If you’re anything like me, an ideal work day would spent drawing monsters, robots and sexy babes-and then getting paid. There may a select few that are able to do this day-in and day-out, but the rest of us at one point or another are going to have to draw stuff that just isn’t our cup of tea. When you’ve got food to put on the table, most of us can slog through a boring job, but at best it’s not fun and at worst you’re wasting your time and not progressing artistically.
So what’s a monster-loving artist to do?
As I mentioned in a previous article being willing venture into uncomfortable areas can open up great opportunities for growth, and it all starts with:
Finding the Feeling
I remember watching a documentary on Raymond Kinstler a few years back where he suggested that artists should always paint with feeling. When you’re drawing something fun, its easy to draw with feeling, but if your subject matter is not-so-awesome you have to put some work into finding the feeling. Somewhere out there, there is another human being that is fascinated by what you find boring, so stop and ask yourself: If I was that guy, what would I find interesting about this subject? You may have to open yourself up to a wider range of emotions than you’re comfortable exploring. The feeling you find in a serene landscape will differ greatly from the feeling of a gritty urban setting, but both have something at their core that’s appealing. The key is to find what that is.
A couple of approaches can help with the search:
Consider this an addendum to Six Tips to Get Better at Drawing. Using reference will not only make your art better but it will open your eyes to the possibilities of your subject matter. I like to collect a lot of reference before I start. Think of it as a search for awesomeness. Somewhere you’re going to find a couple of photos that open up an approach that is appealing to you.
What Would _____ Do?
Find an artist you admire that has tackled the same subject. If someone else has already solved the problem, why spend the time figuring it out yourself? Look at how they’ve made the subject interesting and try to take the same approach. A while back I had an assignment to do renderings of urban environments. Looking back at Otomo’s Akira opened up huge possibilities for how I could approach the pieces with feeling.
Take the Challenge
Perhaps the subject matter you are approaching isn’t actually boring, but it’s difficult; fear is masking itself with disinterest. I think this was the case for me with technical drawing, perspective and building design. It wasn’t until I was put in a situation where I had to face my fear that I realized it was fear I was avoiding and not boredom. Look at your subject matter and take it as a challenge. Maybe it’s something you haven’t tackled before, but I guarantee that you are more than suited to take on the challenge and come out victorious.
To finish I wanted to refer to a line from Elizabeth Bennett Browing’s Aurora Leigh:
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
There is something divine in any subject matter you approach, the key is to have the artistic faith to see its true nature. And really, do you want to spend one second of your life being miserable about drawing something? It’s not just your time that’s at stake but the passion for your chosen trade, and the last thing you want to be is an artist that hates being an artist.