This past weekend I ran away to the mountains for a little mini-vacation at my friend's beautiful home. Above is the view from her balcony at sunset; aren't those pinks and purples just divine? I often wish my camera could see things the same way my eyes do...frame things as I experience them.
Prescott is about a two hour drive from where I live, and I relished in the opportunity to take my new-to-me car on a little road trip. I loaded Spotify up with music, grabbed a couple snacks, and headed north. Little did I know a small lesson I'd been reaching for would explode in a moment of absolute clarity.
Just look at me, all happy to be out in the desert! It's not all cacti and tumbleweeds, at least not here in central Arizona!
Allow me to give a bit of back story. One of the biggest blocks I've had as of late is to make really bad sketches in my journal. You'd think that would be easy, letting go of perfection and making a mess. And usually I'm right there with you. But ever since I started taking proper care of myself, I've found myself unusually apprehensive when I'd sit down to sketch or doodle. As in, I wouldn't.
In a moment of Ah-ha! I decided to write this is a safe space to make mistakes in red colored pencil across the top of a page. I needed that little reminder so I could get back to doing what I love.
Except it kinda didn't work. I dove into word art and launched Inspiration Ink and decided that maybe I should play with words for awhile. They were safe. Easier. And fun. They had me staying up late and dreaming of new ideas.
But I wasn't drawing. And I started becoming full of characters just begging to be let out onto that scary white page.
One night, frustrated, I took out my silver marker and wrote this same phrase on the cover of my journal. Shouldn't an art journal be safe? Shouldn't we fill pages and pages with practice and mistakes and bad art?
Fast forward to my little trip. I stayed with an awesome, beautiful, amazing friend who I hadn't seen in at least a year. We got to chatting like no time had passed, and I found myself able to relax and, yes, indulge in some bad TV. I felt like I could stop trying to keep such a tight hold on myself. It was like I could breathe again. Here was something familiar in a time when I've started letting go of the past.
So I took my art supplies out onto the balcony with its beautiful view and got to coloring.
I did a little coloring in my Moleskine (and I'll share that spread next post!) and then grabbed my big sketchbook and Copic markers and started coloring a rough sketch I'd made a week before.
And then I did something we all dread: I messed it up.
(You can see the original message on this page!)
I posted this to Instagram and many people were puzzled -- how is this messed up? they asked.
I didn't blend the hair right. The nose is way too thin. I used the wrong colors for shading. Her neck is a disaster.
I heard all this in my head. And then I heard this:
She still has stuff to teach you.
Even though I'd messed up. Even though I hated parts of it. I could either scribble over it and be upset, or I could keep going and learn from what I did next. Sure a few things were messed up, but that just meant I could let myself go and figure out her ears. Or eyes. Or lips. Or maybe I could try shading some more?
I did note I loved her lips and eyes.
Yes, I feel most proud of her lips. I tried some new things, there, and was happy to see they worked out.
So I kept going. Tried different shading ideas out. Added some more depth to the features I liked. Sure, she isn't polished and perfect like some of the stuff we see on social media, but in messing up and choosing to keep going, I was able to get past a huge block & rediscover the real joy of art - the process of discovery & the depth of our character put out into the world.
Here's what she looks like right now:
And I couldn't be happier.
So if you need it, write it across your page. On the cover of your art journal. Pin it on the wall. And if you ever forget it, you'll find it in big letters across the top of this blog, just in case.
PS. One of the girls I live with actually wrote this in her art journal first, giving me the idea that more people might need the permission to write it.
PPS. If you're ever in Prescott Valley, visit the Blackboard Cafe. Looking back at where this wonderful woman was four years ago & seeing her there now gives us ALL hope that we can make our dreams real. Plus, the food is killer. Seriously. Taste explosion!