In the recent past, I “read” the audiobook Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. In an attempt to find and define my personal and professional “why,” I decided to write this first of several blogs. This particular article is dedicated to some people I greatly respect who have questioned why I draw and post my drawings on social media. The following is an attempt to answer that.
In February 2016, my wife Lisa presented me with a leather-bound sketchbook for my birthday which she beautifully inscribed with her woodburning kit. She wrote in the opening fold of the book, “Happy Birthday, Rich! I hope this book helps you find your path! Love Always + Forever, Lee.”
I didn’t touch the book for months except for one initial drawing and a handful of quick gesture sketches of our daughter at tumbling class. The book, however, accompanied me in my bag on every trip to the office and every meeting with clients. But, one setback after another that year kept me uninspired and away from even the slightest expression of creativity.
On New Year’s Day, 2017, because I was invigorated because of my new-found position at the Coin Laundry Association / LaundryCares Foundation, I made a commitment to draw every day for at least six months. It wasn’t that I was looking for a job as an artist, nor was I seeking to gain a following on social media. I think I needed to get the old creative juices flowing and to think differently. I also needed some motivation and to be held accountable.
I stuck to that commitment and drew all the way into mid-July, but I didn’t go back to drawing for a long while. I felt the well of creativity dry up on me, and I lost inspiration. But, I did thirst for some outlet of creativity.
For our anniversary, April 1, 2020, Lisa presented me with another book. This perfect-bound paperback was Keep Creating: 365 Days of Drawing Prompts Sketchbook. Each day, I had a prompt presented to me in the form of a word or phrase at the bottom of the page. I was to interpret that prompt and draw from that as inspiration. Supported by my friends and family on Facebook, I took to committing to a full year of drawing.
Sadly, the book came to an end as expected on March 31, 2021, much to the dismay of a few cousins and friends who encouraged me to continue.
I wanted an easier way to create art and share it. Earlier in 2020, I invested in an XP-Pen tablet to be used with my desktop computer. I didn’t really get the hang of it, though our then 12-year-old daughter took to it as a natural creating cartoons and intricate designs in PhotoShop. However, she wanted something a little more intuitive and expressive.
Per her wish, she received an iPad for Christmas, and I am still amazed at the polished masterpieces she has created on this little device. I asked how she was able to do some of the incredible things she was doing, and she shared with me some tips and tricks.
Earlier this year, I chose to invest in an iPad Pro. As a side note: this was not an easy decision. I had been very much against Apple products (for no good reason other than compatibility issues, cost, and just personal judgement. I overcame this resistance after reading Start with Why, witnessing my daughter’s success, and carefully reviewing the recommendations from my sisters-in-law who are each talented art teachers plus recommendations from respected high-school colleagues.
Since then I’ve striven to continue to draw sketches, cartoon, digital painting, etc. Again, they aren’t really for anyone; none are commissioned and none are of any real value to anyone but me. But, I enjoy creating them, limiting myself to less than an hour per piece. I then export the video recorded of the process, and I share that video on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
So, Why Do I Do It?
When I was a child, I loved to draw. My Uncle Rich taught me my first comic drawings: Charlie Brown and Snoopy. In fourth grade, I received my first “professional” commission: a drawing of a griffon to be emblazoned upon letterhead care of the office mimeograph machine by the office staff at St. Rita Grammar School.
This began four more years of creating art in the way of signs, banners, and other artwork for the school for events. I remember being pulled out of class and allowed to create with a seemingly unlimited amount of markers. I studied cartooning from Bruce Blitz videos and books, and I enjoyed my little unpaid career as the house artist for the school.
In high school, taking all honors classes, I wasn’t able to participate in art class for fear of dropping my GPA taking a 4.0 class instead of an honors 5.0 class. However, I became the cartoonist for the newspaper, “The Ritan,” and, again, I used my drawing abilities to posters, t-shirt designs, and even a mural in the weight room.
Filling sketchbooks and creating art for other people satisfied a need in me. While I aspired to become an animator, a cartoonist, or a commercial artist, I just couldn’t help but to create art whether or not it became a career. In fact, I studied life drawing at the American Academy of Art in my junior year of high school, majored in Visual Art at the University of Chicago, and maintained a position as a production artist for GES Exposition Services as one of several jobs I held concurrently while attending university.
Today, I am not a professional artist, though art and design are some part of what I do professionally. Business consulting, marketing, leadership, and training and development are at the core of my career.
However, creating art continues to complete a part of my intrinsic needs. Like exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition, art (and music) simply satisfies some part of my soul. I do not profess to be a professional artist by any stretch of the imagination. However, I am, by nature, a creator… making things, finding patterns, solving problems, and using spatial awareness, I believe, help me to think through obstacles in other parts of my life.
I create solutions — some visual, some audible, and some intangible, but all intended to provide value and help to people and their businesses. To be sure, there is an art to management consulting, marketing direction, and training and development.
Certainly, drawing throughout 2020 helped me to cope with the isolation from the outside world. It also helped me in a small way maintain a connection to people with my sharing on social media. Furthermore, it provided me a framework for discipline to maintain my focus and live up to my commitment, even if that commitment was to myself.
Some have questioned why I create and post art on social media. The perception share with me in feedback from others is that I am striving to create some career in visual art. Such is not the case. However, I think sharing a bit of what makes me tick, a smidge of my imagination, and a dash of what I hope is visual beauty on some level, not only helps me, but it might brighten someone else’s day.
I don’t mean to muddle my identity, but, despite my not being the professional artist I sought to be, I think I’ll continue to create and post pictures and perhaps other artistic creations until my intuition says “stop.” God created me this way, I believe; I don’t think it’s up to me now to stop until I get orders from above to do so.
Is there something you do that completes you which you feel moved to do?