Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved art in some form. My favourite thing as a kid was having a fresh notebook or sketchbook with a pack of pens, pencils, or crayolas. In class, like most artsy kids, I was chided for doodling, but it was the only way for me to focus when a subject or teacher didn’t engage me. (I know now, thanks to Autism.) I dressed eccentrically, I was the owner of many Gellyrolls by Sakura, and whenever an adult could take me to Suncoast (RIP) or to the local comic book shop for manga or anime, I was thrilled.
I hid that I was an artist (and am still getting used to saying that I am) because during my adolescence I was told that I wasn’t good enough by people close to me. So, I never took art seriously in the context of my life. I used their words as mental confirmation that when I saw others better than me (usually my friends) that I shouldn’t bother trying hard enough. I continued to surround myself with artists as friends and inconsistently drew more privately. There would be periods I’d give it a stronger go, but I’d eventually feel too defeated and insecure to be consistent.
The vector of toxicity began at the point of trusted-figure discouragement, to the turning point of self-comparison, leading towards self-doubt and inaction for fifteen years. Because of that, I never thought I could pursue art. I did happen to test highly in Math. One thing led to another, and at university, I majored in Chemistry. I was constantly mistaken as a Fashion major or some other type of artistic person which really pissed me off at the time because I felt I wasn’t taken seriously. Maybe it was the Hello Kitty labcoat. My personality didn’t mesh with my department.
To this day, I hate being called “enthusiastic.” It felt like a euphemism for stupid, annoying, ditzy, and what you say when someone is otherwise skilless and talentless. It made me afraid to show too much of any emotion, especially happiness. There have been periods of my life I deliberately dampened myself to be more tolerable to others, too afraid to move in any direction because it seemed like everything I did was wrong.
When I became so sick that I was rarely around people is when I started to care less. I felt my clock ticking, and I decided I didn’t want to live my life by everyone else’s rules. This is what led me shamelessly back to art.
My disability has helped me adapt to undesirable situations, and the social isolation has given me time to just be myself without social consequences. I knew for a long time that I had difficulty with visualisation. (Also thanks to Autism...) Just before I left the workforce, I started 3D printing and learned very basic CAD in TinkerCAD, now acquired by Autodesk. Having 3D models on a 2D screen to play with in front of me helped tremendously and was my first step back.
Around the same time, I remember getting really into decorating my photos for social media and asking my fiancée her opinion on where I should place stickers or glitter because she’s a graphic designer. I started asking her a lot of questions about graphic design. (Bless her.) This lead me to want to learn some basics for myself because it seemed like a useful skill. For my business, I wanted to create my own assets.
I couldn’t afford Adobe products, but I found a free vector illustrator, something like GIMP but for Chrome, and bought myself an affordable drawing tablet, using them both with my $250 Chromebook. I was on a budget, but for a period, it worked, and I was happy. I spent so many hours designing, not really knowing what I was doing, but having a lot of fun. Eventually, the tablet stopped being compatible with the programs, and I was bummed out. The Chromebook tracking pad was not ideal, and the vector program was getting extremely laggy. I went about a year without producing much because I couldn’t.
Shame snuck up on me again. All of a sudden, everything I created felt bad and ugly, even though I received positive reception and a few people even bought stuff with my designs. I stopped promoting my own work and removed a lot of it from my shop because I felt like such an idiot, eventually unlinking it from FrillAbility altogether. I do want anything I sell to accurately reflect what my current work, but I feel like I could have condensed it to just a few things. I get the same way with music. I have no problem singing a cover for hundreds of people, but I rarely will sing one of my own songs for anyone.
Anyway, I started looking up reviews for affordable tablets around that time, not like a Wacom, but like the smart device with pens. I used to have a Galaxy Note (which was eventually found in a box,) that I mostly liked. The Tab A had really good reviews for drawing, came with a similar pen, and I could afford it. After I bought it, I felt like I had a new lease on life. It was amazing and unlike anything I ever used. I never knew so many sketching apps existing with helpful tools. My art improved a lot in a short period and so did my confidence.
Recently, I upgraded to the iPad 9.7 2018, a Cosmonaut stylus from Studio Neat, and the v.1 Apple Pencil. It’s their “budget” iPad for students. It made sense for me because I had changed to an iPhone, and the OS is a lot less laggy. What I have now is a good fit for me, and I’m really happy with it. I get a variety of work done from my bed. I’m able to feel contented about my work, have a sense of purpose, and have a more solid routine—even when I feel awful physically.
I take art more seriously now in that I try not to put myself down, I do a little everyday or as often as possible, and I’d like to continue to pursue it beyond just knowing enough to do little things for my business. Life is overall much improved because of my new home, giving me mental and physical space to be creative. I have a usable kitchen table, real desk, super comfy gaming chair, and my table is half filled with colouring books and various Crayolas. (My quality supplies are wonderful, but Crayolas bring a special brand of joy~!)
Part of letting go of art related shame is talking about it and sharing their work with others, so that’s what today means for me. I've done a mix of abstract pieces, and currently I'm working on character design in a cute cartoon style for a web comic I'd like to create. I’ve finally started studying things about form, anatomy, and more because those are areas I have difficulty conceptualising. Trying the things I’ve been learning about in video tutorials and books has been such a fulfilling process.
I tend to share my work on Ello, and I’d love to see what you create as well! Comment with links of yours in the comments if you’d like to! Sending you lots of love and light, and Make Good with Your Ability.
Here are the tutorial, challenges & reviews, and storytime based artists on YouTube I watch the most and find most entertaining. LavenderTowne especially has a lot of great tips; I’ve been learning loads!