Monday, April 27, 2015

ambitions and practice

When you want to learn something that seems mostly impossible and at best, barely attainable, it is quite easy to be discouraged at every turn if you know where to look. And I know where to look.

Sometime after I became a mom I realized that I wanted to know how to draw and help my kids know how to draw. I bought a book and tried my hand for several weeks and then another hobby, interest or baby took my attention away from my goals and my efforts.
I kept my notebooks and supplies close at hand, which succeeded in both making it easy to keep trying and also in mocking me as they stood there panhandling for dust.
But I also began to work to turn my discouragement over my lack of ability into inspiration by creating spaces where I could keep track of drawings and illustrations that inspired and delighted me. I came to understand that artistic talent can be learned, and that while many wonderful artists, illustrators, and doodlers are born with a natural ability that wows and cheers us, there are many aspects of drawing, painting and lettering that can develop from genuine practice and perseverance.

And so I putter.  I follow directions. I study images. I notice how the mind can be tricked into seeing complex shapes by simple lines and shadows. I give myself time to practice, to play, and definitely to scowl and frown at my work.

My children wander by and stand over my work and ask, "Did you draw that, Mommy?". 
Yes, for better or for worse, I did. 
They are always impressed and sometimes I feel quite embarrassed by their accolades because it's not very good work. 
But then again, that's the wonder of children that we seek to keep alive and nurture. Build walls around their wonder to protect it is how Dr. Christopher Perrin phrased it in his talk last year on Chesterton.

To look at those letters that form April and see my first attempt to letter with a paint brush is a bit astounding. My cursive handwriting is not very pretty so I quailed at the thought of trying it with a paint brush, but the brush bent in such a way, I simply followed it's graceful swoop. And then before I knew it, I had made it to the end and I simply exhaled, slightly giddy over the attempt. How could I have made that? I still wonder, but I know it was the delicate brush that made it possible.

So let me encourage you to persevere in your noble goals and dreams. I consider myself to be the least likely to draw or paint anything(trust me) and if I can produce anything even remotely recognizable, surely you can too in whatever area seems impossible to you right now, whether it be in music, fine art, handwork or under-water basket weaving. Sorry, old high school joke.

And when you find yourself making a fern stem that looks more like a walking stick, you can always mix up some browns and turn it into a log, bursting into bloom. Perhaps it will look nothing like any species found in your guide book, but surely Tolkien's Middle Earth had at least one growing next to a giant walking tree. And then perhaps everyone in the shire will want one.


  1. So proud of you! The older I get, the more I long to paint, and to paint WELL. I know that can come through observing, practice, and time. (I am waiting for a Michael's coupon so I can go get some *real* watercolors rather than use the kids' little sets. ;)) And all the flowers and plants this time of year are so inspiring, aren't they? Happy painting! :)

    1. Stacy, anything you do will be fantastic. Your journal pages are always amazing and inspiring. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. Love this peek into your journey toward something you love to do. :)

  3. Anonymous7:43 PM

    a great post heather! thank you for sharing and encouraging .. I especially appreciate the finding ways to creatively cover up mistakes part
    love lia


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