176 doodles and the importance of joy

Aug. 17, 2014, 11:38 a.m. in Art

It's a joke about pencils... Never mind.

When January arrives it's always time for New Year's resolutions - you know, those ones about quitting chocolate or taking up running that you realise a week later were not really a fun idea at all. I often hear people say things like: "Oh I don't make new year's resolutions because people just break them" or "I could do that anytime of year, January is a bad excuse!". Whilst I agree that if you want to do something, you should just start anytime, sometimes we need to help ourselves with a bit of a motivational kick and January - being a nice clean start to a new year, or at least feeling like one (even if it's technically just another day) can help.

I've seen "365" projects a few times before, sometimes photography, sometimes drawings, where you set yourself the challenge to create a little something on every day of the year. I generally don't like to dictate when or what I draw, as I find that never works out, maybe because I find it difficult to draw on demand and I just have to be in the right mood for creative pursuits. The typical pandalion thrives when enjoying a varied lifestyle with multiple hobbies, flitting between coding, doodling, and other creative or geeky pursuits, as well as playing far too many different videogames and not finishing many of them. I've always felt both in my personal and professional life, that I've never been quite content or good at focusing on just one "skill tree". There's just so many different fun things to do in the world! However sometimes the fact that there's so much I want to do and never enough time for it all, means that stuff I would like to do more of can fall by the wayside, purely from there not being enough hours in the day.

So, I decided to start a 365 doodles project in January of this year, with the aim of doodling something - anything - every day of the year. My hope was that I would motivate myself to exercise that drawing muscle more, giving myself smaller goals that would be easier to meet (it doesn't have to be a masterpiece! Just get something on paper). The main reason being that creating and putting something out into the world, as well as observing, consuming and passively taking things in, always feels like a great thing, regardless of what you create. Perfectionism is one of my most annoying traits and actually holds me back from creating things sometimes because of the fear that it might not be that good anyway, so again, this felt like a way to draw but say "hey, it doesn't have to be great."

If I'm not trying to catch them all, I'm trying to draw them all

I love videogames (what do you mean you didn't realise?? ;), and as a 29 year old woman, when I talk about this, I still often get reactions like "videogames are a waste of time", "I'm too busy for games now I'm older", "I create things these days, I can't just sit and play games". As I've said above, putting things out into the world is great, no matter how small that thing is, but I think it's missing the point if you don't appreciate the merit of enjoying the things that have already been created.

I've already written in some detail about how videogames are a fantastic blend of the creations of artists, artists in all kinds of fields - visuals, programming, storytelling, and music to name just a few. I really believe that inspiration is the beginning of all creativity. If you haven't experienced things that you enjoy, that have invoked emotion in you, how can you hope to invoke the same feeling in others through the things you create?

Sonic - inspiring me since 1991
Doodle for @nicollhunt, creator of awesome indie game We Fight Bears

I don't have any technical training in drawing, and I don't see myself as a "serious artist", because for me it's really just something that comes from my heart. Everything I draw just comes from a picture in my mind that I think could be pretty cute, how it looks is some combination of the things that have inspired me over the years, the things I've seen and thought "ahhh that's adorable".

During my personal challenge to doodle daily, if I hadn't been doing much outside of doodling, if I hadn't experienced something recently that had brought me joy, it would be much more difficult for me to know what to draw, and I certainly had those days. But other days, I will have just been to see a superhero movie, or just played Borderlands for several hours and I would want to get those experiences on paper in my own little way.

If I ever stopped playing Borderlands 2, I had to carry it on in my doodles
One of my favourites of a foxy Black Widow, drawn after seeing Winter Soldier.

I didn't get to doodle #365. I got to #176, and then stopped. I had a lot going on with work and moving house, but those weren't really the reasons, I guess I just wasn't enjoying it anymore, and it was feeling too forced. I felt like I was ready to stop, and wanted to go back to it not being a "chore", but picking up a pencil at random moments when I felt like it. And I'm glad I stopped when I felt like that too. It's part of the reason for me making this blog post - to explain the personal benefits of giving myself the project but also that not "meeting the goal" doesn't feel like a failure to me.

176 drawings is way more than I would have created had I not done this project. I feel like I exercised my "drawing muscle" and I helped myself create time in the day to not leave my hobby behind despite the other busy goings-on and responsibilities of life. I experimented over that time, tried different styles for drawing people, tried different characters or animals I had maybe not drawn before. I tried slightly different paper or techniques, I found what I liked or didn't like.

I don't really blend markers much so this was a kind of attempt at that
Trying out a "no lines" style

After that many drawings, I still don't feel like I "know" what I'm doing. I still feel like art comes to me on a whim, when I wake up on a Sunday morning with a picture of something cute in my mind and want to get it on paper. But, after I stopped drawing daily, I noticed that ideas would come to me, ways of drawing things would appear in my mind - inspiration from games or people or characters or situations - and my drawing muscle felt on better form.

Achievement unlocked?

