Over the course of my birthweek (birthdays are so last year) this past summer, I took a 4-day drawing workshop based on Betty Edwards’ book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”. From this post, you know that I’ve ventured into the book’s exercises on my own previously – needless to say, the motivation of having an instructor and a scheduled 6 hours a day for 4 days was much more powerful than anything I myself could muster. Still, though I expected some progress, the end results were a huge surprise.

We started off with some very simple sketches, one of which was the “Day 1 Self-Portrait” to give ourselves a baseline to compare to at the end of the week. In that first half of the first day, we drew as anyone normally would: in large part reproducing remembered “pictograms” (notice how the Alex drawing in the set below has features similar to my first self-portrait – totally untrue in real life) with very little actual observation. Thus, there was no experience of the drawing ever “coming together”, because there was no piecemeal recreation of the reality; it was as if I was stamping down on the page, as a whole symbol, what my brain had internalized as An Alex, or A Masha. This pretty much mimicked the experience of all the drawings that I’d ever done before.

By the third day, however, when we did the profile renderings of our classmates, and then especially when we got to the culminating self-portrait on the last day of the class, a common theme had emerged: between toning your paper, finding your base unit, and putting down those first pencil marks and filling in the details, teasing out the lights and shadows, and, finally, seeing someone or something come staring through, there existed an excruciatingly long, unsettling, even disturbing period of complete and utter uncertainty. I found myself quite often staring down at the sheet in disgust, doubting my eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills (not to mention, beating myself up for thinking I could do this course at all) and having to force myself to continue solely on faith. When even a glimmer of what I was trying to depict appeared on the paper, elation ensued. All the drawing I did after those moments of recognition was carefree, easy-peasy, forget-the-world-exists drawing that was simply natural and extremely enjoyable.

The point, then? I predict that there are likely to be times in your current project’s lifecycle that will make you doubt its feasibility (or your own existence). What the workshop taught me is that those times are not times to give up. Those times are the times to keep making decisions, often on faith, to keep adding detail, to keep putting pencil strokes down. One day, you will see it – and from there, it’s cake.

Oh, and to illustrate the aforementioned progress, here are all the drawings I did in the class in temporal order. The purists will have to pardon the quality (or lack of it) of the pics and lighting…