I recently got very frustrated while drawing. The drawing is based on a mental image with the intention to turn it into a fully finished piece. So I’ve already set the expectations quite high, but during the drawing process I felt like I couldn’t meet these expectations. This led to an endless cycle of making changes, being frustrated with these changes and making even more changes. In hindsight it is obvious that I was being too harsh with myself.

I was attempting a drawing containing subjects I have never really drawn before. So why did I expect to get a perfect result on my first try? Of course every drawing has parts that I haven’t really drawn before, but there is a difference in things that are new but similar or completely new. I guess after drawing for years everything gets kinda similar, since the basic shapes are all the same, but I am not there yet.

Being kinder to myself and accepting failure as part of the learning process helps growing as an artist (or practitioner of any kind). Beating yourself up only introduces even more pain. I realize that writing this is easy, but actually acting upon the advice is something completely different. I accept that frustrations will arise in the future. But instead of falling into a downward spiral, I can use the frustration as a guide. It means something is not working as expected and that there is potential for growth.

Understand what is not working and from there try to see how you can solve this problem. In my case the main frustration arose from trying to draw a black panther. I was able to get the basic outline and a simple head through reference, but I just could not make it look lively. I realized that I didn’t really understand the anatomy of the animal and therefore couldn’t turn my shapes into believable forms. I am now stepping back from this drawing and first try to get a better grasp of cat anatomy through deliberate practice. With deliberate practice I simply mean drawing with the intention of learning, rather than focusing on the final product. This means finding good references, do some tutorials and most importantly draw many sketches.

To end this post I want to share a drawing, where I remember the process being similarly painful. It took many hours to finish, even though the idea was clear from the beginning and the overall style is rather simple. In this instance I powered through the process, but got kinda burnt out and didn’t draw for a few weeks afterwards. Nevertheless I am quite happy with the end result.

I dream of snow, June 2021.
I dream of snow, June 2021.