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Learning to draw and celebrating imperfection


First of all – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

So. I’ve had this idea for a couple years now to start an indie greeting card line with illustrations and empowering sayings. I drew up a batch back then and the ideas flowed. I cranked out about twelve of them in a short time span. I was demoing at the California Gift Show and not one, but TWO sales reps spoke to me about launching an actual, legit greeting card line. At first I jumped  up and down, excited, but then reality hit – I would have to draw up a large collection to get the ball rolling. It was around the time I was working on my second novel, plus the product line, a lot was happening around then. Honestly, it was fear that got the best of me. As soon as guidelines were attached, my inner spirit birdie flew to the corner of the cage and wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t draw another painting to save my life, I critiqued every one and hated them. 

The opportunity passed.


To this day, I still sell the first set of images at shows and in my online store. I’m very proud of them, even though I often think, “if only I had followed through, who knows what could  have happened!” Every year since, I’ll draw and paint a few more. But I’d say out of every set, there is only one that is good enough to use. Either the eyes are wonky, the mouth is too stiff, my shading is off, etc. This so-called greeting card project is one I have yet to get off the ground because I keep thinking “I need to get better, I need to take a legit drawing class, these are cheesy, people will laugh at them…”

You know – our little friends: Self-doubt, regrets, comparison!

Just like with writing or singing or anything – painting and illustration takes practice, lots and lots of practice until you get your groove. My problem, like many people, as soon as the going gets tough and I stumble or make a mistake, I’ll divert to comparing my work to others and give up. I tell myself to focus on what I do best, put my work-in-progress away and work on something more concrete, like blogging or crafting.



Luckily, I’m a strong goal-setter, deadline kind of chica. I hate leaving unfinished business, I have to tie up loose ends for peace of mind.

So on New Year’s Eve and into the wee hours of January 1st, 2014, I worked on a series of new illustrations for my greeting card project! I went through magazines and tore out pictures for reference. I did it, just because and I had a blast!

Can you guess what celebrities I used for inspiration? The bottom left was from a picture of Beyoncé, and the bottom right was inspired by a skinny Angelina Jolie. Ha! After going through the chica machine that is my left hand and sturdy eraser and pencil, they came to life with their own personality. I love that! I don’t want people to know who the inspiration was. Hopefully the drawings will stand on their own.

My mission for these is for them to look happy.

Today Patrick stood over my shoulder as I worked on them. My first instinct was to cover the drawings with my hands, but I let him see.


“They are great!” he said enthusiastically. I pointed out the flaws on each one and since he is a much better painter than I, he offered to help me spruce them up this weekend. It’s all about learning and refining your style. He is going to help me with techniques to make their features “smile” as he says.

I AM going to finish this project. I’ll have them printed into little sets and it will feel awesome to finally have this goal completed. I still need to work on backgrounds and text on all of these, but no biggie, I’ll get there.

It’s the best feeling to let go of self-doubt and all that other baggage and just enjoy the experience. No expectations. Just painting because I enjoy to paint. That is when the magic happens. Rather than worry about achieving perfection, I’m going to celebrate the imperfections and go with it!

Here are some tips:

1. Pick a passion project or a genre or skill you’ve always wanted to learn.

2. Take a class or search YouTube videos to improve your technique.

3. Focus on a theme so your ideas are manageable.

4. Work on it consistently so it becomes part of your life.

5. Set a deadline or goal marker for stages of your work.

Hope this helps! What kind of passion project do you have going on these days?

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5 thoughts on “Learning to draw and celebrating imperfection”

  1. Such a wonderful post, Kathy.

    Last year I made a very focused effort to follow some of the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding art:

    Pretend your art can hear what you say about it. Don’t say anything that would hurt it’s feelings.

    My confidence to try new things and explore areas I’m not yet competent in just boomed and grew as long as I held to that principle.

    I love your gorgeous ladies, especially the one with the teal and crimson background.


  2. Kathy, they ARE great. They totally have your style all over them, so of course they are great. I gave up comparing my art to others years ago. Best thing I ever did. When I was younger, I was always seeking approval and a kind word to keep me going whenever I was doing something creatively. Now, I draw, doodle, paint AND I DON’T WAIT FOR ANYONE’S APPROVAL. I create with a peace in my heart and a confidence that whatever I put my hands on will turn out wonderfully. You should too–you ooze talent and creativity!

  3. For years my mother claimed she couldn’t draw or paint, she was in awe of anything I doodled claiming no skill herself. She can sew, crochet, knit, macrame, embroider, quilt, make clay jewelry and such, and has even done a “Painting” using a technique that looks like embroidering on canvasss that I can’t remember the name of but was popular in the ’70s. A year ago she allowed some friends to talk her into joining them in a watercolour class they all attended. My mother is now obsessed with her art, no longer claims to have no talent and is happier than ever. Her very first painting is sitting in my office on display and I have received hundreds of compliments from co-workers.

    You never know what you can do and often it turns out to be the thing you thought you couldn’t; so try everything and expect to fail every time – then you can only be pleasantly surprised when you succeed and are never disappointed if you don’t.

  4. Working on my book. This one will be a murder mystery. I also had an idea for Valentines Day cards but, I will put that on the back burner because like you I get so nervous when I think of doing something. Guess I am just in too much of a hurry for something good to happen. I can so relate to this story and I had actually wondered why you never did something like this. Love ya and never change my friend!

  5. I know every artist struggles with something, but it’s nice to hear about it from an established crafter/artist. Thanks for posting this. My dream is to become a children’s illustrator, and because the road is so long and tough, I frequently get discouraged. Also, Nikole Maki, I love that idea: “Pretend your art can hear what you say about it. Don’t say anything that would hurt it’s feelings.”


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