I kind of like the apron and the grass, and the weird out of perspective sofa bed frame on the porch. I'm kinda bummed with the monochromatic cartooniness of their faces, but I figure at this size, I'll be happy if I can represent expressions at all. Yes, the lady's legs look weird. I accept that.

I’m about 14 drawings into my “love” series now, and you’d think maybe I’d be learning something by now. Every now and then I see little snippets of things that I like and occasionally I catch myself in the midst of a mistake so fundamental that it makes me actually want to slow down and think before I act. So, I guess maybe that constitutes learning.

For example, on my first couple of drawings, I just started drawing with black oil stick on the white canvas board, then filled in around it with color. I actually like that effect, and I think it tends to produce the “super awesome coloring book” look that I wish I’d end up with. But I soon discovered that it was a pain in the ass (and I felt dumb) when I drew a tree and had to try to fill in the sky behind it. So I started doing colored grounds. Planning ahead! Novel! Then I realized that it was kind of a waste of ground color if I covered it up entirely, so I have started trying to block in darks and lights a bit at the ground stage.

I love this photo, but so far I do not like this drawing. Right now it looks like a bad drawing of children that somebody's aunt made. Oh, crap. I AM somebody's aunt!

On this “sisters” picture (still unfinished) I sketched in white instead of black. It seemed to undermine my ultimate goal of drawing FLATTER, so I don’t think I’ll do that again. The car behind the girl distracts from the image, but I feel compelled to tell the truth in these drawings from vintage photos. It’s partly the composition, or apparent lack of it, that I want to… What… Capture? Honor? Document? How can I say it without sounding too phony? I see the irony: Why am I making drawings if making a good looking drawing doesn’t come before representing the photo? Why not just show the photos? Well, partly because I’m afraid nobody would hang the photos. And partly because I need the drawing practice.

It seems like a lot of the drawings that I’m doing right now are somewhere between flat and shaded. I still can’t seem to make the leap away from modeling with shading (I know, I keep saying that!) but as soon as I’m done with the first 14 drawings (14, for Valentine’s Day) I’m gonna go WILD, I swear!

Where do I begin? There may be nothing in this drawing that I like! Well, I kind of like her expression. It does tell a story, if you can get past everything else. Oh, and I like the right park bench leg.

Meanwhile, I know I ought to give up on this park bench picture and move on. I have repainted the lady’s face at least 5 times (I even scraped it off with a palette knife) and while she looks less like a baboon now (at one point I considered adding a tail and calling it done), her skin tone is completely different than the guy’s. I can’t seem to make myself repaint the guy to match her because I like the way the warmth of the ground color comes through on him, in spite of the fact that it makes him look like he has been using a cut-rate spray-on tanning product. So I am stuck at an impasse with Oompa Loompa Man and Pancake Girl. I realize that this drawing just an outright failure, and it will continue to bug me like a pea under my mattress.

What is the lesson? It’s not like I don’t know this: Don’t get attached. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something you like for the greater good. For example, if you’re a writer, you know that you might have written a great sentence, but if it doesn’t flow, it’s gotta go. You just have to whack it out of the paragraph and have faith that you’ll write another good sentence some day.

My friend, writer Mike Harrelson, was telling me just a couple days ago something that David Quammen said to him: not to measure yourself by the highest peaks of your work, but by the lowest thing that you’re willing to put out there. Or, at least I think that’s what he said… something like that. I think he meant that DOING it is the thing, like everybody says (and to which I’m clinging with all my might).  …that if you only are willing to show your very best work, you probably won’t show very MUCH work. Or maybe you’re not really a writer at all. Or at least that’s what I came away with.

So I give you park bench people. And I’m saying, “Dude, it’s the PROCESS.”