink and India ink marker. 2016.

 

The above was my attempt at recreating the rose window at Notre Dame. It’s the second piece that I have done for a former professor of mine, Michael Pogach, who wrote an intense (in the best way) book and did me the honor of asking if I’d be interested in doing some sketches based off his story.

Rose windows in general, and in particular at Notre Dame, are sprinkled throughout the novel. The beauty combined with the technical challenge of the location captured my interest in drawing it.

Though the perspective is skewed, I was pretty pleased with the piece until I got to the stained glass. My brilliant idea was to use my favorite art medium, flowing India ink, to fill in the different shapes and shades of the window.

The process quickly proved to be frustrating. It didn’t matter how much I tried to dilute the ink, it was still dark when I wanted it to be light. Giving the ink time to dry didn’t prevent the ink from bleeding into parts of the drawing where it didn’t belong. In short, what I thought would be an awesome way of capturing the varying degrees of color and brightness turned out to be more of a mud pie. At least in the actual rose part. Some of the saints on the bottom aren’t so bad.

Frustration with the ink meant that I got sloppier, less patient, and less concerned with messing up. The result is a mixed piece of sections that I love, sections that are decent, and sections that I’m really not thrilled with.

But, as always, I’ve learned a lot from this piece. India ink is not a great medium when you are working in small areas and you want to create specific details. Especially if you aren’t patient enough to let it dry.

So now I know. My plan is to redo this drawing in 2017. Make it much larger and buy several colored India ink markers to do the stained glass. Or….just buy colored ink and let it run as it pleases.

That’s a very exciting thought.

Hmmm….

I’ve got time to figure that out. Either way, I’ve learned something about myself as an artist. There are times when I love going with the flow, but there are also times when I need to control the flow. Figuring all that out is all apart of the process.

I think that’s similar to life too, isn’t it? There are times when we can go with the current, times when we want to go with the current but can’t, times when we want to fight against the current but shouldn’t, and times when we must fight against the current.

Do we go with the flow or control the flow?  How do you know when to do what?

Accepting the Process

Instant gratification is not enough for me. I want instant perfection.

As a late bloomer, I struggle with the need to “arrive”. When some of my gifts did start to unfold, a need to make up for lost time drove me to succeed. I had to be the best at art, theatre, writing, anything and everything that I put my mind to. The goal: gain perfection in at least one, if not several areas, to hide the shame of being “slow”, “uneducated”, “academically backwards”, etc.

(This is apart of my “Superwoman” complex.)

One of the great frustrations of my life is that blooming is a process not a single event. That should be a comfort to me. We aren’t limited to one blossom opening up and adding to beauty! We grow, and change, and impact the world in different ways at different times all throughout our lives. The fact that rose bushes put out multiple buds, all opening and fading as they will, is a wonderful way to look at ourselves or others.

We have never arrived. We are never beyond hope.

And yet.

And yet, I often get weary of the blooming process. I don’t want to have to struggle for excellence.

I’m tired of having fought so hard for simple things like being able to tell the difference between  P’s and B’s and understanding basic rules of grammar. I am at a loss to understand how sometimes I am able to draw and the next time I pick up the pencil I have forgotten all about the art. Fighting the same sins of self-righteousness, selfishness, and addiction gets discouraging, even in the midst of gaining ground, because it isn’t enough ground, it isn’t gained fast enough.

Maybe you can relate.

The area that has been causing me most frustration at the moment is the area of drawing. Back in 2008 when I took “Drawing II” at NCC with my wonderful Professor Isadore LaDuca gave me feedback about my work. He said many encouraging things, but one thing he noted was that I would seemingly at random produce projects of great caliber and great disaster. For whatever reason my skill was not consistent.

It still isn’t, though I am less likely to draw flops as I was back in 2008. But they still happen. Here are some embarrassing examples.

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This was my second attempt at the cover for my sister’s children book that I am illustrating. The first attempt was worse. There are sections of this drawing I love, but for some reason, I was not able to draw their faces, even though I had just recently completed a good portrait of a dear friend of mine in pastel.

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This is an in progress shot of my current illustration for my sister’s book. The faces are better, but still there are perspective issues, and I drew the grid marks too dark to be able to erase them. Photoshop can fix that when I go to put the book together for publication, but it infuriates me that after ten years of seriously studying art, I cannot draw a grid correctly!

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Here is my second attempt at an illustration cover for my grandfather’s commentary on Galatians. I gave up once the woman’s face was beyond saving.

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This is much better but still flawed.

Artistically, this year has been difficult. I created a greater amount of work that were more technically proficient last year when I was still recovering from an injury that almost severed my drawing hand. It’s not that I haven’t accomplished any good drawings this year, but it hasn’t been as effortless.

Why is this year harder? Who knows? But I’ve learned something over the past 11 months of trying to draw.

Even though my work isn’t attaining the instant perfection that I desire, the process of failing and trying again is valuable.

In the illustration for my grandfather, I learned that while I can come up with a concept and a sketch in my mind for an illustration, I need real faces, tress, clothing, etc., to reference for the actual drawing.

My current illustration project has taught me that I have to be more careful about drawing the grid lines.

To be honest, I don’t know what I learned from the two failed covers, but I know the practice drawing will not be wasted.

Instant perfection would be gratifying, but I would learn little if the skills were uploaded into my brain like the Matrix. So while I’m not thrilled or proud of my failures, I am trying to accept the process.

What about you? What are some areas that you are trying to improve? Does the process discourage or encourage you?