Make Something

Once you learn how to make something–a pot, a story, a song, a video game–it changes how you see things forever. Once you write a story, you hear pieces of dialogue in conversations, plot lines while walking down a busy street.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don't lie, but your brain does.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don’t lie, but your brain does.

Making something allows you to fail while learning, build something better, and not be at the mercy of a boss who doesn’t understand you and work you never liked.

When I worked in advertising agencies, I learned how to set type. This is a skill no one needs anymore because computers do it. Although it has been decades since I spec’d type, I have a deep appreciation for typefaces, their subtle differences, and the shape of letters. Still. It makes a difference on my taste, my judgment and my idea of what matters. Just because I learned that skill.

A few days ago, I signed up for a drawing class. I have to draw in ink. I hate it. I want to go back to drawing in pencil. In my homework, I thought about drawing in pencil, then going over it in ink. But what would that teach me? I signed up to learn something new, something hard.

It’s hard to follow the rules. But that’s the point of learning. How I drew before taught me something, this method will teach me something else. My eyes don’t lie, but my brain does. “What do you need this class for?” “Draw the way YOU want.” “You don’t need someone to force their way on you.”  That’s my brain, trying to get me to go back to what I know instead of stumbling along in something I don’t.

I won’t learn a thing by looking at someone else’s artwork and judging it. I need to try and fail drawing with ink, try and succeed, learn what works and what doesn’t. When I practice, I learn something. Something about drawing. Something about myself. Something about the creative process that my clients struggle through.

My coaching clients do important work. I cannot allow myself to do less.

Quinn McDonald is struggling in a drawing class to be a better coach.


15 thoughts on “Make Something

  1. Freshman Art 101 MANY years ago – the professor had us drawing in ink, including one where we could not lift our pen. The resulting 2 foot long rendering of a thistle is still in my portfolio. Another, of columbine, with a watercolor wash, is hanging on the wall in my bedroom. I didn’t think I could do it either, until I did. And I’m thinking now that I was probably a lot more PRESENT because I couldn’t erase.

    • It is a new feeling, but after five days of the class, I’m slowing down and paying attention to what I’m looking at, not what I remember from other drawings. I love your story–it’s a real reminder of what is important.

  2. You’ll probably love this quote from “The Art of Mistakes” by Melanie Rothschild, “Making mistakes brings us to the point of new thoughts and information. Mistakes give us ideas that we could never deliberately think up otherwise.”

    Enjoy your new class, mistakes and all!

  3. Learning something new is my idea of bliss . . . I could be an interviewer who goes out and interviews artists working in every medium possible and having a little go . . . I’d fail more often than not to come up with something worthy but I’d have a ball playing! And isn’t play how kids learn?

    The most tenacious learner is a baby . . . none ever gave up on sitting, walking or using a toilet so I guess the big question is, when is it that we judge our very first attempt as no good and immediately want to give up?

  4. I hope this doesn’t mean that you are going to swap out your wonderful pencil point logo for a pen nib……?! Maybe in a year or so, I will say good bye to my white plastic Staedtler eraser.

    • Not to put too fine a point on it (sorry about the pun, I couldn’t resist), I changed my logo about a year ago. The old one is still floating around in some places. I still have my pencil talisman, though. I will always continue to pencil sketch, but the pen idea is new and feels awkward. But that doesn’t mean quit, it means “see what it can teach me.”

  5. Your post reminds me of a painting of mine I titled From A Distance. Three-fourths done doing what I’d intended, it just didn’t feel right so I put down my brush. Almost out the studio, I looked over my shoulder at the canvas in frustration and boom everything came together in my head LOL. It’s a piece I’ve had offers to purchase but I won’t part with it as it represents a breakthrough for me. My mixed media approach has ever since been influenced by that moment of failure. Curves from straight lines indeed, Quinn.

  6. Happy New Year Quinn! I have taken up Kundalini Yoga – something utterly different from anything I have ever done. One teacher says that master yogi’s strive for “beginners mind” to remain fresh & fully in the present moment – something experts begin to take for granted. I’ll be enjoying my new yoga method, while you enjoy your new drawing class 🙂

    • Yoga is such a great thing. I wish I could take it here, but the majority of classes are during the day or late at night, when I’m well past my “sell-by” date. But anything new that opens new places in your mind will work.

  7. Exactly. And two things. I am going to sign up for art class on art journal. Watercolor.
    And my word for 2015is a very simple: try
    Love to read your words each day. Typically for the gift of you, quinn

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