Mentor or Monster . . . They Know Exactly What to Say!

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Who will you listen to? We have information surrounding us all the time. Some of it is good and helpful and some of it is paralyzing--stopping any forward movement in our creative progress.

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and can look at your work and say just the right things that propels you in a good direction.

Then there is the voice of self doubt - that nasty monster that holds you back from taking your mentors' advice. Let me share my experience with the mentor vs the monster.

Two years ago I remember telling Amy (my art instructor and mentor), I thought it would be cool to draw fantasy characters. When I said those words I remember exactly what I was thinking she would say, “oh Frankie that is a really nice dream but you should stick with coloring flowers." And you know what, if she had said that I would have agreed. Fantasy characters were far beyond what I could possibly conceive of actually doing at the time. But, here’s the thing, she didn't say what I expected her to say. Instead her response to me planted a seed that caused my brain to go into over drive for months to come.

Amy’s reaction included her looking at me funny for a few seconds after I told her that I would love to draw fantasy characters. Then she said "So you want to be like every 13 year old boy?" We laughed. Then we spent time looking at what I thought was cool about this idea by viewing a few art pieces I found on Pintrest that I had been oogling over for awhile. She looked at them for a few minutes then turned to me and said these words that have been ingrained in my brain ever since, "Ok I see what you like, but do you see what you like? What is it about these drawings that interest you so much". Of course I didn't understand what in the world she meant so I looked at them again and I said "They look cool!" She laughed and then said she was serious I was to look at them and tell her what I saw.

So I looked again. It was easy, I saw pointy ears sharp noses and cool flowing hair. Her reaction told me that I still wasn’t seeing something that she was trying to get me to see. So she started to point out what she saw in all of the art pieces I had shared with her. She told me to look at the eyes of all of these, see how they all have great expression that draws you into the picture. She continued to point out more things for me, the eyebrows on this one, the highlights on that one. Amy helped me understand that each one of these pieces that drew me into the “coolness” as I call it, has a story. So, if I am going to learn to create art like this I need to study this. To study this means I need to look at what other artists do, look up photographers who take pictures of cosplay and such. Study it from all types of mediums and look for what I like, what talks to me. Then it will be time to try to replicate it when I start to draw my fantasy characters.

Self, I said, “study, hmmm, yeah I left school years ago Amy, I am not about to start doing that again.” Even if I wouldn’t study, I could do research the 2020 way! I pulled out my phone and started searching the internet for what other people were drawing and painting in the form of fantasy characters. I will be honest here. After the third character I found I quit looking because of that nasty old monster named Self Doubt reared his ugly head and shut down my phone. I saw some truly incredible art. Amazing stuff that really made me drool because it was so freaking cool. After looking at the third picture I already knew I was silly to think I could draw anything like what I am seeing. With the agony of defeat, I settled into my most comfortable chair and found myself thinking - yeah what was I doing changing coloring lanes. I need to just get back into my adult colorer lane because I’m going to get swallowed alive if I stay in this realistic drawing lane.

Self doubt - the blocker of dreams, the monster that can reduce you to a puddle of tears, the robber of self joy.

I let self doubt take over my thoughts that day. I accepted what he said as truth. Stayed in my lane and colored my project like a good little girl.

The funny thing about Pinterest (or maybe one of the best things about Pinterest), is that when you click on an image you constantly see that image or ones like it over and over and over again. I found that things were changing for me when I was wandering through Pinterest. Self doubt still spoke loudly in my head, but I was starting to hear something else. It was faint, but it was clear, I was now hearing Amy's voice telling me to study these pictures.

I looked for what I liked about them. That lead me to the realization that I was really captivated by the eyes. I would zoom in and think it was interesting how people drew the eyes, or where they put the highlights. I kept doing this ritual for about a year. Without realizing it, studying faces and eyes had turned into a fun game for me. I had no intention of actually drawing eyes, but I was noticing things every time I zoomed in on a picture. I was still coloring projects and I had been picking up some ideas on putting different highlights on eyes or where there was good areas to shade.

One day I noticed a difference in the eyes I was actually coloring on my projects. For some crazy reason I decided to draw an eye on my own. I would love to tell you that this fantastic moment is when I produced a picture perfect eye and the heavens opened up and the angels sang. Reality, the eye really was bad. Instead of throwing it away - I learned from it. I started to beat back the self doubt by focusing in on what I needed to do better.

So I made another eye - it was better and the voice in my head that started getting louder was now saying "You can do this".

So I drew another eye and that voice was even louder this time. Here is why I am sharing this story with you. I could have let self doubt win the argument. I know it took me over a year to finish the argument with self doubt. I still let self doubt slip in sometimes even today. I have learned that self doubt is just words you say in your head. You have the choice to believe the words or simply ignore them.

The last thing I learned looking back at this experience is that when I was “studying” I was actually practicing. Even the time spent looking at photos was part of the process. For me to create fantasy characters like this one here, meant I had to look around for inspiration, ideas and that ultimately put my pencil to the paper.

Do you hate to study? Do you avoid practice? Do you want to defeat the Self Doubt monster? Do you want your accelerate out of the adult coloring lane . . . the Practice Corner is a community here to help you find the route suited for you.

You can find more of Frankie's characters, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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