I know a lot of people that throw away pages like this. I keep them, I have thousands of them scattered all around me. I know people that try to only do finished pieces, and that’s great, that’s likely more productive. But I guess I’m still wanting to improve. I haven’t had lots of time to draw, so I try and get in practice where I can, and usually that’s scribbles. I’ve never been an artist that likes to spend days on the same drawing, and doing tons of loose sketches has always been more helpful and fulfilling.

I go back and look at these, and see where I have improved, and where I need to improve.

I’ve had to work very hard for what I can do, and I never want to forget where I’ve come from. From all the accidents, and mistakes, there might be a few lines that are really good, and I want to know how I made that.

When I was in middle school, a teacher told me I would never amount to anything creative. That I should stop trying to make art, and focus on math, because ‘maybe you could do something like be an accountant.’ She said this in front of my mother. I still wonder who the heck she thought she was telling me that? The height of her life’s attempts was becoming a ‘gifted and talented’ teacher at the middle school level. This wasn’t the only teacher that told me I wasn’t good at art, or something. I was constantly talked down to, and told I wasn’t as good as my peers. I was secretly a very angry teen. I kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was constantly hearing the things people would tell me. At that point, you have two options: let those words consume you with doubt, or use those words as motivation to shove the words from the adults that belittled you down their effing throats! I chose the latter.

I spent summers scribbling, erasing, toiling and learning my craft. I went through countless portfolio reviews of my work. I would post my art online, and nobody would say anything. Nobody. My best work wouldn’t even get pity comments. I tried GIVING away free commissions and offering free shipping, and was turned down by people. It was miserable. But I kept working, kept improving.

Then, one day, I got a nice comment. It was the first nice comment someone gave my art online. It was from Tony Shasteen. He told me he thought I’d improved a lot, and to keep up the good work. It felt amazing to have someone like him tell me I was even remotely on the right track. But it gave me hope I wasn’t completely wasting my time. I built off that, and then Kelsey Shannon took me under his wing for a while. I did that for a while, moving from artist to artist critiquing my work. It was much more positive. I remember my friend David Atchison saying, “Give him a few years, and this kid’s going to be a beast.” It meant so much to me that I wasn’t being overlooked anymore, that people thought I was creative, and I was proving those teachers, especially that Middle School teacher wrong.

My point in saying this is, you’d be surprised how many of the artists you thought were naturally gifted have stories very similar to this. When you look at your art, and then look at the art of someone you admire and think, “I’ll never be as good as them.” You’re telling yourself the wrong thing. You CAN be that good, heck, you can be better! But you can’t stop trying, you can’t stop learning, and you can never stop believing in yourself. Because, when that first person believes in you, it’s the most amazing thing!

This is why I try to be as positive and supportive with the people in my life as I can. It’s always 100% genuine. If I’m saying something nice about your work, it’s because I believe it with all of my heart. It may sound like I’m hyper-positive at times, and people sometimes think I’m not telling the truth since they’re used to people giving lip-service. But now you know, I’ve come from a background of negativity, and I’ve chosen to combat that with positivity. 

You may not have 1000’s of followers, or everyone saying your work is amazing. All you need is yourself, and to get to a point where you can enjoy what you’re making. Enjoy the process, enjoy the quest for awesome art tools. Enjoy the feeling of ink on the side of your palm. Enjoy the act of looking at a page you’ve put online knowing how hard you’ve worked on it. You’re valid, you’re relevant, and no matter what anyone else says, you’re creative. You know why? Because you’re trying. Never let anyone take that away from you. They can’t see the future, and they will never know how far you can reach with your art. When I used to teach, this is what I would tell my students.