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Begin Again

In 2014, I tried my hand at digital art for the first time. The first things I ever digitally designed were a set of phone wallpapers featuring a buck, a wolf, a dog, and a rat from a once-beloved children's series. I felt so proud of what I had done, and more than that, I was excited to do more. I felt ravenous to make things. What would I do with this new power?

Actually, let me back up. We'll start at the beginning.

The clearest moment I can remember being drawn to illustration was in kindergarten art class, when our teacher told us we should draw whatever we wanted. The Lion King had recently been released to home video, and my dad surprised my sisters and I with a shiny new VHS copy that he left on the kitchen table for us to find early one Saturday morning. I was enamored with the art and the style of the characters, the blends of the passionate colors, the incredible uses of light and shadows. So I drew the lions. Every time we walked down the long hallway to the multi-purpose room where the class could throw paint and use scissors on tongues without risking any adverse long-term effect to the classroom carpet, over and over, I drew lions.

Time passed since I spent my time in the corner of the art room sketching lions. It would be an outright lie to say that I have been a relentlessly devoted pupil of the visual arts for my entire life; I simply have not. Though I have pursued other artistic efforts (theater, writing, photography, stand-up comedy), over and over I have found myself in an on-again, off-again love affair with illustration. One of the most frustrating obstacles to drawing was when I slipped on some ice at work while delivering milkshakes when I was seventeen. My feet came out from underneath me like I was a calamitous cartoon character, and in a precise strike of fate, my arm cracked at my elbow joint. Also, I was covered in milkshakes.

After a lengthy overnight surgery, my arm was in a cast for months, and was useless for months still after it was out. My handwriting deteriorated to a shaky, indecipherable chicken-scratch that mirrored my kindergarten self, or perhaps that of a life-saving medical physician. I wasn’t an incredible artist before my injury, but this was a catalyst that made any pursuit requiring steady use of my dominant hand hopeless to even try.

Following my traumatic event, I misplaced my fondness for art until 2014, when I began to familiarize myself with Photoshop and Illustrator, which is when I felt that spark of joy again for drawing. I made very simple minimalist posters, mostly for video games or movies that I enjoyed in hopes that my work would connect with others who also enjoyed those things. But drawing with a mouse was still frustrating. I couldn't conjure the images I wanted and felt like I couldn't reach my potential by pursuing art with a mouse and anchor points. Digitally painting with a mouse was no better than using a brush or a marker because my hand was still so unsteady and the effort it took to steady it enough for decent lines resulted in pain. I became dejected with my work and the disparity in my expectations and shifted my creative expression to writing and performing stand-up comedy instead, leaving the visual arts behind once again while telling myself that I would pick them up later.

It took a few years, but later did come. I bought myself an iPad, an Apple pencil, taught myself how to navigate Procreate, and fell in love with drawing once more. I felt that same excitement that rippled through me when I was a kid in the corner of the school art room, asking to stay later to finish the lions I was drawing. Finally finding a method of expression that could work with the long-lasting physical consequences of my broken arm that didn't rely on having to point and click with a mouse hit me in waves of relief and inspiration, and with those feelings came the motivation to work on developing my own artistic style that is represented in my work today.

But these hindrances and obstacles were all, of course, excuses. My arm is truly broken at the joint, and it truly does still hurt every day, even sixteen years later. But I have leaned on it like a crutch, cloaking myself in it like a warm blanket on a snowy day, using it as an explanation for how I couldn't possibly have reached what I considered to be my full potential. It's beyond my control, I have subconsciously whispered to myself for years. There's nothing that could have been done.

I thought that discovering this new method of drawing with my tablet would solve all my problems related to creative expression, but all it did was open the door to the final boss of obstacles: the perilous, crushing, world-eating fear of failure. Here is the thing I have loved for so long, but why didn't I excel at it? Let me present you with the delicate reason, like a baby bird I have scooped up in my hands. Please accept this explanation that I myself have accepted for years. It's not my fault.

With my destined failure looming over me like a threatening storm, I decided that I desperately needed some structure, or I was in very real danger of abandoning drawing again. I decided to start looking around at tutorials, watching artists paint, learning methods and tricks, listening to artists I followed and what they had to say about their process. I started making more, and it felt good. I wasn't getting that feeling that had weighed so heavily on me before of I like doing this, but it's still not what I want, and I don't think that this is worth the effort. If I did hit that point, I pushed through, training myself to remember that often times things are ugly before they can be perceived as pretty. Instead, a tiny magical feeling started sprouting up inside me, saying, I can totally do this.

I titled this post after an eerie call to action from my favorite DLC from Fallout, New Vegas - Dead Money. You, the player, are horrifyingly kidnapped and strapped with an explosive around your neck by an unhinged old miscreant and sent to find a long lost treasure inside a haunted casino that once promised to all its visitors that they could begin again. It is perhaps a little too on the nose for opening my shop, but sometimes felicity is like that.

At times I have felt dispirited for losing what amounts to many years of lapsed practice and development in not pursuing a medium that brings me so much joy and fulfillment. However, I know that it made its way back to my heart at the vital moment that I needed it the most. I hope that my work finds a small place in your heart, too.


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Hi, I'm Sarah

Just a girl from Utah doodling hands and animals in my spare time. Illustrator, baker, magic maker. Find out more here.

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