"How hard could it be to draw a dragonfly?" I asked myself as I pondered what the pages in my recycled bookbinding challenge project needed to complete them. Part of me says, "Keep looking for ready-made dragonflies to cut out and past in place," while another part of me is kinda tired of that hunt. And so with brush pen in hand and eye on some printed examples, I gave it a go, filling in the wings with a metallic gel pen. Hmmm, not terrible, but I still don't have the hang of controlling that kind of pen.
Did I really think my first try would be perfect? Yes and no. Realistically, if I have not drawn one before, I couldn't expect perfection right out of the box, but in one's dreams, it just happens, beautiful and exactly what one has in mind. After all, I've been upping my sketching game over the last few years. Imagine it and it will flow magically out your pen. Well, not always. Sometimes one really does need to practice. And try different pens, and different colors and different sizes. And note where the trouble lies that keeps one from the image one desires. For instance, I was reminded of how hard I've always found it to draw mirror images. Right side great. Left side wonky and certainly not a mirror when compared.
I've never liked to practice, starting from age 4 or 5 when I bribed my mother into teaching me how to play the piano. Practice scales and fingering? How boring! I want to learn by playing songs I recognize. I wasn't much better when I got old enough to join band. I'll practice while we play in class. This became a recurring theme as I tried other things, including crafts and quilting. I became relatively good at all sorts of things, but perhaps only gained the level of expertise I have in the quilting realm, not because I practiced a lot before diving in but more because of the hours I put in making things. I practiced on "the real thing" and moved on to the next. (The exception to that might be hand and machine quilting - I have the samples to prove it.) There have always been too many things to do and make to "waste" time on practicing! Well, age has brought a bit of wisdom about all this, and I shall be practicing more dragonflies to get comfortable with shapes before adding any to my pages.
So with these thoughts in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed Austin Kleon's recent post, A Willingness To Be Bad. It starts with this quotation:
“It isn’t so much that geniuses make it look easy; it’s that they make it look it fast.”
—Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments
And then continues with a section from a 2010 piece by David Wong called “How The Karate Kid Ruined The Modern World” where Wong laments how movies with training montages give us a skewed vision of how hard it actually is to get good at things:
"Every adult I know — or at least the ones who are depressed — continually suffers from something like sticker shock (that is, when you go shopping for something for the first time and are shocked to find it costs way, way more than you thought). Only it’s with effort. It’s Effort Shock.
We have a vague idea in our head of the “price” of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.
Accomplishing worthwhile things isn’t just a little harder than people think; it’s 10 or 20 times harder."
I just loved reading that, and truth be told, it is what made me ok with my dragonfly practicing. As Austin says, "the switch towards taking on a practice and discipline is admitting to yourself that you suck and you want to get better." And as a friend of his said about taking up drum lessons again, " he’d forgotten the joy of the practice –> suck a little less –> practice –> suck a little less loop." Oh, wouldn't we all like to suck a little less?
To wrap it up and point back to the title of the post, he quotes part of an interview with actor Jason Segel where he talked about his willingness to be bad for as long as it takes. Now there's a thought. Do pop over to the post and read the elaboration of that attitude as well as other Kleon observations. And perhaps be inspired by this checklist of how to cultivate that willingness to be bad, found in Austin's book, Steal Like An Artist. Inktober starts tomorrow. What better way to start practicing to suck a little less!