A Productive Kind of Self-Torture

I run on deadlines. My whole work schedule hinges on them. I've seen infographics that suggest the creative process is about 90% procrastination, that the panic of an approaching deadline propels creative sparks to fly. I don't design that way. I work beat-the-clock style, trying to turn projects in before the deadline as much as possible. It's a productive kind of self-torture and it makes for happy clients!

In other arenas, it's a different story. Unfinished shopping lists and unfilled school forms haunt my downtime. To-do lists pile up around the house until I know I'm a bad person for ignoring them. When my declining self-image can take it no longer, I spend a weekend being super-productive, blasting through all my yardwork and housework and paperwork.
Sketchy Charcoal Judges You

Turns out drawing, for me, is more like the latter. I had started this new mandala. I'd like to tell you I steadily worked on it every week, finishing at a reasonable pace. But, about halfway through, I set it on my table and left it. It kept staring at me, saying, "Get over here and finish this..." Its opinion of me slowly deteriorated with each passing day. For weeks I kept putting it off.

Every time I thought I would work on it, I ended up changing my plans at the last minute.
Oh, I need to do dishes.
Oh, I need to spend time with the kids.
Oh, I need to take a nap.
Oh, I need to read this magazine.
Everything else seemed more important. I caught myself lamenting that I never had time to draw. Other papers started piling up on my table, and I thought, "Well, if I'm going to draw, I'll need to clean up my office first..."

One evening, the kids went downstairs to watch YouTube and I started mentally preparing myself to conquer the piles of paperwork. Then, I realized that was just another excuse. If I was ever going to draw again, I needed to just do it. I had to finish this self-righteous, judgmental piece! (Turns out the threat of cleaning my office was enough to tip the scales.)

I took my paper and charcoal to the kitchen table. I sat down and finished it that night. Because there! Take that, judgy charcoal!

Perhaps I work better with deadlines.

A Fantastic Discussion of Fear

I recently transitioned from coloring pages to drawing mandalas.

Mandalas' drawback is the appeal to such a small section of people. They all look happy-feely, hug-a-tree trippy. And while that's a good time, I wanted to explore darker, more complex emotions. I thought, "Wouldn't it be fantastic to spark discussions on difficult experiences we can all relate to?"

I researched a bit on how to draw mandalas. It starts with a polar grid, to help the design stay symmetrical. From there, it's pretty much a free-for-all.

For my first one, I decided to use just pencil. I started from the center, sketching an outline one layer at a time. When I finished the skeleton (as I called it), I went back to the center and added detail and shading, again one layer at a time.

I would stare at a section of the page until it showed something to me, then I would draw what I had seen. I felt kind of oblivious through the whole thing. I didn't know where it was going. I thought it would just be abstract shapes. My subconscious, evidently, had other ideas. 

Here's the final piece:
Revelation of Fear

I'm still shocked by it. By the time I got to the barbed wire, I had thought it some kind of prison...until I drew the arrows pointing out. Adding those arrows terrified me. With their presence, it changed from a prison locking something in, to a fortress keeping something out.

I'm curious to find out what you think or feel when looking at it. For me, this image brings fear and sadness. For a few days, I didn't know what to think. I wanted to detach myself from it. This wasn't me. This isn't my life. It must be about someone else.

But honestly, it pertains 100% to my current situation.

I want to do this art, but I'm terrified of where it leads. I'm afraid it will get no attention, afraid it will get too much attention. Artists across all fields struggle with this dichotomy, the tension between wanting others to see their art and fearing the vulnerability such sharing brings. If I share this with you, you'll understand something about me that I don't understand myself. It reveals a weakness I don't want you to know I have. You might love it, or you might decide I'm crazy.

Here I am, struggling with these very concerns as I debate whether to share this or whether to put it on a shelf. Here you are, reading up on my uncertainty. Right now, I feel exposed. Right now, I'm afraid. I'm unsure about where this endeavor will lead me, whether to start another mandala, what it will reveal about me.

I'm certain everyone has, at some point in life, struggled with whether to trust someone, whether to let vulnerability show, or whether to appear strong and steady. How often does fear inhibit our full potential? How often is our need for acceptance a detriment to our creativity?

My Eye Starts Twitching

I just recently started coloring. It's OK, it's for adults. Although I was enjoying it (yes, I said was—keep reading), I couldn't do it for very long. I was possibly putting too much effort into it. I could only do it for 45 minutes or so. I can handle the hand cramps, but when my eye starts twitching, I know it's time to stop. Actually, that's good life advice for any situation.

The husband and the boys have been playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. Even though they enthusiastically invited me to watch, I politely declined. I'm sure it's amazing, but I had other graphics to attend to.

When I started this second page, I wanted it to feature variations on the primary colors, and their secondary families. Here's the finished product:
Batman Keeps the Boys Busy

It took me 3-4 sessions to complete. I'm pretty happy with it, but when I looked at the final piece, one thought came to mind: I'm putting too much thought into this. I want full credit for my work! But this is someone else's design. It's a coloring page, for crying out loud!

That's when I decided I would start drawing my own mandalas.

I feel like mandalas are a great fit for me, with my experience in graphic design, symmetry, abstract expression, and paisley. 

I'm a bit intimidated by color at this point. I'm drawing one in pencil. I plan at least two more in black and white, maybe with charcoal. I'm getting excited about experimenting with these now. Plus, I'll get full credit for all the finished pieces!

It works out, because it's going to take them more than one session to finish Arkham Asylum.