Friday, September 18, 2009

I believe...

I am an excellent painter. Despite last week's failure's that is... I could make them work if/when I paint over them. But...I need to move on to other things.

This one...
I'm more satisfied with. It's an older piece I'd originally finished with flat overlays of color. Because of course I didn't believe I could handle anything more difficult. This time I started with the monotone figures in the middle (easy peazy), then went on to the more difficult figures on either side (not so easy, especially the hands).

Speaking of belief...

In my first semester of art school, my artist self still an eager pile of unmolded clay, I had the misfortune to have a rotten art instructor. One who, when I proudly handed in my final project (a watercolor painting I'd worked all week and all night on), eyed my work this way and that, hand on chin, before saying, without conviction, "Well...I guess you'll be an OK day." Well. I'm not one to cry in front of strangers (I prefer bathroom stalls), but after that parting shot from instructor dumbass, I bawled - crying out loud bawled - for five city blocks, all the way from school to the Powell Street BART station, on my way back home.

Later, I would face the terrifying Barbara Bradley. An icon from the golden age of illustration. Towards the end of each semester she would take each of her students aside, during non class hours, for a talk about their progress. Every student dreaded this meeting. Even the superstars (so they said). Because we'd all heard how former students of hers had been permanently scarred by this fifteen minute interview. Some, legend went, had even dropped out of school because of it.

My last name putting me among the first in line, I didn't have the build up of dread most of the others felt. Also I was too busy drawing all the time. So why did I still suck? That's the question she addressed during our talk.

Basically, it came down to me being too much of a tight ass. It looks like you don't trust yourself, she said. How could she know just from looking at my sketchbook?!!! But she zeroed in on my exact problem. I didn't trust myself. I didn't believe in my own abilities. Damn she was good.

It didn't help that I belonged to an unusually promising year of students. Among them were the future head of storyboarding at Lucas, future animators, art directors, story boarders, concept artists, etc., for Blue Sky, Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney, etc. Students who would go on to work on films such as Men in Black, Cars, Star Wars II and III, Madagascar and basically every major animated film since the year 2000. Studios were recruiting them even before we left school. And then there were students like me, students who, some teachers assured us, would inevitably bloom after graduation.

I tried hard to believe this. But the philosophy at the Academy was that not every student was meant to make it. The majority of you, one teacher told us, will not be working in the art field five years after graduation. So you better work your butts off.

And I did, determined not to be one of the majority. But when I languished in job after job, always waiting to take off but never quite leaving the ground, I began to wonder if I was fighting the obvious, that I was one of the majority who wasn't going to make it.

But now I see my mistake was to always take whatever job came to me first. One classmate of mine turned down Disney soon after graduating because the job they were offering wasn't quite what she had in mind - even though her remaining in the country depended on getting work. I thought she was crazy. But a year later she was hired by Pixar, to do precisely what she'd wanted to do all along, and she's been happy there ever since.

If only I could go back in time and talk some sense into myself. But here I am, older, wiser...

and starting to believe in myself at last.

Some free day at the Academy of Science sketching...With the summer tourists gone and the kids back in school there were no lines to wait through.
This fish stared at me the whole time I was drawing him. I wonder what he was thinking? The museum has been newly renovated, with lots of new aquariums - but no fish roundabout! So, even though I give the place a thumbs up for cleanliness and architectural design, it was missing something without that fish roundabout. The experience of standing in a gigantic room watching large fish swim round and round you made you feel like you were in their world, not the other way around. So, boo Academy of Science! What were you thinking leaving that out?!


  1. Strange how those (bad) memories remain with us. Perhaps to spur us on? As in, “I’ll show you...”
    And you are an excellent painter - and artist.

  2. Oh, yes, the power of belief! And, I believe in you, Cheryl. I believe in the wonderful art that you produce. I agree with Beth ~ use any past negativity to spur you on. Turn the dark into light. I know you can! :-) Have a magical day, dear girl. x

  3. Hi Beth, thank you! It's taken me a while, but I can now honestly say...I am pretty darn better than good. It would be fun, though, to go back to that teacher, and everyone else who dismissed my work and my potential, and say, see? see? what do you think now? But that wouldn't be nice....

