I am one of those characters that enjoys constantly meeting new people, seeing new places, learning new things. Your classic extrovert, to put things simple. And that translates also in the way I work: I have an idea for an illustration, I think about it for a while without even coming close to a pencil and then, almost suddenly, I sit down, get my tools and I draw until it’s done. Or nearly done. Of course I do a few sketches to get things looking right, composition-wise mainly, but rather than a process is more of a hand warming exercise. What I’m trying to say is that repetition, in its most conscious and deliberate form of “I’m going to do this again to make it better/different/more enjoyable” is not something that occurs often in my life. I guess that’s why it took me by surprise the obvious benefits that doing the same thing multiple times can provide.
Even if I started doing simple line drawings a while ago, I didn’t know how to draw.
And yes, I am of the idea that everybody CAN draw, but it is definitely very helpful to know the rules to make it look… good. So for the past two years I’ve been learning those “how to”s. I took a couple of evening classes, bought some books, but mainly I practiced over and over again. Already a year ago I was quite happy with the results, yes, I knew I still had a very long way to go, but I started to feel like I could show what I was doing to people.
Recently I came across the photograph that twice inspired my illustration and I had the feeling I could do a better job of it. This past year I’ve become so much more confortable with watercolours and I’ve learned new ways to ink, so I thought it would be fun to apply those to the portrait.
And so I sat down, without any pressure, and drew.
When I was done and put both new and old side by side I was… shocked. I remember being so happy with how that first portrait had turned out, and now by comparison I looked crooked, disproportionate, badly made.
I had mixed feelings about it. On the one side I was really happy to have improved my skills this past year, but on the other hand I felt silly and embarrassed: how could I have thought it was good enough a year ago?
And furthermore, now I look at my new illustration, of which I am so proud of, and I can’t help but fear what will I see in it next year.
But I guess the beauty of learning and self improvement is precisely not knowing where the ceiling is. And I am lucky that creative life is flexible enough to allow for that progress. So actually, next year I will repeat it again, just because I have finally understood why repetition can be beneficial and because it’s such a nice way to track my own progress.
Talking about it with Paula, my studio partner, we realised we had very similar feelings and points of view on the challenges and joys of our creative life, so much so that our new studio blog is dedicated to pattern but also to the art of clever repetition. It’s called Repeattt and you are more than welcome in it!