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Soapbox 4: Drawing is an Integral Part of Who I Am

June 23, 2015

When I was very young, I wanted to be a vet. I really loved animals and working with animals seemed like a great thing to do. I grew older and realized that I did not love the medical aspects of being a vet and gave up on that dream. Still being young, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I drew things almost every day and loved the whole process. I also wanted to see how others would respond to my art, so I put them up on DeviantArt and Fanart Central. I started participating in the forums and volunteering for art requests there, generally from young people who wanted to see their original characters (ocs) come to life. I was happy.

Unfortunately, I began to learn that the way my art was designed was simply not popular. When people younger and obviously less skilled had many comments on their art, I would be left with none.  At the same time, I was nowhere near the epic or savant status art that I saw from people I perceived as younger with the same experience as I. It was not just online that I saw this.

In middle school, we had a class on sea creatures and their natural defenses. I chose to do my picture on camouflage, so I drew a semi-realistic picture that showed a fish that blended in with the background, but was still obviously there if you looked for it. The teacher decided to make it a competition that she would judge. I was very pleased with my work and was positive that the extra effort I put into the piece would be recognized. Instead, a very, very cartoony picture of a fish won. I felt cheated. I felt the picture that won was the one that the teacher just liked the most and not the one that represented the competition’s purposes.

Even with that disappointment, I kept drawing and getting better with every pencil stroke. I kept putting my art out there. My friends would tell me that my work was beautiful and skilled, but then I would turn around and see that I was nowhere near my dream of being an artist.

One effort I did was looking into joining an art program for college. Unfortunately, I had realized by this point that art is a popularity contest and that I am never the popular kid, so I stopped. The amount of art I have created since graduating high school is laughable compared to what I did before. I put it aside as a casual hobby that I could pick up when I had time. As life moved on, I had less and less time to dedicate to it until it became something I just did not think of as a pastime anymore.

The last ditch effort I did was take a commission from a friend. He wanted me to draw characters from a novel he was writing. The agreement was that if he wanted to use the art or liked it enough, he would pay me for it. I drew some things for him and he loved it. He said it even changed his perspectives on some of his characters, but it was not enough. He backed out of the project, leaving me feeling betrayed by my own friends. If my friends wouldn’t even buy my art, who would ever? I put down my pencil and worked on other artistic endeavors, burying the desire to draw under the desire for other forms of art.

Recently, I have moved to an office where they allow me to draw on the windows with dry erase markers. It makes me happy to see designs splattering the large glass walls. It gives my corner of the office a little bit of personality. However, it has also drudged up my past insecurities that I haven’t had to deal with since college. If I draw a new piece and no one comments on it in a few weeks, I wonder if it isn’t making those around me happy and I want to erase it. Perhaps they even find it a distraction or ugly. Maybe I shouldn’t draw things others don’t want, even if they don’t say they don’t want it.

Through all of this murky swamp of insecurities, I realized that underneath the mud of disappointment is still a desire to be an artist for a living. I want to draw. I want to be paid for my efforts, so I can make a living off of it. Above all, I want those around me to be happier because of my art.

I will never be famous. I will never be popular. I will never have the skill to effortlessly pump out art that makes people look on in awe. Those things are not meant to be and so I could never earn a living on art. I cannot spend the time and effort art takes from me, but I still want to draw. This is a desire that I wish I could rebury, but I can’t. Art is as much a part of me as breathing. I can only ignore the hungering desire for so long before I am dragged back down into the insecure pit of longing.

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