Getting Back Into The Swing For Spring

I will be the first to admit, I have gotten out of the habit of drawing. It all started with the end of the school year at the end of March, when my life got so busy I was lucky to get a few hours of sleep every night. Then my parents came to visit me for two weeks and we went on a whirlwind tour of Honshu– which added up to about a month where I was doing no art at all. From everything I learned in college, THAT IS TERRIBLE. YOU SHOULD NEVER STOP DRAWING.

draw draw
ah, art college

But it happens. Since I graduated from college four hundred years ago, it happens to me often, because sometimes, and God do I hate this cliche, but “life happens.” You know what? No. I hate that saying so much because it implies that life stops happening at some point. Life is happening always! Like if your life has stopped, then panic because you aren’t living anymore! A better saying is “other things in your life had a bigger priority” which is more to the point, isn’t it? My bigger priority was getting my apartment ready for summer (because in Japan there is no spring, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), trying to get myself in the habit of making bento everyday for work (which has been an interesting exercise in trial and error I am starting to regret– but it’s been better for my waist and my wallet), and trying to catch up on the sleep I’ve been missing out on because of the other two factors (SO MUCH SLEEP). There may have also been a time slump of getting over homesickness all over again after seeing my parents, but the less time I dwell on that, the better!


So for the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to get back on the track that I had set for myself at the beginning of the year. I won’t lie– the hardest part was getting motivated. Having the iPad has helped, because whenever I have downtime at work and my eyes have gone cross-eyed from this week’s chapter of kanji, I can flip open the iPad and sketch for a little bit to just get my mind back to a peaceful place, and to get it back into gear. It also prevents me from going into Hulk-smash mode when the silence of a room full of people pretending I don’t exist breaks me.

My weekdays are pretty packed with classes. I wake up around 6, leave the apartment no later than 7, go to work and and am back home around 5:30. And then I have to make dinner, do house chores (why don’t dishes do themselves?) and find some brief moment when I can sit and breathe. Some of my co-workers play video games AND study Japanese AND play music. I don’t know how they find the freaking time (but then again, when they come to my apartment, they are shocked with how clean it is *smug grin*– and they are always impressed when I tell them what’s on my plate currently).

This week I have started drawing every night before bed, whether I want to or not, for an hour. Why force it? Because a) I take what I can get when it comes to drawing time b) after the first few minutes of hating myself (and staring at that dreaded blank screen), I actually start to get productive and get things done and usually end up working more than an hour.

And isn’t that the idea of successfully working as an artist? You aren’t always going to want to draw. There will be days the last thing you want is to even see a pencil. But if you don’t work on it, who will? I have yet to find the trained monkeys who can draw and ink in my style. Alas. I have been searching since college.

Fears and Trepidations

Looking at a blank page can be intimidating, be it on the computer or on your desk. It signifies a new beginning, but also means that you are starting from 0. A blank page can strike terror into even the strongest of warriors. Every week when I sit down to start working on this blog, I usually stare at the blinking cursor for about five minutes when I realize that the entry is not going to write itself. But it still takes about another ten minutes and a cup of tea for me to realize that no, really I have to write this now because there are no writing fairies.

It’s even worse when I am working on a digital drawing.

I will freely admit that 100% digital illustration, from start to finish, is not my strongest suit. But while in Japan, I’m trying to cut art costs so I can have, you know, money for food. There’s also the concern of storage, that I don’t have, for paper; as well as scanning large paper, which I also can’t do unless I invest in a large scanner which seems silly if I am only staying for a short time. Working digitally seems the best choice to avoid spending hundreds, even thousands, trying to recreate the studio I have made for myself at home after several years of saving and buying a piece at a time. So I made it my goal at the end of last year to become more comfortable with doing everything digitally, which was a huge 180 from what I had been doing in the States, as I was trying to distance myself from digital as much as possible. Why? Because I am a perfectionist, and in the world of digital art, there is no end in sight when working on “perfecting” a piece. In traditional mediums, especially the ones I work in, there are happy accidents, when the medium does something that you didn’t intend, but took the piece in another direction that ended up being for the better. It happens rarely in digital when you can undo everything at the click of the button.

There was also the fact that I could not, no matter how hard I tried, create a piece from start to finish on the computer. My hand to eye coordination was not good enough to be separated by my tablet (I work on a WACOM Intous 3). While I have been working digitally for more than 10 years, I always started on paper. A sketch, inks, what have you, scanned, and then brought into a program where I would then color it. Digital was always the final step. There might be a line fix here and there, but anything more was asking too much of my patience.

as evidenced in this comic

At school we worked on Cintiq tablets, which finally help me see a viable way to go 100% digital, but until I win that lottery, I can’t throw down $2000 for it (and believe me I really wish I could). I broke new ground last year when I edited the Avengers movie poster to have correct proportions, which was mostly just photo editing, but because just about everyone had been made smaller, I had to draw in details that would have been otherwise covered, all of which I did digitally.

Once I was settled in Japan, I decided to try the 30 day art challenge 100% on my tablet in an attempt to force myself to become confident in drawing on it from start to finish. It took 20 days for me to get used to it. Yeah it really took me that long. And I didn’t like anything I did until the last few days…

Now it’s not so bad. The last few illustrations I’ve done have been 100% digital. I’m still taking much longer than I would with pen and paper, but I’m at least not hating what I’m producing.

BUT that beginning blank screen is STILL the worst. I’ll play with settings for about 10 minutes, play with the color wheel, adjust the zoom, get up and make some kind of snack, sit, get back up and get something to drink, play with my music selection, ad naseum until I finally scold myself and once again remind myself that magic art elves won’t appear and draw whatever I need them to (but how great it would be if it were true!)

What is it about the digital blank screen that sparks terror into my soul? I don’t near have as much problem with a blank page in my hands. I usually start doodling right away, even if what I am working on is crap, my hand is moving and creating. I’m more comfortable that way. But waiting for the gap to close between real paper and digital paper has been a frustrating one. I can’t just play digitally yet. I look through other digital artists and see that a good majority of their works are sketches, doodles and experimenting all digitally and I am awed. When I grab my stylus, I’m prepped for battle with my computer and tablet. I can’t just play. And I’m wondering how to make this turn, to get it so I will be comfortable enough to just doodle and sketch digitally, or if it will forever be the final perfection step for me.