It's been a long while since I was good about consistently posting "Fellow Student" interviews, but as I've watched the forums and critique posts becoming ever more active, it's been clear it's time to start again.
And after seeing her inspiring practice-makes-progress regimen and her thoughtful, thorough critiques for other community members, it was clear to me that HornetOfJustice was a natural fit for rebeginning this series! She graciously allowed me to interview her for this piece.
When you read it, I think you'll see why HornetOfJustice embodies #practicegoals - despite no formal education in art aside from "indifferent public school teachers" who may have done more harm than good, she has found a growth mindset that's allowed her to train herself, largely through online resources like Line of Action.
Just look at this progress over time:
What a difference three years has made!
Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with your fellow student, HornetOfJustice.
Introduce yourself to our community!
My name is Abigail and I live in Rochester Minnesota with my girlfriend and our cat. We are both visual artists, and queer social justice advocates. I manage the retail fundraising arm for a local not for profit and she is the receptionist for a not for profit designed to help people find jobs.
Our lives mostly consist of making art, local political acivity, and telling each other to admire how adorable our cat is.
What got you started with art? How long have you been doing it?
I don’t know a time when I have not been making art.
My very first art lesson was from my grandfather who was an oil painter. I was visiting him in California coloring in my My Little Pony Coloring book at his kitchen table with the smell of lemon trees surrounding me. He sat down with me and wanted to teach me how to find and color shadows, so he drew a yellow sun in the corner and used a grey crayon to show me how shadows worked. At the time I was so angry about sharing my coloring book. But now when I am over thinking something in art I close my eyes and imagine being back in that sunny kitchen, and I see the yellow sun and frolicking ponies. I go back to the basics.
I was surrounded by art and was encouraged in creating art in all things, so I have been interested in art my entire life.
What educational background have you had in art, if any?
I have not had any formal training, other than what was offered by indifferent public school teachers in middle school.
With a dearth of available options for learning how to draw the human figure I took a class in how to draw action comics. It left me with some stylistic methods that it took me a long time to leave behind, but the benefits that it gave me cannot be overstated. I still use some of the techniques that I learned at that time.
Other than that and a brief tutelage by a family friend in water color I have relied on books, magazines, self study and in more recent years websites, blogs, and you tube.
Is art a professional for you? A hobby? A passion? What keeps you going?
It is a passion.
When I was younger I was never more than a few feet away from a sketchbook, I was drawing all the time. But life, depression, anxiety, and a bad marriage all took their toll. And for over a decade I was sporadic in my practice and creation.
Now I am not as obsessive as I was at 20. But I create art because I must. Because it is something that simply must be expressed.
You mentioned to me once that about 2 years ago, you had a MAJOR shift in your thinking about practice and no longer trying to jump to "Good drawings" immediately. Can you describe what your attitude was like before? How did that hinder you?
When art was something that I would do in fits and starts there was always the terror of not finishing something. Because if I put it down I might not come back to it.
I bought into ideas that I find common in art communities.
The idea that one must learn to draw from imagination. That using models and reference photos are “cheating”.
I found it difficult to work on unfinished drawings.
And I found it difficult to do studies, to just focus on one thing.
What changed your mind?
This is not shameless flattery, this is just the truth.
The line of action web site.
I decided to get serious about my art again, and the human figure is absolutly my favorite subject above all others. Portraits, hands, feet, the entire figure. And I always wanted to do better and to go to a life drawing class.
So I started watching tutorials, and reading blogs. I started looking for reference photos, and they are so hard to find. So often the feminine bodies are erotic or sexualized. And then I finally found Draw This.
I saw the “class mode” and tried it.
It was so hard. So hard.
But I learned about gesture and practice, and I did it. Then I did it again. And I was starting to see progress. And I loved the models.
I started to accept the bad. I started to seek progress over progression.
Then I found a life drawing group in town, and I nearly didn’t go I was so scared. But I went and it was amazing. And all the work I did at home prepared me.
Was it a hard shift? What helped you to stick with it?
For me, the concept of a muse is very real. That invisible creative whispering keeping you going. And for a decade the muse was silent, and now I started hearing a whisper again and I didn’t want to lose it.
I set small reasonable goals. I also found that class mode helped me “warm up”.
When I did gestures and warmed up the art I made after was better than if I just started to draw.
What changes did you see immediately, and over time?
I started to post my pictures on facebook with the hope that I would see them a year later and see progress. I let go of huge leaps. But at first I did see huge leaps. I had been struggling so hard against so many restrictions that once I was more structured I saw huge leaps and bounds.
Then it tapered off and the progress has been more incremental. But I have also gotten more creative.
Where would you like your art to be in the future?
I have goals of in 5 years having my own studio and one woman art show.
What have you struggled with most in your art? What helped or is helping?
Self confidence and belief in self. Only in the last 2 years do I call myself an artist, do I believe I am worthy of quality tools.
What has helped?
What is your practice like?
When it’s active, once a week life drawing sessions and once a week “draw this” website live stream life drawing
Almost every morning 10 minute sketches before I go to work
At least once or twice a week 1 hour class mode studies
The rest of the week working on longer projects.
I work in oil, graphite and ink. And I love them all.
How have you used the gesture drawing tools on this site?
Class Mode, it helps me warm up and practice.
I was inconsistent in doing mouths, so I did several portrait studies where I focused on mouths.
I rotate through the four, now five, options so I stay fresher.
When I first started doing class mode I was sweating buckets, I don’t know that I have ever worked so hard at art. But now I find it much easier.
There was a point where I was completely stuck. Unable to make more progress and frustrated with everything I created. So my girlfriend suggested I clear my palette and draw animals. So I did an animal study. It was hard, but enjoyable.
Then it cleared the block!
That is why I rotate through all of them each day.
Because I draw things that I never drew before or would not pick on my own. It has changed everything.
What piece of advice would you give to other artists trying to strengthen their art skills?
Lean into the difficult, and don’t rely on internal inspiration all the time.
Lean into the difficult - hands and feet are hard. So practice them more until you get good at them. Foreshortening is hard, and when you create shortcuts you only cheat yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to draw what you do not enjoy. It means you have to stop avoiding the hard stuff. And practice it. A lot. With intention.
Relying on internal inspiration - this makes the blank canvas or page the enemy. You feel like a failure when you can’t think of anything to draw. Or you page through reference photos looking for THE PERFECT thing to draw. When you should just be creating. So just practice, follow prompts, use external ideas, set up small achievable goals. Don’t waste the creative search on the daily practice. Because when you do this you will find that you will come across something you MUST create.
Practice with purpose -
Musicians practice scales
Athletes run drills
Every other skill and talent requires a constant run through the basics.
Gestures and quick drawings are the artists scales and we do so much better when we practice them.