A Drawing a Month

When I was a teenager, I started pursuing art as a means to show people what my characters looked like. There’s only so much you can do with words; at the end of the day, a glance at an image is always better to show people what’s in your head.

It’s not often, though, that an image looks anything like what was in my head when I started.

For a long time, I thought art was something I could do seriously. Maybe as a commission artist, maybe doing comics, maybe teaching. I pursued visual arts in college, but it was never my first passion. It was just one hobby of many, and truthfully, I’ve never thought myself great at it. I’ve drawn things I was proud of, obviously, but it’s not the same as getting something out onto paper and having it be just exactly what you wanted.

When I became a parent, my free time evaporated. I found myself forced to pick just one thing to work on each night, and sometimes I was too tired to work at all. So, like with any skill, my ability with art has atrophied over the years. I’d like to improve again, which is why one of my goals for the new year was to pick up the pencil again. I decided to start small: if I could find time to do one drawing each month, I’d be happy.

I did two in January. One was a quick and rough digital painting of Sera, a character from Serpent’s Wake. The other was a cover for one of Megan Cutler’s upcoming books.

For February, I did a character portrait, then  decided to work on a commission I should have finished a long time ago; hopefully that will be what I finish this month. My inability to be satisfied with my art is exactly why I shouldn’t take commissions, really–because someone paid me for it, I want it to be absolutely perfect. But the problem with that is it’ll never be perfect, and it’ll never be the best I can do, because the longer I practice, the better I get. And by the time I go back and repaint the parts that I can do better now, I’d be better at other things, creating a vicious cycle that’s impossible to escape.

Sometimes, you have to learn when to stop. This is something I’ve learned through writing, especially; I could edit something a hundred times and it would be better with each pass, but nobody would ever see it, because it would never be done. It’s okay for something to be imperfect, as long as you’re willing to mark it complete. Even if you know you can do better, even if you feel like you should do more, it’s important to learn when to stop.

So that’s something I’ve tried to apply to art. I can pick at it forever and not finish and never be happy, or I can move on and call it done and be able to move to the next project. The latter is certainly more appealing, and gives me a lot more content to work with, too. Sometimes enthusiasm wanes after starting a project, too, both with art and writing. Perseverance is great, and it’s necessary for things like finishing a novel, but at some point the number of leaves I draw in the background of an image simply won’t matter.

I’ve had trouble deciding whether or not I should add sketches to my gallery here, and also whether or not I should show art done for the second and third books in my trilogy. I think I will, but selectively, since I don’t want to give any spoilers by mistake. And if I draw one or two a month, I might have portraits for the entire cast by the time the first book makes it off my writing table and out into the world. They won’t be perfect, but they’ll be practice. If nothing else, practice makes perfect, right?

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