For the past 9 years I have been artistically dead.
I’m probably being overdramatic. More like an artistic coma.
When I was younger I really couldn’t stop drawing, and the margins of every one of my text and notebooks, littered with doodles and comic book characters, bore this out. My scribbling continued through classes at Massachusetts College of Art, Art Insititute of Boston, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Joe Kubert School of Comic Art. I hit my stride in college drawing for five school publications, hired freelance poster work, and securing a position as lead artist on my own title for AK Comics.
And it was at this point that my passion for illustration directly collided with my pursuit of a medical degree. Becoming a physician was a process that required all of my attention, focus, energy, and time, and it was a process that didn’t care if I missed birthdays, family gatherings, holidays, births, deaths, celebrations, mournings, weddings or divorces. It certainly didn’t care if I had time to draw.
My efforts to integrate illustration into my medical studies were lackadaisical and therefore ill-fated. I turned the corner, and then spent years perfecting my ability to tamp down any desire to draw. I was fairly successful at it. Medicine became the ultimate artistic crutch, the most convenient excuse not to produce art. I don’t have time. I need to study for my next board examination. I need to practice suturing. I need to interpret EKGs.
On the rare occasions I did draw, it placed stupid, misguided, unreasonable amounts of pressure on each piece to be perfect - who knows when I would be drawing next? Sketching, doodling, making mistakes were all off the table, and perfectionism became the order of the day. It was a philosophy already beautifully articulated by @danyadsmith in her piece http://madewithpaper.fiftythree.com/post/83959539769/i-am-creative-a-story-beautifully-told-about . I was able to drift in this steady state for years.
Five months ago I received an iPad Air as a Christmas gift. Within two hours of opening the packaging I had downloaded Paper by @fiftythree and @tumblr and was instantly annoyed. Was digital illustration always this easy, accessible, and intuitive? How many drawing opportunities had I missed? My annoyance quickly faded as I mixed color palettes, experimented with watercolor, and shaded with the fountain pen: I was just having too much fun.
The community of Paper by @fiftythree and @tumblr has shocked me and completely contrasts the art world I abandoned almost a decade ago. Why weren’t these amazing Paper artists competing with each other? Why were they sharing all of their secrets and techniques, and why were they so freely giving away their ideas to others? Why were they offering support and encouragement to others across the world whom they had never met in person?
I have recently reached 100 followers on @tumblr, almost exclusively through the Paper by @fiftythree community. 100 followers is a piddling number when mindblowing artists have 20,000 followers on IG or 100,000 likes on FB, but it is an important milestone for me, and one that gives me pause and cause for celebration. Because it represents a new beginning, a chance to finally address the artistic rock that has been stuck in my shoe for nine years. And it gives me a chance to thank all the artists who continue to inspire me, exchange dialogue with me, and completely shrink the world for me, in the best possible sense.
Walt Stanchfield once said that “we all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out, the better.” Implicit in this quote is that, only incidentally, and accidentally, will we all produce good or great art during that time.
Thanks to everyone for helping me reach 10,000 as soon as is humanly possible.