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The Wall... (Language... lots of it.)

I'm about to kick a creative hornet's nest. Watch and learn, maybe you too can learn to stick your foot in your mouth as skillfully as I. Take heed, for it can take decades to master it and even I stumble from time to time. I mean this not to offend any specific person here but totally understand that it might do that. I'm not "targeting" anyone here, know that up front.

I've hit the fuckin' wall. Yeah, I put a language tag on this post but I reckon most people wouldn't expect me to drop an f-bomb in the first hundred-fifty words. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that's what kind of mood I'm in. The facade of polite propriety drops away and I stand in gritty harsh focus, a professionally profane prophet of reality. When I'm frustrated I use language normally saved for a garage in the deep south and right now, I'm really fuckin' frustrated.

As many may know, I joined an art forum. I've even let my posting frequency slow down in this forum because I found that other place. That other place is going to end my ass in short order. Why? Not because they're more skilled than me, hell, everybody is more skilled than me. Unborn infants are more skilled than I'll likely ever be. There's an Elephant I saw on TV, can paint and while it's not exactly top-shelf, it's probably better than anything I could do on my best day. I credit the elephant for his skill 'cause his brain is so big. Yeah, I know it doesn't make a damn difference 'cause the brain is less developed, but who's writing this post? Right.

I'm struggling in drawing and I'm beginning to think that nobody knows how to help me. 99% of that is because I've had hell explaining what I want to do and it's hard to help a bottle rocket that doesn't know where he wants to go but that plans to just go. I'm a misguided missile and I get that. Thing is, I know what I wanna do I'm just scared to blabber on about it because I don't wanna be made ass fun of for it.

To do what I need to do, want to do, crave to do, I need to be able to DRAW. So far, I've been trying to learn to draw from reference photos but it's not going so hot for me. The problem? Find a good picture. Seriously, hit google images or somethin' and find a good picture you like. Now, sit down and draw the sumbitch. That's a skill and I truly believe that it takes tremendous skill to do it, I really do. The folks at that art forum, they can do it and do it well. They can teach me how to do that.

The problem? 99% of what I want to draw, there is no reference photo for it. I need to be able to draw, not copy. If I sit down with a picture of a rockin' waterfall and draw it line for line, it's of small use to me because I can't use it for my purposes. No matter how good my copy is, it's a copy of a piece that doesn't dovetail with what *I* need to do.

Look at my profile picture. I'll wait. See? It's a severely underfed dude who wears a cowboy hat with a barbed wire band and presumably likes ketchup on his burgers. I colored that and used a little wizardry to combine the line art elements to put a hat on a skull. I did the eyes and the blood... ketchup. I did all the coloring. I didn't draw that. Somebody else drew the line art that is the hat, the skull, the teeth. I merely colored it in and did a little digital airbrushing. If I go find a reference that's what I want to draw, I'm merely copying the work of someone else. I'll be paying photographers more money than I can make so I can copy their image.

I need the skill to sit before a blank sheet and draw what I can see in my mind and I don't have it. I doubt copying a photographers work will give me that skill and I don't have the photographic skill to go take pictures of the things I want to draw. Some things, there is no reference to be had because the only place it exists is in my head. I see the image, I know exactly what I could do if I had it in my grubby little hands, I just don't know how to draw it. I doubt drawing reference photos is going to help me.

"Oh, you just start with the basic shape, like a sphere. Then you draw the second shape and then you just draw the outline." Tried that. No successes whatsoever. I end up drawing spheres and boxes and cones and not getting within a damn mile of the picture I intended to draw. I don't want to draw reference photos and I don't want to draw boxes and spheres.

Many here can do what I'd like to do but I damn sure aint among 'em. It sucks not being able to do stuff you wanna do. I know damn well I'll never give birth to a kid. I don't want to but at least I know why I couldn't if I did want to. It's not being able to do what everybody tells me I can do that pisses me off.


The ability to imagine the placement of a shape defined by critical parameters that are easily recognized by any human is not given to all. The face is the most easily recognized as either correct or incorrect. I wonder if you can 'see' an imaginary face-part, like a cheekbone say in relation to an ear, on the paper (when it's not there yet), and then trace it? I think that's what it takes. I've heard it said that if you can draw a decent face then you have all the basics of figurative drawing: proportion, perspective, shading... Sounds simple... Hah!
EDIT: I want to delete what I posted... I am afraid that I may lose some things in talking about other things.
Shadow, I saw your original post. It made sense to me. :)

Thanks Kevin, Shadow, I appreciate it. It's all pretty frustrating for me.
I've drawn most of my life, off and on, and am also nowhere near where I'd like to be, in regards to skill level. Any advice I'm about to give is written just as much for myself as you, and it's probably the same old crap you've heard a hundred times before. I know I have.

1. Try not to compare yourself to other, more advanced artists. Easier said than done, I know. You're comparing your worst to their best, and that's a good way to chop your confidence in the face with an axe repeatedly. And then burn it with battery acid.

