• Kathy

Realizing Gains from Learning a New Skill

I am not sure when it happened, I just realized that it did. Somewhere along the line, I have become much more relaxed when coloring.

Just this morning I was coloring away and realized that when I transferred this image to my project paper I missed several areas! Oh my, don’t you hate when that happens?

Well, months ago that would have thrown me for such a loop that I would have tossed this project all together. After all, I didn’t draw and so there would be no way I could live with anything that I might attempt to fill in here freehand it would stand out (or scream out) from the rest of the image.

But this morning, it was different. I looked at the area where I missed two leaves and thought, “wow, no big deal, I’ll draw those in”. And that’s just what I did. Then, back on my coloring path, I hit another dead end. Oh, my goodness, I missed this guy’s mouth. I mean the entire thing, teeth, and all. Maybe I can blame this on the fact that when I transferred my image I wasn’t feeling well. I guess that is a note to self: don’t transfer images when you are not in tip top shape. But once again, I decided that it wasn’t going to stop me. Again, I sketched my way out of this dead end, and I was off coloring in no time at all.

After close scrutiny, I determined that that was the last of my omissions when transferring the image to my project paper. But now I find myself just sitting back and thinking about what a milestone this is for me. Not only did I resort to sketching, but I was so calm about this, each time I came across another element that needed to be drawn in. That is still surprising me. That is why I am trying to figure out how this happened. A cup of coffee and a little reflection later, I do believe this is the direct result of my desire and follow through on learning to sketch.

I knew that if I was going to get over this “I can’t sketch a stick figure” mindset, I was going to require more than just have a desire to sketch, I was going to have to physically sketch. As scary of a thought as that was, I have now sketched something every day for the past 87 days! And it is clearly paying off in ways I never anticipated. The first might have been the realization that if I have an image that I want to color but there is something not right to me, I have what it takes now to change it. If I am taking a class and the instructor says, “pick up your pen and add grain lines to turn this rectangle into a plank of wood” I no longer panic. It is such an amazing feeling to know I can confidently sketch something.

But in addition to that, I now have increased my skills in such a way that I have gained confidence in even more areas:

  • I can now see value changes within a color

  • I’ve learned that if I don’t understand how to sketch or color something, do a trial run in graphite to figure it out

  • Sketching with graphite has really taught me how to keep consistent pencil pressure.

  • I’m more relaxed to learn to sketch with graphite because I can fix most anything with an eraser

  • I see shapes everywhere, not just clouds

I think I mentioned before that the reason I started my personal sketching challenge was because I happened upon a colored pencil class online with the prerequisite that you know how to sketch (Veronica Winters Complete Colored Pencil Techniques in 90 Days). But I knew that for me, that wouldn’t be necessary, after all, I was trying to enhance my colored pencils skills and I’ve been coloring with some success up until now without ever sketching. But for some reason, this intrigued me, and I decided I would try to sketch something—knowing it wasn’t going to work because it never has before. One thing led to another, and as I said I’m on day 88 of sketching now and I see how the skills to sketch and coloring go together.

If I had started out in a traditional art class, I suspect the early learning would had been limited to a pencil, paper, and eraser so that I would learn important fundaments. Then, and only then, I would have been allowed to move onto color. But it seems I put the cart before the horse because I just jumped right into the Copic marker and colored pencil end or the art pool. And I am glad I did because it allowed me to figure out for myself that it was beneficial (and important) for me to circle back around to the basics.

Though I have tried twice in the past to attend in-person art classes to learn to draw, they never worked. But after a long conversation with my coloring practice partner, we both agree that as a result of focusing our individual art practices on techniques, we’ve pushed our skills forward. We put our skills through the paces to test our understanding and measure our results by critiquing our finished coloring projects. So, when we push ourselves to try a new technique (for me sketching, for Frankie right now it's watercolor) it seems our learning curve is not so steep because the techniques we’ve already learned are becoming second nature.

And we all know, things that become second nature, we simply do without much thought. So much so, sometimes we stop to question if we’ve done something. You know what I mean because I would guess you’ve done it too, you leave home and are struck with that sudden jolt because you realize that you can’t remember if you unplugged the iron, shut the garage door, etc. You turn around and head home because you are now obsessed with worry. You arrive home to find out that you had left the house safely. No iron was plugged in, the garage door was shut, and the front door locked. You are safe to go about your travels.

That is what happened this morning when I was coloring. I realized that I wasn’t overthinking things before I colored. I was handling issues as they came up and kept on going. I was enjoying the entire process. I was happy when I saw I had missed something in my image. Months ago, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have even noticed it. I would have figured that my transfer was accurate and just keep coloring. But today, I really do focus on my reference photos and I trust what I see when creating my projects.

So, on many fronts. today’s discoveries were very exciting for me. It's not so often that I actually realize the progress I've made.

Have you discovered that all or part of your coloring has become more second nature? Or have you even stopped to think about the fact it has? If not, take a break, take a few minutes to think about your coloring process today versus six months ago. What is easier today? Where has your confidence been boosted?

Okay, that’s enough for today, let’s go color!

What's happening in the Corner . . .

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, we are surrounded by more and more shiny things. Do you want to learn how to add shine to the objects you color? Join us all month as we learn what and how to make your objects shine.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Shiny Things here.

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