The Art of Being an Artist

February 28, 2011
My wrist swivels back and forth as I gingerly lay marks across the blank paper with my trusted charcoal pencil. The dark line produced by the charcoal greatly contrasts with the stark whiteness of the paper, and soon my wrist is in full motion, twisting and turning as I lay down marks with the pencil. As I shift the position of the pencil in my hand the marks change, going from quick skinny blades of grass to more delicate curves of flower petals. I press hard to create the illusion of tree bark with all of its gnarls and knots, and I gently skim the pencil across the page to create the soft, cloudless sky.
I work slowly, stopping often to inspect my work in progress. When my pencil tip is dull I sharpen it to a decimal point, and as the tip wears away quickly, I am constantly grinding it with the sharpener to produce the fine point I desire. Each mark I make is purposeful and adds to the image I am building with my pencil. I work without haste so I do not make frustrating mistakes that take time to repair. Alas, not every mark is right, and oftentimes I must erase and rework an area multiple times before I get it right. My work is rewarding, though, and soon enough an image of a beauteous summer garden sits where not long ago stood white emptiness. From nothing came a lively scene of daisies, lilies, and petunias, stretching their stems up to the warm clear sky.
I created this image. I nurtured it from its very start, giving it everything I possibly could. It is the product of my labor, the result of hours of delicate precision and many, many pencil marks.
Only an artist could put so much care into a drawing.
I am an aspiring artist, and through trial and error, crumpled drawings, and enough pencil shavings to stuff a pillow, I have improved my artistic skills and abilities. I wasn’t born with a pencil in my hand. I couldn’t draw a perfect portrait when I was five years old, or even when I was ten. I came into this world with the same artistic abilities as every other person, but what I chose to do with those abilities is the reason I am an artist. I strive to perfect my abilities, to broaden my knowledge of art and improve until I am a master.
Art is like any other new skill. It takes practice, practice, practice. Talent is not required. All art needs is a commitment to get better, plus an abundance of paper and erasers. Artists are never done learning, because new artistic techniques and styles are developed all the time.
My drawing of a garden is fine, but being my own worst critique, I already spot the imperfections. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, but I see that the sky is too dark in the center and that one of the flower stems is much too thick. The critical thoughts are like annoying pests that I cannot shut up. They sense that something about my drawing is imperfect, and they nag at me to make my drawing absolutely flawless. But nothing in life can be perfect can it? Things can only be good enough to please ourselves. My drawing is good enough for me.

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