2. Just put in time, daily if possible. This is the one I have trouble with myself. But if you can muster the ambition/time to make it a habit, you will see progress in a few months, and significant progress in a year. Again, easier said than done, and totally obvious I'm sure, but I've seen it happen more than once.

3. Drawin' videos! You're probably already aware of this, ( I like stating obvious things, gives me an excuse to type.) but there are a bunch of art/drawing channels on Youtube that are pretty decent. I find I not only learn a bunch, but definitely get inspired as well. If you don't watch them already I'd suggest 'Proko' and 'Sycra' to start. This of course depends somewhat on what style of art you're attempting, but worth checking out regardless.

4. Drawing from references is boring as shit, but over time you build up an inner library to reference, and develop the ability to do it freehand, reference-free. Again, one I have trouble with, but I'm slowly building the will to start doing it myself. Even though it's sooo boring. I'd rather draw monsters and ladies.

5. I am in no way qualified to be giving art advice. I've pretty much just freehanded all my life, and while some of my stuff is okay...my lack of discipline has held me back, and though I have no professional aspirations, my sketchbooks would be a lot more kickass if I'd worked harder.

6. It's frustrating when you can't see progress, but that is something of an illusion. Like evolution, it's too slow to see, but it's happening. Neural connections take time to form and strengthen, but once they do...Bam! Practice drawing whatever for a few months and then go back and compare...you'll see improvement.

7. Drawing things for which there is no available reference... for this I have no suggestion. It's a pain in the ass. I assume, given enough advancement, that it becomes easier...but, who knows.

8. I've also wondered if other people who draw 'see' what's going to be there before drawing... I've literally never done this, I just start and then watch the hand do its thing, and eventually I have a picture, but if visualization can be developed, that would be handy. Obviously. (And it's very possible I'm just weird and most people do this...not sure.)

9. Drawing skill is perishable. Another problem for me. Drawing every couple weeks/months just won't do, progress-wise. More reason to do it every day if possible, but...sometimes life happens. Or procrastination. For this I have no advice. Erm. Eat the brain of a military person and absorb their discipline? I think that's how it works anyway...

10. Stick with it. I draw mostly to amuse myself, but also because if I gave it up...that's 100's of hours down the drain. And f that.

I realize this is all unsolicited advice, and probably all obvious stuff that you've heard 100 times before, and also that I'm some weird stranger leaving a long frickin' comment on your blog, but...if it helps in any way, twas worth it. I've found a little encouragement goes a long way when it comes to arting.

I saw one of your pics at some point when I was checking out random forums here, and you're pretty good! Artists of all kinds are often their own worst critics. It's easy to dismiss the ability you've already developed, or grow used to it... check out the barely-formed stick figures that people who don't draw produce, and remind yourself that you are a golden god compared to them. Lol.

Good luck!
I appreciate it Crypt. I try to devote no less than 1.5 hours a day to drawing, but so far that's been copying pictures. It's a skill but it's not the skill I want and need, lol. ;)

Thanks for the reads and the comments. :p
I envy you. You see in your mind. I very seldom do, only when I'm feverish. I was hit by a virus recently and one night I had a dream with pictures, in full colour. It didn't matter what it was about. Just seeing anything in my mind was so enjoyable. I could still describe what I saw even now, it was so memorable, but I would just be describing it conceptually as a reconstruction from abstract memories because my mind's eye has closed again. When I used to get migraines what I saw within my imagination was astonishing, enough to make the pain worthwhile, and then I'd recover and become mentally blind again. Just be thankful for what you have.

The closest that I can get even in my mind's eye to an image is that collection of cones and boxes that you mention, but of course that is in three dimensions, my only view of reality, and I have very little idea how to transcribe that into two despite understanding the mathematics. Maybe that's your problem, that your mind sees too many dimensions at once. Perhaps you should try closing one of your mind's eyes, but as I can't even open one of mine I've no idea whether that is possible.

Getting angry with yourself isn't a bad thing. The brain prioritises problems according to the emotions that they cause. Maybe it will find a solution by building the right connections to compensate for your feelings. It's like trying to work out how to waggle your ears when you can't, but don't dwell on that thought or you may discover that when you try to draw your ears waggle uncontrollably to prevent you losing your temper.

I'm not poking fun, just saying that when it comes you probably won't understand how it happened. The human mind is like that and it can find its way around any limitations. Mine does apparently.
TJ, I understand the struggle. I do better when I've got a reference, which is why most of the things I draw are, well, me. The trick is to identify the shapes you want and get them to do what you want them to do.

I've never been much good beyond simple doodles, but I make 'em work. Sometimes I just sit down and let my hand do what it wants, that's how I ended up with the spider thing in a previous doodle and the Robotic T-Rex that Boofy's riding in her birthday doodle.

I know it's frustrating, man. Don't give up. Drawing is basically like writing. You turn lines into shapes into pictures, just like you turn letters into words into stories.
I know nothing about drawing. I mean, I'm handicapped. I've done some cool things in Computer Graphics class that I wish I still had, but that's with computer programs.

