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I want to become an illustrator!!! ... or do I?

Many years ago, I decided that the things I liked the most were stories. The people I adored were storytellers, and naturally, I wanted to tell stories too. (I also wanted to be a clarinet player, an archeologist and a forensic scientist, but we'll gloss over that.)

The most obvious way to tell stories is by way of talking. I was (and still am) awful at that, so I turned to writing instead. I enjoyed writing for a long time, and I learned a lot about storytelling from actually reading up on writing theory. It all made sense to me, and helped me understand the books I was reading - but it was also spectacularly boring. I could not bring myself to finish things, or if I did, I lost interest very easily. The few times I could actually immerse myself in scenes I was writing, it felt like I was lacking the ability to explain, and that the thoughts in my head would be better suited to a visual interpretation instead of the written word. For a long time, I blamed this state on my lack of writing "expertise", but two things have happened that have changed my mind.

The first change happened when I decided to take up journaling but didn't know how, and ended up with a book about art journaling. (More later on this blog.) I gave it a try, and while my journal is largely art-less now, art has taken over the rest of my life. I have hardly written a work on fiction since, and I have not really felt any regret. I am not as good as I want to be, but I feel like getting better will actually help me to express the things I couldn't before.

When I started, I had the grand idea of turning my story ideas into graphic novels instead. That was the plan, until I read graphic novels, realised that I didn't like them any more than the last few times I had tried to read some, and understood that joining a medium I didn't like was probably not the best way to go. 
I thought about painting actual paintings of real importance, like the old masters, but what happened then is that I basically stared at blank paper for a long time, before eventually understanding that I had no knowledge whatsoever about how to develop an idea into a piece of art. (Not even a stupid one.)

For a long time, I also thought that I didn't actually have any ideas that could be developed. Nothing. My head was a void, no matter what I tried to put into it. I kept my art going based on drawing challenges, because otherwise I would not get better, and I really needed to improve, but my brain refused to cooperate. Then I listened to an interview with columnist, critic, and former art student, A.A. Gill.
"When I started writing, I realised that all of the things that I had been trying to do in pictures, really I wanted to do in words. And it was just like coming home."
52 Weeks of Creativity, week 2 - "Winter"

A.A. Gill had a knack for expressing things that I already felt but didn't know how to grasp, and this was no different. The things I had felt I couldn't express in the few scenes I had liked years ago - I could picture them in my head, finally able to immerse myself and understand what to take out of them in order to convey them to other people. Thinking about these moments from an artistic viewpoint helped me understand them and realise what made them important.

A.A. Gill's gift to me therefore lies in solving my first problem - thinking I had no ideas worth painting. That is not true - I realise now that I have a ton of them.
But he cannot solve my second problem - how to develop them in to art pieces, and how to use my art as a medium for storytelling. (Neither can he solve my third problem - not being good enough - but I know that this will become less of an issue the more I practise, so while I am actively practising, I can ignore it for the moment.)

This is where illustration comes in.
While I loved the art in the books I read as a child, I had no idea what illustration actually was, or how to go about it. As you can see from the two images accompanying this post, I still don't, but I am slowly getting there. They've been created for two weekly challenges I am participating in this year, one personal and one public. The challenges come with prompts, so they force me to come up with responses to different things. They enable me to see other people's illustrations, and to learn from them. They let me understand my own emotions, and how to express my unique view on things. And, since two challenges means two paintings a week, they force me off to lift my lazy butt and practise.

At the end of this year, I will hopefully have learned a lot about telling stories with pictures, and about turning ideas into art. And maybe, just maybe, I will have learned what I want to do in the future.

(I shall keep practising the clarinet and studying natural sciences, just in case.)

52 Weeks of Illustration, week 1 - "Whimsy"

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