BY Jamie Odum Thompson


By Jamie Odum Thompson | @jthomps_sketches

Since the end of 2015, I've been applying #justkeepdrawing to all of my art. It's become both a motivation and a personal mission; it pushes me to keep creating, keep improving and to keep learning from my mistakes.

I had started my Instagram account as a suggestion from a good friend. I was finding myself in a position where I felt like I was lacking creatively. My account became a way to re accustom myself to traditional mediums and to be able to hold myself accountable when it came to creating. In all reality, it felt somewhat liberating.

I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue art as a major while attending college. This resulted in a degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design. Part of the program involved beginner level drawing and design classes with the emphasis in the major to follow. As I ventured into my major, time intensive drawings became less prominent and was opted for quick sketches to get ideas down on paper.

After I graduated, creating for the sake of creating left me. Drawing for fun just took a back seat to the rest of my life. I'd come home mentally exhausted from the day and would be drained from the daily grind. I'd try and find time for a painting here and there, but it became more and more difficult to find the motivation. One can dream of all the things they'd like to accomplish, but wishful thinking gets you nowhere. You have to get up and do the work in order to reap the rewards.

With encouragement from my friends, who seriously are the best, I'm starting to build confidence in my work, even as I enter my third year of posting my progress on Instagram. The first thing to really get me going was inktober. From there it became drawing the original 151 Pokémon. I worked to set out to find attainable goals, something I knew I could push myself to do without setting myself up to fail.

I've done inktober for three years now and took my first whack at mermay last May (2017). Instagram challenges like this push you to draw something new everyday for a month. For some, this is what they do on a daily basis. For me, with a full time creative oriented job, it takes up my entire evening once I get home from work. I've use a lot of references to find my footing in what I draw and how to draw. I've always struggled terribly with proportions.

I hate to say it, but I can sometimes be my own worst enemy when it comes to my work, which is an Achilles heal for a lot of artists. I can see every imperfection, lines I may have messed up and colors that may not be quite right. It's sometimes dangerous to be too passionate about what you do. You end up getting too close to what you're doing and you miss the big picture on what you've actually been able to accomplish. Even though I thoroughly enjoy drawing, it also becomes a balancing act. You realize how much you miss making things when you haven't done it for a while, but there has to be a balance so that drive doesn't get burnt out.

A lot of artists rarely post all the times they've erased everything on the page and started over. With social media, it's easy to see the end result without understanding the struggles to get there. I never get the drawing right on the first attempt; and it's become something I've come to realize will take a lot of work on my end to ever achieve.

Thus, this brings me back to the tag #justkeepdrawing. You don't get better if you do nothing. You don't get better by wishing for it to get better. It comes down to practice and a lot of it. Realistically, I'm satisfied with one out of every ten drawings that I do. Which is, let's face it, horrible to say. This results in me taking a step back and figuring out why I may not think of it as successful as other attempts.

The reality is that no artist will love every piece they create. It's more important to learn from the mistakes and apply them in a way where you can create more successes than failures. Even though art has always been a part of me, this is still a difficult lesson. It's easy to smash up a piece of paper and throw it away or take an eraser to an entire page. Art boils down to learning from all the mistakes because, without them, we'd never know what true success is.

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