So, what was the goal of 365 doodles? Obviously three hundred and sixty-five doodles, on one hand. But reaching that number for the very sake of it, I believe would have stopped me making some of what I think are "better" pieces later on, through letting that muscle have a rest. Though it helped and was nice to have friends watching my progress and cheering me on, the project was for my personal benefit - and do I feel like I've benefited? Yes, hugely. I'm happy that the project helped me devote time to this hobby, to try a lot of different little things and break out of my comfort zone a bit.

I'm happy that it resulted in being able to make a lot of my friends happy too, with doodles of their pets, favourite characters, or anthropomorphised versions of themselves. And when something like this happens - a photo of my friends beloved cats, which I turned to doodle form, and somebody else turned to a sculpture.. that for me just sums up how the joy of the things we love is the very thing that can spark inspiration, that carries on over different mediums, different people, and even generations.

My friend @EmzvasNormandy's beautiful cats
My drawing of Emma's cats, and the sculpture she had it turned into
Pokemon "art cards" drawn a few weeks after I finished my project

So, to summarise - I didn't reach 365 doodles. But I don't feel like I've failed either. I got so much out of this personal project and to have been able to see others get some joy out of it too, that was awesome. Creation should be about enjoyment, as much as playing games or anything else we do should be, and it shouldn't be a chore.

So go forth, play games, read books, listen to music, watch shows, do whatever the heck brings you joy, and I'm pretty sure that joy might make you want to spread more of it in your own little way :)

Funk-funk-e pals

Nov. 4, 2012, 1:04 p.m. in Art

Funk-Funk-E Pals

This week I met up with an old friend who I haven't seen in something like 8 years! We were best friends when we were younger, but unlike a lot of friends who you kinda know at school just "because" and drift apart when you're older, we've always had a pretty good connection, and it was great to find out this week that it was still there. :D

We had such a fun day recounting silly memories of schoolgirl crushes, or wandering around with our walkman together listening to Backstreet Boys and Radiohead. Apart from both being pretty similar in terms of being creative and into the same music, one of the biggest things we share is our love for videogames!

And the videogame that pretty much defines our childhood and friendship is without a doubt, Toejam and Earl, which inspired this drawing :) We used to play on the Sega Megadrive a lot together and the wonderful thing about Toejam and Earl was the hilarious co-op mode you could play on both games. The funny comments and quips they would say to each other, and the way you could face each other, crouch and high-five to share your health equally. Despite the fact that the first Toejam and Earl game came out 21 years ago, I still think today that they had one of the best friendships portrayed in a videogame, throughout both games (I'm pretending the third didn't exist *cough*). They shared funny and even touching moments - such as when they both have love interests in the second game - and they always supported each other :)

I always played as Earl (the sorta lazy, sleepy, clumsy one XD) and she Toejam (the sensible one telling him to get a move on!) and we still use the nicknames TJ and Big Earl for each other now XD It makes me really happy that an awesome videogame and an awesome friendship are equally timeless :)

Yay, Winter!

Oct. 26, 2012, 3:18 p.m. in Art

Why the Pandalion likes Winter

It's Winter, and it's getting colder, which inspired me to make this drawing featuring the Pandalion. I think Winter is my favourite season! :D To expand on the points drawn above:

  • Snuggly layers!
    Whilst Summer can get unbearably hot and it's hard to cool down, I think it's *always* pretty easy to warm up in Winter.. even if that means drowning yourself in extra shirts, jumpers, scarves, gloves, etc.. Winter clothes are so cosy! I also have the fluffiest ever slipper sock/boot things my mum bought me this year and they are so amazingly comfortable :D And it's an excuse to buy even more cute scarves and socks ^_^
  • More darkness!
    This may seem an odd thing, as I know lots of people hate the dark mornings, but really, since I've stopped driving a car and started getting a train everywhere, they don't bother me that much! Also perhaps not having such a bad commute these days :) Anyway, the main reason I like the extra darkness is, I have this weird sensitivity to light and get migraines and stuff pretty easily, bright sun tends to make me feel kinda ill :/ The other reason is - my job (web development) and my main hobby (videogames) require screens and screens are so hard to see when it's sunny! XD So yes.. I may be weird but.. I like darkness, I feel more settled and productive!
  • Guilt-free gaming!
    I love to play videogames all year round, but in the Summer when most people are outside, I feel kinda like I should probably be outside too! In Winter however, there's none of that feeling, as the weather outside makes me feel like being inside with my DS is clearly the warmest and most sensible place to be :D

I'm sure I could think of even more reasons I love Winter, such as more videogames being released in time for Christmas, and Christmas itself! (yum, turkey). So anyway, I'm feeling pretty happy that it's Wintertime, and I hope you are also enjoying this season too :D

Some Zelda Fanart

Oct. 10, 2012, 10:39 p.m. in Art

My Hero
"My Hero"

I finally got my tablet and preferred art software up and running since getting a new laptop at home, and now I was in the mood to draw I found myself at a blank at what to draw. @mjtamlyn suggested Zelda and I usually shy away from drawing non-animals, but I thought it would be good to challenge myself. I’ve always wanted to do more non-animally fanart for games, so why not start? :)

Then I had to (of course) go and make it a bit soppy, with the Link thought bubble and heart pieces :)

Overall I like how it turned out and I think I do need to challenge myself more. Also it’s probably the most productive I’ve been drawing-wise in a few months so.. yay.