I’m 30 and a stay-at-home father. I was working on some software projects and kept butting up against the need for art assets. I decided I wanted to learn to make some things myself. So, I started watching some various videos on drawing and painting. It looked relaxing so it just made me want to try it even more.
Of course at this point I still hadn’t really put pen to paper or stylus to tablet. I felt overwhelmed with how much there was to learn. The art I actually wanted to create felt too far out of reach. I’d try to satiate this feeling by watching more videos and searching for more resources, perhaps hoping for some perfect instruction that would jumpstart me. I had run into this feeling before 10 or 12 years ago when I had vague aspirations of being a concept artist, not that I ever really tried to learn. I just dreamed of learning.
I finally decided that I just had to get started and see where it went. I started to shift the way I was looking at it. Instead of trying to learn to get some specific art that was out of my reach, I’d just try it and see if I liked it. If I liked it I would pursue it further.
Still I felt like I didn’t know where to start and I was afraid of failing. Finally, I decided to reverse my thinking. Instead of focusing on how to learn to create good art, I decided to make a bunch of bad art.
There’s a story about a pottery teacher who split the class in two. Half the students tried for perfection and half tried for quantity. The better work came from those that tried for quantity. I decided to apply this approach to my own learning.
Over the years of vaguely wanting to learn art I had stockpiled art supplies. I’d buy a new pad of paper and new pencils, pens, or markers with the hopes that this new stuff would be just the right thing. I’d take this stuff home and basically never touch it because I was stuck with a fear of starting.
I decided to focus on destroying the art supplies I had by using them.
I set a goal of destroying one sheet per day at a minimum. This was my only real goal. A single mark on the sheet would count as a success. Of course, most days I destroy multiple sheets of paper and I never have left a sheet with only a single mark. But, this is still my only explicit goal.
For me this reversal of my thinking worked. So far I’ve destroyed several pads of paper and notebooks, enough that I’ve now had to buy more to destroy. I started mixing in learning from books and lessons and I have made improvements.
Most importantly, this approach has been a blast. If I had focused solely on learning and progress I think it would have killed the fun of putting marks on paper. After all, that’s what drawing and painting really is. If you can’t enjoy that act, you’ll struggle to enjoy art making. So, you’ll struggle to learn.
Nothing I’ve created is great but it doesn’t need to be. Over time it will get better as long as I keep going.
If you’re having trouble getting started, I hope this lets you get past that by seeing things in a different way.