    Hi Carol Anne, I've been looking around me, waiting for the world to tell me I was a good artist. I'm realizing now I had it backwards all this time. Better late than never though. I will turn dark into light, disappointment into personal triumph. Thanks Carol Anne! xx

    Hi Dutch donut Girl, yeah, he was pretty awful One of those teachers who nurtured his star pupils and made rest feel like they were wasting his valuable time. But..all in the past. He was basically mirroring what I believed deep down, and if I hadn't felt that way about myself, I would have brushed off what he;d said pretty easily. Oh well...

  4. I agree, that if you believe in yourself you can do anything. Keep working hard and follow your own path.

  5. Just a quick note to thank you, Cheryl, for your wonderful good luck wishes on my blog. You are so kind and I'm lucky just to know you. And, I've just finished reading the second half of your post. I always think that every experience that challenges us in some way has the potential to make us stronger and better. You keep following your path and be true to your self. That's what matters always. Have a brilliant weekend! xx

  6. Cheryl, the more I see of your work, the more I am amazed at your talent/gift. I guess the art world is super competitve because I seriously cannot imagine why someone has not picked you up yet. Amazing.

  7. Again impressed by your work! You WILL make it! (Love to read you as well, depite sometimes the lack of optimism!)

  8. Thanks Dedene,'s been a long road to where I am now, not that I didn't have great periods where I believed in myself and my talents.. alot...but the core belief, I deserve the life I want, wasn't there.

    Hi Carol Anne, thanks again. It's been a long road here, but there were lessons I really needed to learn on the way. I think, for many years since graduation, I still thought of myself the way I did in school, not as good as the star pupils. And the way my career unfolded only confirmed my erroneous belief. So...I know what to do, and what to focus on and...great things are in my future.

  9. Hi Theresa, my next step is reworking my web site, then I'm going to join the major art forums - deviant art, and so on. I've been...maintaining...a picture here, a picture there. Then worry, worry. But not anymore! Stayed up til four am last night, just to finish a sketch, and I feel the waters moving, starting to flow...

    Hi Peter, yes!!! I will make it, I will!!! I did feel a lack of optimism in the past. I was just remembering in order to remind myself where I've come from, how far I've gone. So, I hope you don't come away thinking I feel pessimistic! No, no, no! Quite the opposite!

  10. Hello, Cheryl. How I love your creative spirit and perseverance. Yes, hands are hard to draw, but you do it! And your sketches that you share here are so vibrant and filled with life. I too find it hard to understand why the "right" job has not come along for you. But back to perseverance. A writer colleague told me once to "Celebrate each completion," as I didn't understand then what revision meant (as in how many times I will work over material I thought was finished). So too, perhaps, it is this way in the art field as well. That you persevere, regardless. That you believe in yourself and in your creative spirit. That you keep making art. And the blog is part of all that as well. Thank you for sharing.

  11. I believe you are not only an excellent painter you are also totally brilliant at drawing, these are all lovely pieces.

  12. It amazes me and thrills me that fish make eye contact. As if...the possibilities of communication were potentially without limit.

  13. Hi ArtSparker - Isn't it amazing? It's kind of disturbing too. If we came from them, who knows what they're capable of thinking? Or maybe I watched the Incredible Mr Limpettt too many times as a kid.

  14. I really liked this post of your introspection. You know it, we all know it "your are an amazing painter!" You stand out. I liked hearing your story about the classmate who turns down Disney ... What!!!! But later is employed by Pixar. Life mostly is about being in the right place at the right time.

    Art, music, movies and literature ... these are the hardest fields to break into, but life is about the journey, right? :)

    PS Thank you so much for your recent comment re. bestseller, this made me smile.

  15. You really did have an especially great class that year. But, from what I see, you are part of that greatness. Without making comparisons, you're a wonderful artist and often times I wonder how you even did some paintings with a brush. Moreover, maybe you should try your hand at writing. You're great at that.


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