Draw Again

I’m not sure when I lost my confidence in my art; I think it was somewhere between high school where I was told by a ‘friend’ that my acrylic paintings were not as good my watercolor paintings.

And they were right- my watercolor paintings were much better. Acrylic didn’t come as naturally to me, but I preferred painting with acrylic.

Instead of honing my painting skills, I figured it was best just ignore it all together, stop painting, and then no one could tell me otherwise. My identity was an artist, and it needed to be preserved. If I didn’t paint, no one could tell me my paintings sucked.

In college, my art classes focused on things that were REAL. We almost exclusively drew from still life set ups, nude models, photos, and anything we could find around the campus or our dorms rooms.

One time when I made a painting without using a reference, my teacher told me my painting wasn’t believable. Again, she was right: the painting I did from a real life subject was better. So I gave up on using my imagination.

After four years of only drawing from real life, I started to doubt I could draw well if I didn’t have anything to reference.

Recapturing My Imagination

As a kid, I loved Sailor Moon. I still love Sailor Moon. I love all the ribbons, all the gems, all the pink, and how everything has wings or a heart on it. I love her magical cats. I love her adorable outfit. I love that she wears a crown. I LOVE ALL OF IT.

As a kid, I would spend entire weekends drawing my own staffs, my own wands, and my own Sailor Moon characters. I never worried about reference photos. Obviously, there are no reference photos for Sailor Moon, because it isn’t real.

Sailor Moon bling decorates my marker holder

To truly be on a quest for cuteness, I have to give up on my beloved reference photos, and trust that I can still create without them. Wizard cats don’t exist, nor do magical pink sloths. And that’s okay, because my goal isn’t to create the most realistic magical pink sloths.

Let me explain with a story from my marketing class: Cola technically is not the best tasting cola.

Pepsi is. Pepsi did a blind taste testing campaign, and it was clear from the results that Pepsi was the better tasting cola.

In order to compete with Pepsi on taste, Coca Cola created New Coke. And guess what? People HATED IT. They demanded the old Coke, and voila, old Coke is the one that is still available today.

Coca Cola briefly allowed Pepsi to define the conversation on taste. Coke quickly realized their mistake: the best taste wasn’t the point. Coca Cola’s fans loved it for what it was, not because it was the best.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the best. Don’t let someone else define the conversation. There are plenty of successful people who are NOT THE BEST. They are great, but they are not 100% #1 THE BEST. Is Calvin and Hobbes a realistic drawing of a kid? No, because it doesn’t have to be. That is not its goal or purpose.

So, it doesn’t matter that my imaginative drawings are not as good as the ones that are drawn from real life references, because I can’t create what I want to create if I only rely on real life. Realism is not the conversation, and I will not let my skill or lack of skill define the conversation of my art.

Dream Again

This past week, I attended my first Japanese class. And suddenly, I was a kid again: I felt alive and excited and like anything was possible.

So many people in the class were doing cool things and wanted to study Japanese for different reasons, such as being able to communicate while entering a taeko drumming competition or attending a Japanese home and garden show. I realized I had forgotten what it was like to do things just because I wanted to, instead of for monetary or professional gain.

Before this year, the last time I had felt truly happy was in college. Once I was thrust out into the world after 16 years of schooling, my dreams became second to survival.

Just some whimsical pumpkin painting

It was hard to dream when student loans loomed over my head; all I could think about was money, and for a while I forgot what it was like to dream. I postponed my happiness for years until my body started giving me physical symptoms, and I needed to focus on my happiness for health reasons. Even if you need money, it is still important to focus on little things that can make you happier. Your soul needs nourishment too!

If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that the future is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind and forget your responsibilities- but if you are a little too responsible, maybe now is the time to think about injecting some whimsy into your life. Take a class, go on a trip, write a story. You can dream again.

Less Stuff, More Enjoyment

After The Digimon Incident of 2019, I decided to reread the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy to hone my sense of joy. Even though I had some KonMari regret, it does not mean that tidying is bad. It just means I had more to learn!

A Digimon friend

With new information in hand, I decided to work on de-cluttering something I had skipped the first time: digital clutter.

I originally skipped it because it was daunting and less satisfying than seeing piles of physical items to be discarded. I had years of photos to go through- all the way from high school to my post college life. I had 3000 photos from just my time studying abroad. Ack!

