Why Bother? Part 1: Pushing yourself for a challenge

May 27, 2015 | 28 Comments

I know the month of May is not over yet, but in the last few days I haven’t even bothered to attempt the day’s sketching prompt. I knew that doing EDIM would be a challenge – not because I find it hard to sketch every day (I do that naturally 6 days a week) but because of the pressure a list creates. If you missed if, I wrote about some of the ups and downs of a monthly project here.

I have had a few good days – sketching my bristle brushes, sketching my tree and finally getting around to sketch my chandelier (which I haven’t thrown out yet!) But other days I have been disappointed to the point of not bothering to scan and share. They are not that bad, but just don’t do it for me. I would prefer to put the scanning and posting time into doing another sketch of the same subject that I am more happy with!

What has happened this month hasn’t surprised me much, but what I have enjoyed is the illuminating thoughts I have had as a result. If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I THINK a lot about my art. I am always asking myself why? or how? or what next? I have had a light bulb moment thinking about my disappointing EDiM attempts and as often with one of these ‘ding’ moments, they seem obvious afterwards…but for some reason the re-application of old truths to new situations make them seem like new truths. It is the spiral in action again!

So what has been going on?

Basically, some days my heart was not in it. Why? I was uninspired by the subject matter or I didn’t have the time and rushed it. I was pushing myself to do it.

 But why was this a problem?

I often sketch things that seem to be uninspiring (refer to yesterday’s post on everyday (ugly) scenes) but once I get into it am very glad that I persevered. I think this one of the GREAT benefits of the EDiM challenge. Being pushed to do something is often VERY good – you never really progress unless you push yourself.

I often sketch in a limited timeframe – I often attempt sketches on occasions when I really do not have the time to do it justice and often these become my favourite sketches. (more on this on Why Bother: Part 2)

And just to throw a third situation into the mix, I often sit at home wanting to sketch and not exactly sure what to use as my subject matter.

I mentioned yesterday that having a meaningful reason to sketch something was important to me. I am much less motivated to sketch a random object that has nothing to do with my day … but I have realised that this is not just the biggest factor.

The major issue, I have decided is that I need to be motivated to respond.

My motivation can be one of the following
1.  Seeing something that captures my eye and having the urge to sketch. This is why I am so much more inspired when I am out – I see things everything that I want to sketch.
2. Having the urge to paint, to try out a new tool/media or to try a new technique. The subject matter is secondary to what I really want to do…just play.
3. Giving myself the time to become motivated and engaged during the process. Taking the time to think and observe the object WILL nearly always result in finding something to inspire me and my sketch.

I need one of these three to make it worth bothering! Some days with EDiM I have forced myself to do it because I ‘had to’. Even when I thought I had chosen the object that answered the challenge in a way that I thought made it me.

A few examples:

I gave myself the time to sketch this spice bottles and had fun with my coloured ink.

Not overly inspired my sketching this basket (couldn’t think of anything else to draw) but as the theme was a handle, I attempted an interesting composition.

I have sketched my Lamy JOY many times but always with a reason for doing so. There is no need to connect with this object (ha ha), but on this occasion I was drawing with watersoluble ink. And having a new pen to draw was fun.

And finally a sketch from last week that I haven’t posted. I did this sketch purely because I wanted to test out a new brush. Didn’t have decent paper on hand or an inspired subject matter

BIG NOTE: If you are a beginner, I do think that you need to push more than a seasoned sketcher does. You are still in the process of learning the basics and developing your technique, but I still think having one of the three types of motivation should be present and will help you overcome your frustration with your ‘lack’ of skill… but perhaps number 3 (time!) is the most important.
A list to work from can be a great thing and especially when other people are working from it as well. Looking at the work produced this month is very inspiring!

Take time to look at your subject, ask yourself what is it about this subject that appeals to you, what are the shapes, what is the lighting doing. The more you get excited about the subject the more it will help your sketch. It WILL come through in the end result and despite the parts that you are not happy with, you will enjoy the process much more which will motivate you to try it again…soon.

