We (Cyndi, Katie, two granddaughters, and me) spent four days before Christmas at Disney World, and one of the surprising highlights of our week was a drawing class taught by one of the Disney animators. We all drew Nick Wilde, the fox from Zootopia. Who knew that was even possible?
The half-hour class was titled The Animation Experience at Conservation Station. When I first saw it on our list of things to do at Animal Kingdom, I assumed we three adults would stand in the back while the two granddaughters did the drawing. Of course, that isn’t what happened. When they let us inside the room we stayed in line like Disney trained us to do, and before I knew it, we were all sitting with lap boards and paper and pencils. Just like that.
The paper they gave us has some faint blue marks on it. Once the class started, we used those blue lines as anchor points for our own pencil lines. That took the pressure off trying to get the perspectives and sizes right the very first time. But there was plenty of space for us to make a variety of interpretations. After the class was over, we all compared our drawings, and they were all alike, but they were all different.
I enjoyed this class so much I trimmed my drawing to size and glued it inside my journal as a reminder of the experience.
Our animation instructor gave us step-by-step instructions on how to illustrate the character, and we were all quite proud of our results. I’m sad that I didn’t remember the instructor’s name because he said several things that caused me to stop drawing and start writing his words in the corner of my paper. I’m a writer, not a drawer, after all. The ones I captured were: (1) “Draw it light until you get it right.”, (2) “Would you rather learn from your neighbor’s mistakes, or your own mistakes? Why wait on other people?” and (3) “Practice doesn’t make perfect. There is no perfect. Practice makes better.”
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“Draw it light until you get it right.” Our instructor encouraged us to make lots of light marks on our paper until we found what we wanted, then darken those marks to make the final drawing.
It isn’t comfortable for most of us to have our nearly ready work on display where anyone can see it, even when the anyone is limited to whoever is sitting on the right and left. We prefer not to show what we think of as our mistakes. We’d rather present the finished work without any stray marks or eraser smudges.
The problem with doing life that way is you risk never finishing anything. Or worse, never starting.
The instructor’s advice is so much better than another phrase we use in similar situations: Fake it ‘till you make it. I’ve never liked that idea. I don’t want to fake it. It feels like I’m trying to fool people. Pull something over on them.
Now, whenever I do something new, I hope the phrase that runs through my head will be: Draw it light until you get it right.
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“Would you rather learn from your neighbor’s mistakes or from your own? Why wait on other people? The key word here, is learn. It isn’t enough to observe mistakes. Our objective is to learn, to get better. Our instructor was telling us not to wait for your neighbor to draw first so you can copy what they did. Draw your own. Give it a try. Make your mark.
I remember when our kids would bring me a box of Legos and a set of instructions and ask for help. My first question was, “What have you done so far?” I wanted them to start on their own and work at it before asking for help. Because that’s how they would learn to try and how they would learn to trust their own efforts. I wasn’t interested in solving all their problems, but I wanted to equip them to solve their own. I wanted them to make their own mistakes so they could learn to be creative all their lives.
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“Practice doesn’t make perfect. There is no perfect. Practice makes better.” We must give up on the idea of perfect if we want to accomplish anything.
Jon Acuff wrote, “Perfectionism is just fear wearing a tuxedo. It masquerades as a character trait, as if it’s an asset, but it’s not. It’s a poison that pretends to be a vitamin.”
Forget perfect; go for practice. If you practice anything over and over, you can’t help but get better, whether we are talking about musical scales, throwing a baseball, writing essays, or brain surgery.
The point is not to be timid or afraid, or refuse to learn from our neighbor, or give up trying to be perfect … but to be brave and bold enough to start the project anyway, to be prepared to learn on-the-fly, and to keep practicing.
How can we go wrong living like that?
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”
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