I began with college because it seemed easy enough; I had four neat little folders labeled “Freshmen Year” and “Senior Year”. But each folder had 500 photos each.

I realized very quickly that having 500 photos from each year of my life does not bring me joy. It brings me anxiety. It is impossible to enjoy the memories in my photos if I have to sift through 7000 of them (that is not a joke. I take a lot of photos).

The sheer amount of photos I had caused me to quit trying to declutter them before. I would say “it doesn’t take up any physical space so I don’t have to deal with it”. But even if I didn’t have to deal with it on a daily basis, in the back of my mind that they were weighing me down. I wanted to be able to find things easily and reminisce with my friends, because that would bring me joy.

A joyful Valentine’s photo from Thailand I was now able to quickly locate 🙂

In doing this exercise, I realized that for the majority of my photos, it was a waste of my time to take them. Now don’t get offended- we all like our photograph memories! But I was definitely taking waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many photos. And I now realize I can scale it back, and everything will be okay. Future Deidre will even thank me for all the useless photos I am no longer burdening her with.

Like, why did I take so many pictures of random trees?? Random landscapes?? Close ups of pretty flowers? Those things were better left to be enjoyed in the moment, because they don’t have sentimental value and the camera does not do them justice. I could make an entire scrapbook titled “Trees Deidre thought looked cool” and it would be SO. BORING.

Look at those trees! And that rainbow! Cool.

In conclusion, if I am going to interrupt my enjoyment of the present moment to memorialize it via photograph, my photos will not be blurry selfies. They will not be of trees or flowers. I am limiting myself to 1 group shot, and MAYBE 1 selfie, and 1 well-staged photo of the event. ONE TO TWO PHOTOS PER EVENT ONLY.

Having 7000 photos meant none of them were special- it only meant they were a SELF-IMPOSED BURDEN. AAH!! I’m using all caps because I feel so strongly about this after sifting through photos for TWENTY HOURS! THAT WAS ALMOST A WHOLE DAY OF MY LIFE!

The photos I kept are even more valuable to me now because I get to enjoy them more often 🙂 and it won’t even take a whole day to look at all of them!

All the scary stuff about printing from computers, explained.

As previously mentioned, I took another class! It was valuable!

I would summarize it as: learn all the scary stuff about graphic design and printing.

I originally wanted to take graphic design, but the class was cancelled due to low enrollment 🙁 bummer. I’m glad I took this class even though I felt a little out of my league! I was definitely forced to put the cart before the horse, it was a good motivator to learn InDesign real fast!

The scary stuff:

Do you know the difference between RGB and CMYK? You may be like, I have heard of those acronyms but I don’t know what the heck they mean. I know right?? But don’t fret, I finally know the difference.

RGB is for WEB ONLY. It gives you extra colors that only look good on screen. If you print them, they will turn into dull CMYK.

CMYK is for printing! They are more accurate. But they are dull. But that’s all you get!

After all the art/computer related classes, I can’t believe no one said it like that before. They were all like, RGB is an additive light color method, while CMYK is a subtractive color method. Like, OK. Helpful. Not. I don’t care about the theory at this point, I just want my printed pieces to turn out okay and for me to not look like an idiot.

Do you know the difference between file types? Another scary thing right?? I sure as heck didn’t!

What is a JPEG? What the heck is PNG? And when did TIFF arrive on the scene???

I used to play file type roulette and just pick whichever acronym I liked best that day. I heard of JPEG, but I also heard that JPEG compressed things. So sometimes I picked PNG because it looked fancy. TIFF took FOREVER so I avoided that one. Now I know what’s up!

Similar to the color acronyms above, I don’t know why no one seemed to be able to explain this in layman’s terms before.

JPEG: for print, does a little compression.

PNG: preserves transparent backgrounds, so this one is for web obviously. You ever get that annoying white background?? That’s because it was a JPEG. JPEG is for print so it don’t matter!

TIFF: Is called a lossless file, which means it doesn’t do any of that crappy compressing! If you want your file to be totes preserved, you can use this high quality but slow as heck TIFF. It’s slow because it has so much info to save!

Was that helpful? I thought so. Hope you find this info as helpful as I did!