June 9, 2015. That’s when it all began for me. Most of you know the story, but for the newer readers of Artistcoveries, I’ll quickly tell it again.
Seven years ago “grown-up” coloring books were just beginning to hit the market. As a child, I’d never been artistic — I couldn’t draw, I was clumsy, awkward, unable to successfully do any sort of “arts and crafts” project, but I could color. Maybe not very well, but I loved colors and had a high degree of color acuity.
So, seven years ago I ordered a coloring book from Amazon. Here is one picture I tried to share on Facebook, but I wasn’t having much luck getting good photos.
The problem I ran into when I got this coloring book — by the way, it’s Creative Cats — is that I had no idea what to use for coloring. Obviously “crayons” were out of the question because of all the fine lines and tiny spaces in these drawings. So, if not crayons, then what?
Colored pencils, of course. I went to Walmart, bought a cheap set, and started coloring. But I wasn’t happy with the results. I tried markers. Nope. They bled through the pages, and most of the markers were still too thick-tipped for doing any delicate work.
Next, I learned about gel pens, and I thought I’d found the answer. I bought a lot of gel pens, and for a few weeks I had fun sitting down each morning and coloring. Here’s one picture I completed.
Needless to say, I quickly got “hooked” on coloring. It was the first time in my life that I’d ever felt at all like an “artist”. These coloring book pages, you see, were truly the first sort of “art project” where I’d had any success at all. So, yes, I loved my coloring books. Before long, I’d ordered a few other coloring books, too, ones with various designs and patterns.
I was having a wonderful time… until one day I saw a coloring page done by a “real artist”. Oh, my goodness! What differences I saw between her work and mine. She used shading. She made various embellishments. She blended colors. I nearly cried to realize that even with something as simple as a coloring book, I still was a failure. The truth was plain. I was not an artist and no, I never would be.
But maybe I could learn a few things. Maybe I could figure out how to do a little shading, how to add a few embellishments, how to work with blending colors. Indeed, I found instructions online on how to do all of those things, but guess what! I couldn’t do them with my gel pens.
As I read more about coloring, I heard over and over again about Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. I’d seen a small pack at Walmart, but the price was ridiculous! No way was I paying that much for colored pencils. Seriously, colored pencils are… colored pencils, right? I mean, there can’t possibly be that much difference between one colored pencil and another. Yep, I was that clueless.
I felt silly paying $12.00 for a few pencils. I forked over the money, went home, grabbed my coloring book and took out a red Prismacolor Premier. Oh my goodness! The difference between that pencil and my cheap ones was astonishing. I put the pencil down, rushed to my computer, got on Amazon and immediately ordered a full 150-pencil set of the Prismacolor Premiers. I absolutely had to have them.
They arrived later the same day. June 9, 2015. That date is firmly etched in my mind, and I will never forget the moment when I opened that box of Prismacolor Premiers and stood gasping at the beautiful display of colors.
I had never seen anything so beautiful! But… wait! These were artist-quality colored pencils, the same type of pencils that real artists use to create real art. I wasn’t an artist, and how crazy was it to buy a complete set of these gorgeous pencils to use on a coloring book!
This part of the story is hard to explain. It wasn’t the cost. I could afford the pencils. It was just a feeling that I didn’t have the right to own pencils like this. These were artists’ pencils. The only way I could justify having them was if I became an artist.
Back then, “being an artist” in my mind meant only one thing — having the ability to draw. I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath, and uttered those fateful words: “I guess I have to learn to draw.”
My next purchase was a book by Kate Berry — Drawing Lessons for Beginner Artists. I chose that book after looking at several. This book begins with “How to Draw a Straight Line”, and that seemed to be about my level.
For about two weeks, I kept my drawing lessons a secret. All my life I’d been told that I had no artistic ability. People would only laugh if they knew what I was doing. That’s what I thought.
As it turned out, no one laughed. I shared a page in my sketchbook with my husband and he encouraged me. Gradually I began sharing my drawings with family and then with friends. Now and then I bravely posted a drawing on Facebook.
Now, seven years later, here I am, sitting in my own art studio, surrounded by drawings and paintings I’ve done. I’ve joined art clubs. I’ve been invited to show my work in galleries and in art shows. I’ve even won a few ribbons.
I still have so much to learn, especially with drawing. I’ve learned over the years that there’s a lot more to art than the ability to draw, but drawing is very much a foundational skill. I’m doing a little drawing every day. I’m making progress. And I love looking back at that first sketchbook, seeing my very first attempts at drawing different shapes and forms. Oh, yes, I’ve made a lot of progress.
It’s been a long, slow process for me. I don’t think drawing will every be easy, nor will it ever come naturally to me. But it’s much easier now than it once was. It’s more relaxing. And I’m learning to appreciate my efforts and not focus always on results.
After seven years of learning and practice, I can’t yet say “Yes, I’ve learned to draw,” but I can say, “I am learning, and I am getting better every day.”