There’s this thing that happens when you’re a super smart kid. You’re good at everything. You learn fast, and you don’t struggle in school. Math, reading, sciences: they all fall before your mighty cerebral prowess. I was also a decent writer from an early age, arguably the best singer in my church children’s choir, a passable actress, and pretty gosh darn good at the piano. But no one’s perfect. Everyone has things they’re bad at. One of mine was sports. Literally all sports except for karate (which I got pretty far in). But I was okay with this. You don’t need to be able to play softball when you’re an intellectual elite. There was one other thing, though, and that was drawing.
I loved drawing. A lot. I did it all the time. Doodles and sketches and concepts. I liked the ability to take things in my head and put them in a form that I could share, and for a long time I wasn’t bad at it. I was little kid, after all, and we tend to make exceptions for tiny talent. Every new little step is a spurt of growth, and that’s, during those times, enough.
But when does talent start to pique? When do you, dare I say it, have to start working for it?
It was late junior high, I think, when I started to notice that I didn’t seem to be getting better. This, of course, made very little sense to me. I drew all the time after all. I knew by then, at least, that you had to practice. So, I did. And still, I felt my abilities weren’t where they should be for how much I so loved doing it. I was good at playing the trombone, afterall, and I had turned into a pretty damn good poet and my British accent was on point. The ideas in my head were getting bigger, though, expanding beyond what could be captured by simply putting graphite to paper in the minimal capacity in which I knew how.
Then, I simply gave up. There wasn’t any room in my high school class schedule for art and drawing classes. Because I couldn’t do it and I felt like I had lost the capacity to learn to be better, it lost value to me. “I’m good enough,” I was able to tell myself. “If I really want to get better later, I’m smart enough to teach myself. Whatever.”
Well. It doesn’t quite work that way. So I never got better. But I let myself be okay with that.
Funny, then, that in the end, it would be technical illustration that I finally got a degree in.
I liked AutoCAD and technical illustration and modeling. I was good at it. It’s objective and cold. Things must look how they must look and that’s simply it. There’s no need to translate what’s in your head onto the page. The things you’re creating exist in the real world, you’re merely copying them.
I think it was then that I started drawing in earnest again. Not just drawing. Scanning. Then learning to color. Working in CAD had reminded me that art doesn’t have to stop at pen and paper. The computer is my friend. It can make up for the things that I can’t do.
I dived into Photoshop and Illustrator. I took a class in figure drawing for animation.
Mostly, though, I started getting better. At everything. The things in my head started existing in real life with unprecedented accuracy.
I was creating, and I was doing it in ways I didn’t know I was able to.
And I’m still going.
It’s not perfect.
But it’s getting better.
And I think that’s just fine.