I’ve always been a creative at heart.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite match up with my impatience. When I pick up my Apple pencil I’m usually fuming with myself within the first five minutes.
I twiddle my thumbs, endlessly scroll through Dribbble barely containing my envy for these other great designers. How come it’s so easy for them but not for me? I then get over myself and start drawing something. Eventually anyway.
Quite the feat then that I’ve managed to create 125 header images for this blog. I’m surprised I managed to get over myself 125 times in the last few years. 😂
And honestly, I think the majority of them are trash. But I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. Plus, trash can sometimes be recycled right?
I’ve always flirted with becoming a “creative”. I’ve pretty much tried all of the typical creative paths although not seriously enough to get good.
As a teenager I’d dabble with Photoshop making some dreadful banners with 3D text, clashing colours, and cringeworthy captions for my forum signature. I’d offer to make some for others although unsurprisingly the demand wasn’t all too high.
I considered taking up the art course at secondary school but was put off when a classmate pointed at my drawing of a bird and said it looked “like a cat threw up on the page“. We weren’t great friends after that.
At university I tried my hand photography a few times too. I started an online photography course, got involved in the university photography club, subscribed to photography magazines, went on photography walking tours in New York and London.
I was fully invested in being great at photography, until I wasn’t.
As you can see, I gave up on a lot of things. But something that I’ve carried on doing is blog post header images. I guess it’s a creative outlet of sorts for me.
Coding is too but it’s different. You’re restricted by the language you can use and the limitations of hardware. With drawing you can do anything you want—which is also why I find it so damn frustrating.
Switching up tools along the way
Over the years my style has changed based on what I think looks good and the hardware/software I use.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post of mine (wow, its been a long time since I wrote something on here) I used to create pixel art. Having played a lot of Habbo Hotel I managed to get good at creating isometric art, creating fake pixel furniture, character, even cities.
When Sketch came out in 2010 I found it the perfect tool to create vector drawings. I was inspired by the Help Scout drawings of late with their thick borders, colorful scenes, and charming character.
When the iPad came out with the Apple Pencil I was skeptical. Having used iPads with third part styluses in the past I wasn’t convinced it would transfer well onto the page.
It was far too expensive for me and I travel a lot so every little thing in my bag adds weight. So I held off on buying it for the first few years.
Around Christmas time last year I finally caved in after a new iPad was released with a snazzy looking pencil. Maybe it was the New York Christmas spirit that convinced me or just Jake, my spouse, encouraging me that my work was good enough.
With Jake in tow we raced out the hotel down Lexington Avenue in the pouring rain, shuffling between New Yorkers, towards Grand Central.
Since then I’ve been drawing with the iPad and the wonderful Procreate app with no regrets of that hefty purchase.
I’ve drawn Rabbits, Geese, Pelicans, a few Hummingbirds, a lot of flowers. Chickens, Kangaroos, and more Penguins than I care to admit.
Learning to let go and flow
One of the hardest things I've found is letting myself find my own style.
It's easier to replicate another artist's work than come up with something unique. At the same time, I believe you can create your own style by trying new things based on other styles and blend them together.
One of my all-time favourite artists is Maggie Enterrios (aka Little Patterns). As soon as I saw her work I was in awe. The detailing in the flowers and the way she incorporates animals into the scenes, I really dig it.
I found myself heading to her portfolio every time I started a new piece for inspriation. That lead me to comparing my work with theirs and it just made me feel, well, pretty crappy about myself.
I realized that I shouldn't compare my work with theirs, I should take inspiration from it and use that to fuel my own designs. Go with the flow of sorts.
Since then I've kinda let my hand do the talking. When I sketch something new I tend to outline an image I find on Google, fill in some important details, and then kinda just make some patterns inside.
I then add some human-like features if I'm drawing an animal.
This has lead to some pretty cool looking animals, like my Chrome Goose and Linda the rabbit.
Am I cheating?
As I said I tend to paste an image and sketch over the picture. I really struggle drawing from scratch. That made me beg the question—am I cheating by doing that?
If art is something unique, then I probably am. But by not copying every little detail and making it my own maybe I'm not.
When I see other artists just draw something from their head I feel a little down about my work.
While I do suspect they tend to cut out the bit where they're referencing an image, they still seem to have some sort of natural ability to draw without tracing.
This is something I hope to improve in the future. I've started making an effort towards it, I drew the image for this post while referencing but not tracing a fortune cookie.
From what I've read every artist seems to hate their work. It's either not ambitious enough, detailed enough, or just plain wrong feeling.
I've found myself wanting to out-do my last piece. It wasn't good enough therefore I shall spend more time getting this one right. This one will be the one.
But when there's a ton of other things to do I found myself spending far too much time creating the images. I was looking for perfection but I realized it wasn't coming.
After a chat with Jake we both agreed to try and cut down the time spent on each image. Find a style that was less detailed so they could be done within an hour or two rather than three or four.
I feel like I'm getting there but still have some work to do to cut down the time I spend scrolling through inspiration and actually putting my pencil down on the tablet screen.
126 and beyond
When I started writing this post I had no idea I'd learned so much from drawing. The importance of constraints, self-reflection, and not being too harsh on yourself are good lessons I hope to use in other aspects of my job.
So here's to my 125 drawings and to many more. 🥂