Don’t just think “I have to draw an apron today” but instead “Here is an apron, what is it that is important to me, what is it I want to record?” Ah! this is problem, I have been too object based without a message!

Ok! that is enough for today.  How are you going with EDiM? What are your thoughts about pushing yourself – when is it worth it and when(if ever) are you flogging a dead house?

I can’t help wondering whether writing all this down will give myself a boost to finish off the month with a flurry! Sometimes when I take the pressure off, my output goes through the roof. Here’s hoping!

and remember… whatever you do, don’t take art too seriously  – make sure that you have fun!

Follow up posts:
What happens when I don’t push myself
Why Bother Part 2: When you don’t have the time——————-

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  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Jester1966de – so good to hear that EDiM has got you sketching on a regular basis. that is the main point of it IMO!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks TIna!!!!

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Cathy – great to read your experience… and I think that EDiM has worked for you. It is a prompt for bigger and greater things… don't feel guilty about pulling out. Looking forward to seeing what you do in your studio next

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Karen – great that you have been doing the challenge. I think that getting the sketch done is the main thing…the scanning and posting and commenting etc is another whole level of commitment! Keep it up and hope to see you in my next course (working on it now!)

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Teresa… one of these days I hope you will do it!!!

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI martin- great to hear from you and your motivation. I suppose an interesting question would be how could you motivate yourself more (if you wanted to!)

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Katherine – so sorry to hear about your cat.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head- the important thing is to sketch daily…and if the list helps you do that- great! Otherwise the important thing is to just keep sketching

  • Liz Steel says:

    yep "my heart has to be in it for me to like the outcome." totally agree Sherry!

  • I'm with you and your comments Liz.

    I've also tailed off – albeit I have the major distraction of a very sick cat and the only sketches I want to do right now are of him. Everything else just seemed totally insignificant in comparison.

    I also need to sketch things I enjoy sketching – my mantra is much more about trying to get into the discipline of trying to draw or sketch every day rather than completing a list of items to sketch.

    However I think the lists are a brilliant idea for those starting out who haven't yet found what they enjoy sketching.

  • MiataGrrl says:

    Another excellent post, Liz. So many of your thoughts echo mine!

  • So generous about sharing your thoughts on EDiM Liz… I have to say I got really irritated 'having' to draw random objects every day, some uninspiring. Having a personal response to each subject definitely helped, but some I just couldn't dredge one up! But what it did do is make me realise what I really want to be doing, which is be in my studio, finally working on some paintings that have been floating around my head for a while now. So it was a positive force in clarifying that, though I feel the guilt pangs for ditching a project half way through! It is a wonderful tool for new sketchers, or for ones who haven't done it for years.

  • Karen says:

    I've been drawing for not quite a year now (and am one of your enthusiastic students from Sketching Now). Your comments directed toward beginners certainly speak to me. EDiM came along after a dry spell of not sketching daily for quite awhile, and was just the push I needed. I decided for time's sake, I wouldn't scan and post my sketches, but just concentrate on getting one done every day to the best of my ability. I've enjoyed the process, and learned a few things on the way.

  • Teresa says:

    It's great to have a project, and when I read your posts and take a look at your drawings I want immediately to begin one, too. But I'm a little bit lazy with new beginnings…
    One of these days…

  • Your motivation reasons are similar to why I have never been interested in taking part in a "sketch for a month" project. I sketch/paint when I am motivated by a subject not because I have to put pencil/pen to paper. Sketching to me is a fun thing to do. I don't ever want it to become a chore. I am quite happy to wait day's or a week or two until I get the inspiration, otherwise my pens, pencils and brushes stay packed away. This wouldn't suit everyone, but it works for me and keeps my mind fresh.

  • You are very cerebral about your artistic efforts, Liz. It is probably the one area in which I am not so much, oddly. But I do find my heart has to be in it for me to like the outcome.

