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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Failure At Punalu'u

One reason I follow James Gurney's blog is that he pursues his craft regularly and unselfconsciously.  He takes a light-hearted approach to his art, and doesn't shy away from practicing.  Instead of regarding every new scene he draws and/or paints as a major investment of time and artistic expression, he takes time to experiment, and capture little images, such as a building that draws his eye, airport workers loading baggage onto a nearby plane (while he's waiting for his own to take off), or even a small, metal creamer on a restaurant table.  I tend to thing big, and that every minute of my work hours should be devoted to The Next Big Project.  

For a long time, I've wanted to do more sketching.  I guess a part of me is rebelling, and asking what the point is of simply photographing what I see when I travel.  Shouldn't I be doing more to commemorate what I see than simply pointing and shooting?  Another aspect of this is that I'm dissatisfied with my concepts for my first dragon novel.  I want to get those details right, and have never forgotten comic book writer and artist Mike Bocianowski's advice to supplement drawing with writing. Using both methods could help me refine my ideas, breathe life into them, and aid me in making some final decisions as to how I portray them in my novel.  

George Lucas followed a similar methodology in developing "Star Wars," although he didn't do much drawing of his own.  Instead, he gave Ralph McQuarrie his notes, his descriptions of places and characters, and then turned the artist loose.  After seeing his ideas laid out visually, Lucas then refined his concepts, and gradually whittled them down each their final forms.

I don't have income rolling in from a successful movie like "American Graffiti," so I can't pay for artists of McQuarrie's caliber.  Nor do I really want to.  As I've said, a part of me yearns to do the artwork myself.  Yet somehow, each week goes by with few, if any, real sketches completed that will help me refine my story.  So this vacation, my wife took her sketch pad and kit, and promised to sit down with me, pursuing her craft while I made my own feeble attempts.

One day in Hawaii we walked down to Punalu'u, and laid out our towels on a nice shady spot beneath the palm trees.  After eating our picnic lunch, we started to draw.  

To begin with, I concentrated on the rocky shore to my left,  

and the stretch of beach in front of me. 

After awhile, I realized I was growing tired of the drawing, and wondered if I was devoting far too much attention to the lava rocks that, for the most part, defined the shape of the bay.  So I started working on what I was seeing to my right.

I rapidly realized that the latter was a huge mistake.  Here I was, trying to capture a scene that would have required at least half-a-dozen photographs to stitch together!

My wife had long since finished her sketch, and left to explore the beach.  Deciding to give up on my own drawing, I picked up my camera and captured some of what was going on around me, like the people walking over the lava rocks, or the children fishing in the pond behind me.  

After awhile, my wife returned, and showed me her drawing.  She had selected a smaller scene, and through employing a less meticulous methodology, brought it to life without exhausting herself.

It's amazingly easy to bite off too much in life.  But by defining our goals, and narrowing our vision so that we concentrate on what's most important, we empower ourselves.  Of course, we're still bound to fail in some of the things we do, but that doesn't mean that we can't try again.

I was discouraged by my efforts at Punalu'u, and a part of me argued that I had wasted precious vacation time.  But another part argued that I had learned a valuable lesson.  

So I vowed to pick up my pencils another time, and channel my failure into future successes.  

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Mike Bocianowski's Passion

1 comment:

  1. Keep sketching, it gets easier with practice.