Yann Tiersen portrait

January Portrait Challenge, Days 1-11

I suck at portrait drawing for two main reasons: 1) it’s par with rocket science difficulty-wise and 2) I’ve put exactly three hours of practice into it in my entire life.

Enough! January is my month to go from “is that a person?” to “hey, only the ears and chin are weird!”

How? I’m taking 30 minutes a day to draw a portrait. To make it easy to think of subjects, I’m drawing composers whose piano songs I’m learning, as well as performers I admire. (Like Otis Spann, a Chicago blues pianist.)

My goal is to improve my shading skills and generally work on perspective. I’m looking past my absolutely mediocre skills with optimism thanks to a Skillshare video I watched that said, “you don’t discover your talent to draw. You develop it.”

Chelsea, always helpful, pointed out that drawing a bunch of dead white guys from past centuries is straight-up odd. Nice to have feedback to keep me from getting too strange, I suppose.

DISREGARDED. I shall soldier on in all my weirdness!

Here are the first 11 portraits from this month. Next step is watching a 5-min Skillshare video each evening rather than just winging it!

BTW, I know my first one isn’t a portrait…I decided to go full formal drawing after the 1st. This isn’t an art school dissertation, alright?! Sheesh.

This first round of portraits includes:

  1. Louis Armstrong – I’m learning What a Wonderful World
  2. Ludovico Einaudi – the esteemed/maligned modernist Italian composer. (Learned a bunch of his songs.)
  3. Otis Spann – badass Chicago blues pianist
  4. Franz Liszt – the brilliant 20th century virtuoso and composer (I’m working on his Consolations.)
  5. Martha Argerich – incredibly talented Argentinian pianist.
  6. Lang Lang – the flamboyant Chinese pianist.
  7. John Legend – American singer and songwriter.
  8. Chris Martin – lead singer for Coldplay.
  9. Erik Satie – the very quirky Impressionist/modern French composer.
  10. Yann Tiersen – French composer of the Amelie soundtrack, which has a few songs I’m learning.
  11. Chopin (no first name needed!) – I’m learning a bunch of his preludes and other pieces.

January Artist Portraits, Day 1-11

Forget goal setting, invest in skills

Goal: Bikepacking the Colorado Trail. Skills to do it? Acquired over many years.

Ah, a new year! A fantastic time to hate the old us: let’s whittle away our bloated physical bodies, quiet our ping-ponging minds, change our crappy jobs, and eat celery while taking cold showers and doing pushups.

Meh. I don’t buy it. Can’t we just be happy with who we are and still be on a personal growth path?

Maybe that’s why I loved Mark Manson’s recent thoughts on goals vs. developing skills. As he says,

“What are you improving at? What are you learning and gaining?

Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve in the new year, ask yourself, “What do I want to be good at that I’m not?” Then get to work on it.”

Mark Manson

Goals are things you want to accomplish. Skills are things you DO. (Which, incidentally, can help accomplish goals.)

Want to lose weight? Skill: learn how to cook three healthy meals.

Want to make more in-real-life friends? Skill: Learn how to be more vulnerable and listen better.

In the past, I’ve prioritized freedom and flexibility over a strict schedule. Game for an outdoor adventure or a friend hang at any time. Benefits, yes…with the downside that I wasn’t consistent with skill development.

Last year, I booked weekly Italian/piano lessons and committed to drawing consistently. I didn’t miss a day of studying my Italian flashcards with Anki and slowly but surely learned 4,000 vocab words. Thanks to that, I made tangible and incredibly satisfying progress. Small, consistent efforts lead to real skills.

I’m not as available now, but the tradeoff in schedule flexibility is 100% worth it. Now the days where I barely play music or skip a drawing session feel incomplete. I can’t imagine going back to the old me.

Which reminds me of this quote from Stillness is the Key…

So: to hell with goals. What skill can you commit to developing this year?

I’ll go first: I want to improve my portraiture skills, so I’m starting 2022 with drawing a portrait every day in January. Gawwwd they are hard!

A young Franz Liszt (composer and virtuoso pianist).

A year of T. Rex drawings

T. Rexes like to focus on the middle section of the tree.

Here are all my T. Rex drawings from 2021. After all, what better way to tee up a successful next year than referencing dinosaurs striving and failing?

By the way, the whole T. Rex thing started when I sketched a piece of Guatemalan art that Chelsea and I have on our wall. I randomly added a T. Rex, then thought “hey, I can do better than that.”

And so it began. All part of being an amateur.

Who knows how long I’ll continue…for now, it’s fun brainstorming ideas and I crack myself up executing the actual drawing. Plus, it’s honing (or maybe wrecking?) my drawing skills by practicing ridiculous dinosaurs!

Click on the first image for full size and scroll on through. Got ideas for more T. Rex fails? I’m all ears.

All The T. Rexes