Don’t Stop, Keep Going

January 10, 2020
Here’s a page spread from a 7.75 x 9.75 inch Strathmore 400 Series Tan Mixed Media paper journal. Since the paper is wet-media friendly, I often pre-paint pages with background textures (here a yellow acrylic) and then work on it later. I was watching TV as I couldn’t go out to find live models that day). I kept chasing a likeness of actor Ray Walston around the spread, getting closer, and closer. And then I got it. See the central sketch with light watercolor washes and a little bit of white gouache added to the eyebrows and background.


I think one of the biggest mistakes an artist keeping a visual journal or sketchbook can make is to stop when he gets frustrated.

That’s when you kick it up a notch, hunker down, repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Keep searching for that line, or that likeness, whatever it maybe.

If you give up too quickly you never learn to work through frustration. (Something that is valuable in whatever job or relationship you ever find yourself in!)

And working and searching like this is also very fun. Maybe not the first time you do it, but the 1,000th time or 20,200th time…

Detail from the page spread. I’ve always loved Ray Walston, whether he’s disappearing as a Martian or singing in a gold rush town, or helping to set a sting. To me the fact that the iris color isn’t placed exactly (I no longer have any dependable “close” vision) doesn’t diminish how fun it was to make this fifth sketch and hit the proportions, the likeness, and even the light. I push because I know I’m always going to feel better for it.

It gets more and more fun all the time. Because each time you embrace the mess and find even one line to enjoy, you discover something new that you bring along in your into drawing and painting practice.

Look, I know you might not trust me on this. Maybe frustration makes your stomach roll over. 

But everything worth learning is worth working through that frustrating phase to learn.

Right now drawing is incredibly painful (headache inducing) and non-fun on several levels for me, but I know, through practice, how much fun it is overall, and how much I will enjoy, not just a finished study which catches a likeness, but the also the funky “Don Quixotesque” lines of version 4, and the dawning understanding of Ray’s skull in version 3.

Observation is its own reward, to be enjoyed and savored, happy in the knowledge that you showed up. Only you can earn that. And nobody can take it away from you.

    • Nancy
    • January 10, 2020

    I just rewatched The Sting last night, and I so enjoyed watching Walston in close-up in the bonus material. I never got into My Favorite Martian, but what a good, expressive face.

    1. Reply

      I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the bonus material for that movie. I’ll have to seek it out! Walston is really an old-school all around great character actor so he is always fun to watch. I realized looking at the piece today that he looks very much like my father-in-law and that the first sketch I drew on the spread looks more like CR than Ray! His eyebrows also help me work on the issue of what to do about Dick’s eyebrows!

      I liked everything sci-fi even as a very young child so “My Favorite Martian” was appealing, but even at that young age I knew I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and the fact that Bixby’s character was one was just additional enticement—though I have to say I don’t remember him doing much work. But it did make me think about the ideas of when reporting on something might not be good. That’s just the elephant in the room they never dealt with. The kids I went to journalism school with would have written it up right away.

    • georgy
    • January 10, 2020

    Thank you for this . . . I hang out in the “do over” world kinda often . . . until I’ve learned how to improve something. It’s So Good to know you do that, too! Thanks For ALL You Do!

      • georgy
      • January 10, 2020

      (arguh , , I meant “hang” . . .giggle)

      1. Reply

        Don’t worry I knew what you meant. I went int and fixed it for you! Thanks for stopping by. Get some sketching done this weekend!

    1. Reply

      Everyone does things over. Sargent painted his oil paintings and scraped them down, over and over again, each time improving how he read his subject, the light, the handling of the strokes—like practice!!!!
      Enjoy it!

    • Paul
    • January 10, 2020

    Nailed it Roz! I remember My Favorite Martian and recognized your last version as this character, even before reading your text👍👍. The headache part sucks though🙁.

    1. Reply

      Thanks so much, on both counts.

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