I drew myself every day for a year. Here’s what I learned.

This took way longer than it should have, because I should learn to farm out such jobs to people who are more skilled than me.

Sitting in the cafe, I’d been staring at the guy for a solid five minutes when he looked up and caught my eye. I panicked and looked down at the table. Grabbing the newspaper in front of me, I covered up my piece of paper, hoping desperately that he wouldn’t see it..

As a kid I loved drawing. And as a teenager, art class was one of my favourites. But when I came to the age where we got to pick our subjects, I realized something: I did not have natural artistic talent. And I assumed this meant art wasn’t for me, so I stopped.

But then, a few years ago, doodling in a notebook, I suddenly thought,

Hang on — I love drawing!

And I realized: just because I’m not good, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. And that maybe I could just draw, and then never show anyone!

Pretty soon, I understood that I like drawing faces more than anything else. Given that I spend a lot of time working (and taking breaks from working) in coffee shops, this would give me ample numbers of faces to draw! Except… for the embarrassment factor.

I mean, staring at someone just is embarrassing. But skilled artists can (sometimes) get away with it, because they could perhaps say,

“Oh, I was just drawing you!”

And then the staree could say, “Well, can I see?”

And the talented pencilsmith would show them the drawing, and that person would say,

“My gods! You’re BRILLIANT! It looks just like me! Let me pay you for it, fifty shillings!”

The only problems with this fantasy for me are 1) we don’t use shillings anymore and 2) in my version of this scenario, the person would more likely say,

“My gods! Why is my eye next to my mouth? Is that a SQUIRREL on my head? What is WRONG with you?”

Around that time, I saw Lisa Congdon speak and she said two things that altered the course of my year. She’s someone who came to art late in life and now makes a living from it. And while she does have heaps of natural talent, the first thing she said was very, very helpful:

“You have to come to peace with the fact that the drawing in your head, and the drawing that comes out of your pen, are not going to be the same thing.”

INTERESTING, I thought.

Then she told us about a project she did for her audience, where she committed to drawing a different self-portrait every week for ten weeks. For the first few, she was trying to make them realistic. But one week, she was in a really bad mood, so she just drew that. And people loved it.

INTERESTING, I thought.

Around that time, I’d been loving the little day-to-day cartoons my friend Natalie Czerwinski draws. I’d even once told her I wished I could commission her to follow me around and just draw scenes from my life. The final piece was remembering something I’d heard Asha Dornfest say in a talk:

“Self confidence grows when you keep a promise to yourself. You prove to yourself that you are trustworthy.”

On August 30th, 2016, I made a promise to myself:

I was going to draw a self-portrait every day for a year.

I made myself some rules:

1. If I was…

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