  • jester1966de says:

    This is very interesting, Liz. Though I have not managed to do all tasks yet to me EDIM was great to get me rolling again and to sketch on a regular basis. Sometimes life is too busy (I am a self employed consultant and customers' needs are always first) but I am content with what I achieved. I don't feel pressure or a "must" to draw the daily topic but find it helpful because it frees me to find motives when daily routine seems overwhelming.

  • Deborah says:

    I've not done every day of EDIM, but the ones I have done have made me realise again how drawing something is a process of getting to know it and making a connection. I've never finished a sketch without feeling this sense of having made a friend. And afterwards whenever I look at the object I've drawn,y there's this feeling of "Hello! We've met before -I know you!" That made EDIM really worth it for me.

  • I've not done the EDM before but this list was a yawn. That was my biggest stumbling block. I just sketched what I wanted to when it was too uninteresting and didn't care if I didn't post that day. I DO think, however, that if you are a person who can't get the habit of pen to paper or who thinks about subject too much then having a list might be good for you. Or by comparison, to see what someone else might do with a "boring" object is fun.

  • Hi Liz, …. It really is an individual thing isn't it?

    I am quite happy with the pace and number of sketches I get done. It would be too slow for many, but as a side hobby in my spare time the slower pace suits my current lifestyle. I will often go a week or two without sketching, but I am still thinking about subjects and way's I can improve. I don't force it, .. I prefer to allow the subject to present itself in its own time which usually involves me getting several good sketches done in a matter of days.

  • Hey Liz
    Great post and I thought I was the only one not "feeling it" with this challenge. I don't know if it was the subject matter or the stress of finding "the right" item to sketch that did me in. The push quickly turned into shoves. I did learn something about myself very quickly with this challenge and that is I am very intuitive when I'm drawing / sketching. If I'm not feeling it, a list sure as heck won't keep me on task.

    And it's extremely hard to catch up after missing a few days. What should be a freeing if not relaxing hobby turned into nothing but stress..lol

    I know what the purpose of the challenge is supposed to be, but do you think the list should be altered to something like Daily Inspirations in May? Throwing it out there…

  • Part of the challenge of EDM for me is to make an assignment interesting. I wasn't interested in drawing stairs, but found a photo of my grandmother sitting on stairs and created a still life with that, a teacup that belonged to her, a rose. I didn't make stairs the main subject matter. Part of what keeps me going is getting likes and comments. And I like drawing things around the house and being physically comfortable when I draw. I am always running out of ideas and EDM really helped with that.

  • Lawrence Goldfarb says:

    Probably too late for comments on this blog, but at the end of the day, I always feel more satisfied
    if I have sketched something, anything.

  • Liz Steel says:

    agree – that a list and a group doing the list too is a great way to motivate people to draw!

  • Liz Steel says:

    Ah! Deborah! I feel exactly the same way – making friends! One of the reasons why I like sketching the same things over and over (even when I travel) is a kind of renewing friendship!

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Michael – yes never let it become a burden. Change the list to suit yourself… I reckon that is the way to go.

  • Liz Steel says:

    Agree with your comments. I suppose what I found hard is that I didn't have the time to make the challenge interesting. It does take time to think about what you could draw to personalise it

  • Liz Steel says:

    HI Larry- never too late! Yes, agree sketching something is always better than nothing…but if you have already sketched something meaningful for that day (which I often had) then to add an imposed challenge that I felt I needed to sketch on the top of that… was that worth it? I think so as I have worked out a few more things about myself!

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz,
    Half way through the EDiM challenge I thought the same thing. Why am I doing this? I was so unmotivated to sketch many of the items and realized that my time would be better spent sketching the things I really want to practice and on several days I felt like I was just 'phoning it in'. On the other hand, I do need all the practice I can get and I stuck with it so I feel a sense of accomplishment. Every single day I discover a little bit more about how I want to advance my sketching skills and challenges like this do help me come to some conclusions.

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