Hidden Wisdom

Sometimes, you get good advice from the most unexpected sources. Such as people you don’t really like, for example. We can sometimes ignore the advice of friends or loved ones, often because we get advice from them all the time, on every little thing.

The people you don’t like, however, don’t have as strong an emotional investment in you. When they dispense advice of any sort, it tends to stick in the back of your mind, even if the initial impulse is to ignore it. There are two random observations about myself that I’ve received from such people that have stuck with me over the years.

The first one was in high school. As is the case during that time, there was a lot of drama floating around in the air. I had seen enough high school shows by the age of 15 to know that every problem was a life-or-death situation. I was as dramatic as any teenager, prone to bouts of moodiness and mooning over crushes. During one of my fouler moods, a guy I knew (but wasn’t really friends with) managed to get on my nerves and I lashed out at him. Understandably upset by my behavior, he spat back that I was the source of my own problems. I was complicating my own life with unnecessary drama, which is why I was so damn grouchy.

It was meant as an insult. But he was right. I was making my own life difficult. For example, by fawning all over a girl who had made it very clear from the outset that we wouldn’t be more than friends. I honestly thought that I’d be able to win her over somehow, and my continued frustration at being unable to do so left me acting like a character from Dawson’s Creek (maybe? I’ve never watched it, but I’ve seen a gif of James Van der Beek bawling his eyes out, so that seems like a reasonable comparison).

I basically needed to grow up, and though I’ve failed to do that in the 17 or so years since then, I’d like to think I’m just a tiny bit closer to being a full-fledged adult.

The next bit came from one of my old college roommates. He was the kind of guy who seemed really cool to hang out with at first, but I soon realized he was nothing more than a collection of stale jokes wrapped up in unpredictable mood swings. He was also the sort of person who’d eat up everything in the fridge literally one day after we’d gone grocery shopping, and would just shrug it off with a blithe apology. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in touch after graduation. But I digress.

From a young age, I’ve been an avid artist, and I especially love drawing cartoons and dreaming up concepts for various characters. In 3rd or 4th grade, I discovered the stellar Batman: The Animated Series, with characters designed by Bruce Timm. I loved the smooth, angular looks of the characters, so different from any other show I’d watched. I started drawing Batman fan art, attempting to copy poses and scenes from the show (and its tie-in comic). Even when designing original characters, I used Bruce Timm’s Batman work as a reference, only changing minor details. I was never quite happy with how my drawings turned out.

One day, I was in my room busy drawing some random character when my roommate happened to stop by. I expressed dissatisfaction at how the drawing was turning out, to which my roommate simply replied: “Maybe that’s because you’re trying to copy someone else’s style instead of doing your own thing.”

I was stunned. That actually made sense. My drawings were just copies. They had the same proportions as some drawing I’d seen and were in the same pose as another drawing I’d seen, but they had no life of their own. I really needed to develop my own style to give them a more personal element. And that’s what I set about doing. I let myself be influenced by Bruce Timm (along with various other artists that I discovered over time) without trying to slavishly copy one of his drawings. Even now, I’m still trying to find my ‘style’ as it were, but the joy is in the experimentation. Trying out different shapes and proportions based on how I perceive my characters instead of sticking to a single template.

If my roommate hadn’t said that, it’s entirely possible I’d still be churning out poor copies today, or at least for a lot longer than I did. It was a remarkable observation, and it came from such a very unexpected source.

I suppose a broken clock does have its moments.


Thursday Scribbles: Twofer

Just a couple of drawings done recently out of boredom.

The first was inspired by someone I saw on TV, an old man in an overcoat and scarf. I made him bald because I was too lazy to draw hair.

The second started out as a random portrait. I wanted to give him a little personality so I made him angry. Once the shirt was done, it looked a little too bare, so I added a number and turned him into a prisoner. Sorry, buddy. On the bright side, you could be out in a year with good behavior.

Breezy Prisoner

Thursday Scribbles: Resolve

While I normally draw cartoons and exaggerated figures, I have recently dipped my toes (or, well, fingers) into the more realistic end of the pool. This was one of my attempts at ‘realism’ from about a year ago.


I can’t really remember the story behind this image. Maybe it was inspired by a movie I’d seen, or maybe it sprang from some story idea that I later forgot. At least part of it was an attempt to draw an attractive female portrait, as that’s been one of my weak points when drawing. I’m much more comfortable drawing freaks and monsters. Make of that what you will.

There was no reference picture for this. I may have looked at some pictures to get some idea of how the shading would look (around the neck and shoulder blades, for example) or how her hair would frame her face, but this isn’t based on a picture of anyone. I just had a face in mind and decided to draw it.

The only thing I know for certain is that I wanted to draw someone determined. Someone that has a mission and will not let anyone stand in the way of its success. Is she avenging the death of a family member? A lover? Is she trying to break someone out of prison? Or planning a major heist? I don’t know. Maybe you can come up with a story for her. And even a name. Rosa, perhaps. Or Diana. I’ll let you be the storyteller in this case.

Due to my somewhat obsessive-compulsive tendencies, I also have no idea what this picture actually looks like. All I can see are the various flaws in execution and technical mistakes. A wrong choice of color here, a misplaced bit of shading there. I think her face swallowed her nose. Overall though, I hope it’s turned out half-decent. She still looks very cartoony, but it’s a process. I’ll work my way to making a proper portrait one day.

Thursday Scribbles: Bird In A Tree

In addition to writing, I’m also very fond of drawing. Well, doodling. In fact, I was really more of a ‘drawer’ (I think ‘artist’ would be too generous) than a writer for most of my life. It’s only been in recent months that the writing part’s started coming to the fore.

So I figured I’d toss in a few of my random doodles onto the blog as well. I’m going to try and post something every Thursday, but we’ll see how that works out.

The idea of digital art is very appealing to me. I tend to get very messy when I draw, constantly erasing and re-drawing, which leaves a lot of smudges and generally results in stuff I’m not happy with. I was much happier drawing on MS Paint, but at the end of the day, it’s MS Paint. There’s only so much you can do with it.

Plus, using a mouse (and occasionally keyboard) to draw was just cumbersome for me. Kudos to all digital artists whose hands are steady enough to pull that off. So I stuck to drawing on paper, smudges and all. Until I got my first tablet.

Now that was a lot of fun. I could draw using a stylus, re-creating the feeling of drawing in a sketchbook without any of the mess. Awesome! Appropriately enough, one of the most recommended apps for that was Sketchbook, by Autodesk, which is what I use for all my drawing now (well, almost…it’s hard to give up pen and paper). When I first got it, I decided to mess around a little to get the hang of the various brushes and stuff available to me.

Starting us off on Thursday Scribbles is the product of that messing around: Bird In A Tree. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but still, a brief bit of background. I drew a bird in a tree, kinda liked it, and ended up repeating it three more times, ending up with a ‘four seasons’ theme. That was brief enough, I think. Oh, and I made a collage out of it.

Bird In A Tree