Take a look at the previous part of this series.
So… what did I learn?
Through marker smudges, many frustrations and waiting for literal ink to dry, I thought my main lesson would be from my environment, but instead was an observation of myself.
My first lesson was just that: completion is best. I could have spent way more than the initial 20 minutes per page to continue editing. But that’s the trap I needed to avoid. The rules I set up at the start of this project acted like a bumper rail to keep me from falling into my old habits of not finishing an illustration.
Keeping completion in mind, I realized that some of my favorite illustrations are the ones I didn’t spend much time on. Instead of stressing out over the shape of a tomato (seriously, I found myself asking: “Does this look tomato-y enough?”), I just drew a circle-like object and got on with the prompt. Reminding me that perfection is boring.
Imperfection brought out so much more personality than I anticipated. Because I predominately work in digital, I’m used to everything being pixel perfect and that has blinded me from the benefits of imperfection. I’ve spent so much of my design career focused on every single teeny tiny detail. While that is applicable in some areas, that level of obsession has leaked into more areas than I’d like to admit. So when this project first started, I had to face that fear of failure to produce perfect work.
The whole point of this project was to revert back to the mindset of being a student; always learning and trying new things. I had to work through my personal standard of being a top-notch professional. I kept trying to make the best sketches known to man. I was continually asking, “How could I make it better?” “Is this clever enough?” or ”Is it aesthetic enough?” All these doubts culminated in my final lesson: give yourself some grace, buddy. Learning is a judgment-free zone.
My takeaway is to look at life with curiosity, practice with the intention of learning and forget about mastery. The notion of mastery can be confining. Remaining a student keeps the sense of passion and wonder alive. When practice is a part of your routine, and it comes time to make that masterpiece, you’re ready with new tactics you’ve been waiting to show off.