I go through it with every drawing I’ve ever done. Ever. That stage between the planning and the polishing. The idea is already out on paper. I’ve gone through the fun and wild ride of thumbnailing. And when I look on the page, the piece looks reasonably similar to the maleable ideal I had in my head. The composition is solid, but it’s not there yet.
I used to get nervous and doubt myself. Do I have the skill to match my imagination? My imagination never had to meet a deadline. What if it will always look better as the initial sketch? What if I’m over-rendering; killing it with too much attention to detail, making it stiff and lifeless? Is it going to be as good as some of my heroes?
This used to be a crippling time. I was moody, not very fun to be around. I used to bark at the kids. I would get touchy and extra-sensitive about other areas that had nothing to do with art. An over-cooked steak only confirmed what my art was telling me: that I really wasn’t good at anything.
But now I know these questions will come, and they’re not fair. They are one-sided. The secret to getting through this time isn’t to avoid the questions, but to answer them. I’ve gone through this before. I’ve finished before. And you know what? When you look at the finished product, you can’t see the questions. You can’t see my own internal struggle.
So now I have to measure the success of a piece on two levels. One is the visual. Does the image exhibit the best of my abilities? Was I lazy, or did I do it well? Did I learn a new technique that pushed my art further? The other question— the one that is not visually evident— is harder to answer. Did I handle thedark night of the soul with dignity? Did I treat my family well during that time? Did I think that it was all about me and my own abilities, or did I have faith?
For my own art, I have to evaluate it on two levels so when I look back I can see not only the evidence of artistic growth, but also of spiritual and personal growth as well.