However, I think it is safe to say (like Atlean mentioned) that it is a lot like writing. When we are young we learn to talk, then the alphabet, then simple words and phrases, writing in cursive, more complicated grammar, etc. Finally we begin using these tools to craft stories.

Perhaps with drawing it is similar. You start on your own by seeing others do it. You start coloring in lines already drawn by somebody else. Then you learn the basics and go from there. Not sure if you've already tried this, but maybe finding some classes you could go to might help as well.

When I first joined this forum, I wondered if I would get any better. Well, technically, at first I just wanted to share. But when I started to do that, I was a little anxious at how people would respond. Would they like it? Can any of these guys help me?

My first stories SUCKED in comparison to what I can write now. And so did my first "song lyrics". They're still on here, take a look if you want. Sure, my ability now isn't exactly Shakespearean level, but just participating in half a dozen LM contests, joining the Poets Society, and continuing to share whatever else I worked on on the side did wonders. I'm so much better than I was when I first joined! I also can't forget all the people who helped me along the way.

Right now at school I'm in Journalism, Newspaper, English 12 and AP Literature classes. The amount of reading, text analyzing, and writing can be a little overwhelming, but overall it is improving my craft so much. I can already tell. So by the end of the year I know I'll be way beyond where I'm at now.

Maybe you'd be surprised how much those people could help you on that forum. If they don't, then screw 'em.
Rob, it's nice being able to see little images in my mind but the novelty wears off rapidly when that's the only place they exist. It truly feels like there's a trash basket halfway down my arm and the image I see in my mind is thrown away before my hand can see it to draw it. Like my brain is a Read Only memory bank which has disallowed copy/paste, lol. Worse? My mental monitor malfunctions: I get little glimpses but it doesn't hold the same view for long. There, gone, there, gone, there but a different image. I'm telling you, if I go to therapy I doubt it would help me but the poor therapist would never, ever, be the same again...

Dubs! Excellent writing to drawing reference and one I'd not really considered. I'm not the greatest writer but I do understand the process. In the same correlation I think as drawing goes I am still figuring out the shapes of certain tricky letters but 99% of those around me are Hemingway... It's not easy but I'll figure it out in time. I have to stop thinking of this as some sort of magic that is available only to a select few.

Smith, we share a common ground. If we make piles of successful drawings and unsuccessful ones, the unsuccessful pile is shoulder high while the successful pile is five or six sheets. The idea of going to classes is a good one but as it stands, my budget has no room in it for anything else. My mother has been having some pretty serious medical problems and going to and from the hospital is the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of expenses. I am improving in my self-study but I can't help but feel like I'm moving away from my goals rather than closer. Worse, the folks in the other forum are starkly divided in their advice. Some say that to learn to draw from my imagination I should draw from my imagination. Others say that to get the shapes right I need to copy pictures. Another says I should draw the basic shapes that comprise the item. It's kind of like ten readers reading a story and none of them are saying the same thing about the story. I hate to be a downer but there are times when I feel like closing the tab that forum is on and never going back. They are skilled artists in their own right and many have made money doing this stuff. The problem? It's not the same way I want to succeed. To continue on the writing analogy (Dubs, it fits man!) they're writing the epic works of Fitzgerald, Melville, and Whitman. "O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done!/ The ship has weathered every wrack, the prize we sought is won,/ The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting." whilst I... "Twinkle, Twinkle, little star/ I want to hit you with my car."

99% of what I want to do is like tattoo flash, only I intend to use it in a different way. Being able to copy a picture of something is great but I'm not sure how it helps me since there are no references for caricature bulldogs and baddass skulls, lol.
Sorry your mother isn't feeling well. :( Hopefully she gets better soon!

One thing that came to mind when I was just pondering this blog yesterday - not to scare you - is that it's said you need about 10,000 hours of experience at something to become an expert.

But nobody ever considers how you practice those 10,000 hours. You could spend that whole time doing something completely the wrong way, and would you emerge as some sort of revolutionist by doing it your own way? Or would you not be an expert at all?

The tough thing about art and writing is that there aren't a lot of wrong ways to do it. Sure, very basic rules and guidelines to follow. But what separates the good / average / decent from the exceptional or legendary is doing it a little differently. Having your own twist or style.

Art is completely lost on me for the most part. I mean don't get me wrong, I love good paintings of beautiful landscapes or cool portraits of, I don't know, famous historical figures or something. But just like some people don't "get" poetry, I don't "get" a lot of art.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I don't know how much time you've devoted to the craft, let alone consecutively. Doing the math though says that an average of 1.5 hours a day, it would take you anywhere between 15 and 20 years to "master" your craft. And I know what you mean about the different sorts of advice. Been there many times myself regarding writing.

Which is why you can't read about something like this and have the right answer. You can try them and figure out what suits you best, but just reading won't do. The biggest thing that helped me was just posting my work and getting direct assistance. Reason being, that guy who said "draw the shapes first" might say "well, for you I think learning to copy first is the best option". You won't know until you post though.

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