The 5 Stages Of Grief As Demonstrated By My Drawing Process

I can’t tell you how many tutorials I’ve either watched on Youtube or read online over the years in terms of art and different art styles– not to mention, how each technique is done so differently between artists, it’s almost something that should be studied by psychologists. Like, I wonder if different artists do different things in their process because they didn’t get enough positive feedback as a child, or because their mother was withholding.
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My biggest cry for help as a child was probably my affinity for anime– but that’s another story.

I always come face-to-face with confronting my art-creating process without realizing I’m doing it, mostly because I send WIP screenshots to my best gal-pal and fellow artist throughout the entire process– and in looking back, I can recall exactly the thoughts going through my head at any given time. Whether it be excitement, enthusiasm, or crippling disappointment.

This got me thinking, creating art (or writing, or music, or anything else ~artsy~) seems to follow a very familiar pattern, at least in my case– and it didn’t take long for me to remember what that pattern was.

It’s the 5 stages of grief.

And right now I want nothing more than to explore them further and really figure out why the heck my brain is so mean when I’m just trying to doodle up a cool pic.

  • 1. DENIAL

“I CAN DEFINITELY DRAW THIS… OH DAMN, JUST KIDDING.”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm

Fellow artists. You understand this sentiment. The “if they can do it, so can I,” sentiment that is drawing things you have no experience with. For a long time, for me, it was dudes. Now, it’s backgrounds. I can’t render a background for shit.

But, that doesn’t stop me. Why? Ideally, because I’d like to get better, more practiced, at the things I’m not particularly good at– but in reality, it’s because my head is too inflated to properly fit through a standard door frame. I think, I’m really talented in drawing all of these other things, and I see other artists at similar levels drawing incredible backgrounds, and I understand the theory behind creating them… how hard could they be?

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Hard. They’re hard.

In the beginning, it’s all sunshine and daisies. I can do this. I deny the fact that hell, I’m not great at backgrounds. I tell myself I can do it because I am the all-powerful anime fangirl with a pen in my hand, and the drawing should bow to me… which leads me to the next step of this cycle: anger.

  • 2. ANGER

“WHY THE HECK CAN’T I DO THIS PERFECTLY THE FIRST TIME I TRY?”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm-2

Whether it be rendering backgrounds or creating mood lighting, this is the stage I gripe to my S.O. about how I’m just the worst, how I’m a disgrace to my art degree, how I should just give up. We then exchange sarcastic little quips along the lines of, “Wow, I wish I could draw,” while trading images of other, more successful artists.

This stage also leads to the mindless changing of layer blend modes, hopelessly trying to find that perfect combination while only growing more and more unhappy, more and more dissatisfied with my art and what I should be able to do by this point.

Magically, with no prior experience.

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By now, I’d like to think I’ve learned something about how practice makes an artist– but no, instead I insist on whining and oh, woe is me-ing. It’s much easier that way, because I’m not held accountable. Victim-complexes make a lot of sense.

  • 3. BARGAINING

FINE, MAYBE I’LL JUST APPROPRIATE SOMETHING INSTEAD OF FREEHANDING IT”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm-1

(In this scenario, “appropriating” is creator-speak for “tracing”)

Ok, tracing might be too harsh of a word (I tell myself, the writer of this blog and the perpetrator behind the appropriation in the first place), but in all honesty, I can’t see much harm in tracing art for reference and practice– assuming the original artist is CITED as a SOURCE later on, should the appropriated work become public. That’s my only stipulation. Trace to learn, but make sure ON THREAT OF DEATH that you later link to the original.

thanksubiThanks for that pic, theverge.com (Also technically Ubisoft, I guess.)

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I found myself struggling so much with the background, with the correct point of view/perspective and color, that finally I knew I would either have to figure something else out or potentially just scrap this entire piece– and I wasn’t too thrilled about that second option. Arno Dorian, my beautiful French son, needs to be paid his due.

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So I did what I had to, as a struggling single mother– I found a reference I liked and that fit with the theme of my piece, and I incorporated it, while referencing its source whenever I could (or willingly divulging the source if asked through a site where linking the source wasn’t as viable, like tumblr or instagram).

  • 4. DEPRESSION

“CLEARLY IT WAS A MISTAKE FOR ME TO EVER PICK UP A PENCIL AT THE AGE OF 5. IT WAS ALL A WASTE. I’M TRASH.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration– but apparently thinking along those lines is incredibly common, even outside of just myself, and within my artist friend circle. What the heck is it about art that makes people hate themselves so much? I remember my favorite drawing professor in college told us: “Drawing is pain. Nothing will make you suffer like drawing will.” And he was RIGHT. DRAWING IS JUST THE WORST

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But in a lot of ways outside of the pain and misery, drawing is great, and worth it in the end. Even if your final product isn’t exactly what you set out to create, creating anything at all in the end is more desirable than giving up and being left with nothing at all. Even an ugly drawing is still a piece of art, unique only to you– and something you can later redraw to retrieve your dignity, if necessary.

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  • ACCEPTANCE

“I’M WASHING MY HANDS OF THIS. I’M POSTING IT AND ENDING THIS TORTURE.”la_liberte_ou_la_mort_by_panicward-dax9x3jLA LIBERTÉ OU LA MORT on tumblr and deviantart

Here’s the thing: this piece is not perfect. I’m horribly disappointed that I wasn’t able to capture the exact background scene, time of day lighting, mood that I was originally intending… but that doesn’t make it any less successful, in terms of audience. Your viewers don’t know the original image in your head, they don’t know how different this end product turned out. All they see is what’s shown them, and it’s their first and last impression.

Art exists as a “could have been” only in the mind of the artist themselves, and while that’s disheartening in a lot of ways, at least in terms of the intended viewers, they can enjoy a piece simply for existing. That’s probably my main point in all of this, take it as you will. Definitely not trying to advertise my own art links. What? That’s crazy.

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