The drawing on the left was so close to being crumpled and thrown in the garbage. I look at it now and can proudly see it for what it is and am grateful for what I learned.
Let me explain.
My drawings follow a predictable pattern. I start out with a light sketch to get the proportions right (I have a very well worn eraser – smile). When I think I have it, I pick one area (i.e. the child’s shorts) and start to fill, shade and smudge until it starts to take shape. Then I move on to another small area.
But then I hit the same wall, almost every time. Maybe it’s a trick of the eye that causes the elements I am working on to jump out compared to the unfinished areas, but I inevitably look at it and say “This is all wrong, it is not going to turn out”.
At this point I am tempted to crumple it up and start over. And it’s not a wee-temptation: it’s a sit-on-your-hands-so-you-don’t-do-it temptation. But I grit my teeth and tell myself “Keep going. If you don’t like it when it is finished, you can throw it out, but not now.”
And when I continue to grit my way through (often until my teeth hurt), it suddenly starts to take shape and I get a “Maybe this will turn out” moment. I start to have fun again and as I finish more and more, I may even move to “Wow, I think I’m going to like this.”
Then wham! I get stuck on another element (i.e. foot) that does not want to come together. I smudge, erase, shade, erase some more. No matter what I do, I just cannot get it to look right. I get so focused on the one area, that all I see is what I do not like about it and start to think “This part is awful.”
I put in a few more smudges, a swipe of an eraser to highlight and say,“Good enough.” But then I stand up, step back, and look at how all the pieces come together and I am surprised. Each and every time, when I look at it as a whole, I am hit with a “Wow, I like this” (or even a “Wow, I did this?!?”).
How easy it would have been to crumple up the paper and stop, with a “This isn’t working.” The so-called evidence was right in front of me that the drawing was not turning out. So why not stop, put it aside and try something different: something that I might be “better” at doing?
But if I had crumpled it up before I had put enough work into it, I never would have seen how the picture DID come together. If I had not torn my focus away from the part of it that did not look right, I would not have seen how the one “flaw” faded away when I looked at the whole picture.
It still amazes me how I can look at a finished drawing and can have too different reactions, depending on what I am looking at. I can see the beauty of the whole or I can zero in on the one part I don’t like and suddenly that is all I see.
So much like life is it not? Shifting our focus when all we can see is what is not working. Persevering when it feels like all work and no results (or not the results we want). Finding that “something” during the mucky middle, to be able to keep going so we can find our perspective again and see the whole picture. Shutting out the “I can’t” voice and continuing to take one step after another until we can proudly say, “I did that.”
“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James
“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent Van Gogh
“When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take a step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.” ― Patrick Overton
“Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.” — Unknown
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” — Douglas Adams
PS: To my writing friends out there, I had an “Ah-ha” moment when I realized this process with my drawing was so much like my experience with writing (but with my writing I was crumpling). I am now seeing my first draft through much kinder, more patient eyes. Now, when that critical voice says “this sucks” there is a stronger voice that says,“It’s a first draft, just get the story down.”