Monday, October 5, 2015

Daily Sketch Challenge Learning from a Master Illustrator

My first Daily Sketch for a challenge I hope will last a full year.
I recently discovered British Illustrator David Litchfield's online TEDTALKx on youtube and found it really hit home with me. The title of the talk, "How Doing a Drawing a Day Changed My Life":

Mr. Litchfield talks about how committing to a daily drawing challenge and uploading his efforts on social media literally rescued him from dead-end jobsd and launched him into the children's book illustration world. All he knew was he always enjoyed drawing, and fortunately, a voice within told him to explore the possibility of doing what he loved as a job. Something most of us deny ourselves.

My background is somewhat different than Mr. Litchfield's. See I used to be a published illustrator. I was never successful enough to freelance full-time though, I think this was because my personal style wasn't honed enough, though my drawing was pretty strong, I lacked a "look" a style reflecting my personal voice and my painting skills lacked that same issue. Yet, I've illustrated a baby book, greeting cards, rubberstamps and more for companies. In retrospect, I wish I went to RISD or Parsons or Visual Arts instead of a liberal arts college, had I done so, I think I would've been taught the necessary skills to find my inner visual voice and build a portfolio that would've landed me the juicy jobs, and I would've attracted an agent to rep me. Or, I wish I'd done what Mr. Litchfield did, and committed myself to a daily drawing challenge for a year. The only problem was, back when I started out, there was no internet to share your efforts and get feedback on them.

I've witnessed over the years illustrator's who started out with less drawing skills than I, in fact with totally feeble skills but witnessed their work grow in leaps and bounds as more jobs poured in for them. Why they were allowed to educate themselves by cutting their baby teeth on professional assignments was frustrating to witness. Had I been given the chance, I felt I too would've grown in leaps and bounds. But every job I got was hard earned and many were so mass market they lacked soul. I quit freelancing in the late 90's and entered into a non-art day job especially since the illustration market was floundering at the time, and husband and I needed more economic stability to buy a house. I didn't quit illustrating, as this is a part of who I am,  opted to open an ETSY shop so I could continue drawing, painting, writing and work on honing a more personal style.

Once an illustrator's developed their own way of drawing out what they see, think and interpret, the art flows easier. This doesn't mean there won't be challenges in each assignment, and fails along the way; it means that the initial major hump– like a child learning to walk is over and overwhelming blocks don't prevent one-especially me from sitting down and drawing without worrying that I will get "stuck" on something. I still experience this fear, but not in the extreme degree of decades past.

The simplicity of Mr. Litchfield's 365 day challenge intrigues me, as it seems that those who succeed are those that are simply consistent. If consistency is what can help me sell more work on ETSY, at shows and maybe attract more commissioned jobs, then I'll try it, as I love to draw and would like to just do what I love and get paid decently for my efforts even at this stage in the game. Consistency is hard for someone who hasn't had much of it in her life, but I'm going to try.

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