There is a great saying that states that we shouldn’t compare our backstage to other people’s front stage. It sounds so obvious and yet we do it all the time, as all we can see of others is their front stage while we live surrounded by our messy backstage.
This blog is my front stage where I share my artwork and the art-based ideas behind it – like this cup of tea sketch. It’s an object of beauty and I normally share ideas about colour and line etc but not the real-life thoughts that also occur while I sketch. Although you don’t get to see my backstage, I sometimes hint at it in the notes written on the side.
Today I want to share a bit about my recent rough patch and in particular some positive takeaways from my experiences. Just imagine us sitting down having a cup of tea together – this is what I would tell you!
Sketching my life and sharing the experience
The ‘tagline’ for this blog is “sketching my life and sharing the experience” and that is what I aim to do. I share my adventures and thoughts here on the blog in the hope of inspiring others to pursue their creative journey. And then over at SketchingNow I share my techniques in a way designed to help people build their skills and develop their own style.
But in the recent year or so, the ‘sharing’ part of this mission statement has well and truly taken over the ‘sketching’. I am still sketching but no way as much as I would like to. Aside: I know I am not alone in my wish to have more time to sketch!
The commitment of online courses
I love the fact that I am able to share my ideas through online courses, but it is a massive commitment. Not only the effort needed to put together the content of the course itself but also the decisions regarding finding way to host them (using an establish platform or host it yourself) and then the on-going time commitment to manage the whole thing. In my endeavors to do this, I have gone down the route of ‘building my own platform’ to host my courses.
I had no idea what would be involved in that when I started, or how much replying to support emails would become a constant part of my life. And for the last 18 months I have wanted to build my own simplified version of Flickr so that discussions and image sharing could happen on my site.
An ambitious project
I have seen first hand the struggles that bigger companies have had with their platforms, so knew that it was a massive undertaking for me and the small local design agency who is working with me. But I wanted to do it as I am committed to providing the best possible learning experience for those who enroll in a SketchingNow course. I want SketchingNow to be a place that people can return to frequently so they can be reminded of important concepts and be inspired by others working through the same issues.
I knew it would be a challenging project and I put everything I could into the planning stage in order to minimise the issues and pain when it went live. We did extensive testing and I created a detailed programme to co-ordinate all the updates that I needed to do. But well, when it comes to ‘tech stuff’ the unexpected can always happen, and we have had more than our fair share of issues on the live site.
I have found it hard to cope with since we did so much work beforehand and yet there were still problems! But hardest of all is not my workload and frustrations, but having glitches that effect the user’s experience. I know that in the scheme of big important things in this world, my little online courses are not that big a deal. But I take the transaction I have with every customer very seriously, and this project has taken over my life in the past two months. So it’s definitely been the biggest thing in my head lately.
I truly believe that everything in life happens for a purpose, and to go even further, as a Christian I believe that God is in charge. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
So I have had a lot of comfort through the ups and downs of the last little period, but I have also learnt a lot:
- how difficult it is to roll out major upgrades to a live site with active members!
- as much as I try to control everything, I can’t! Things will go wrong, but it’s important to minimse the frustration in order to preserve energy to get back to it as soon as possible, and do what you can to fix it.
- how important is for me when working on a big ‘grind’ project like this, to carve out time to keep my creative juices pumping. The last two months have been relentless – with ‘grind’ work and project management – and even though I work harder when I’m putting my courses together, I am much more energised then because I am creating!
- how mistakes and challenging situations are always part of going to the next level. The important thing is to learn from every mistake and keep improving.
- how generous people are – I have been greatly encouraged by the supportive comments from people who have emailed me in the past few weeks – thankyou!
I could go on and on, but I think the big realisation last week when I was feeling discouraged by how big the process of fixing everything was that it has been an incredible learning experience. I have been thankful that I could use all my ‘project architect’ skills for this endeavour, but it has been great to start to develop a whole new skill set as well.
But just to bring this back to sketching and something that might relate to you. Two final thoughts:
- How amazing it is when the tech stuff gets too hard, to pick up a pen, pencil or brush and do a little sketching in a sketchbook! When I make a mark on the page with my pen, it stays there and on the other hand, when I lose control with watercolour and let it do its own thing, it often rewards me with something truly special and unique. Tech issues are the opposite – what you think works suddenly starts misbehaving, and when things are out of control they get more so!
- If you are just starting your sketching journey and every time you put pen to paper you feel as if it is all going wrong, just go slowly, take every line on its own merit, do your best and be committed to learning. Nothing new and exciting comes without the grind.
So just to wrap-up what has become a long article…
I am super excited about what is being built over at SketchingNow. There have been lots of ups and downs in this massive project and fixing glitches and making refinements will be an on-going process, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.
And finally, I just want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who has helped me and have been so patient and supportive in the last few weeks.