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I Didn't Know You Could Draw! Deliberate Practice - Easy To See

When our artist backed out, we were in a jam. So, my wife offered to do it, and I said, 'I didn't know you could draw.' She replied, 'I can't.' And now, 10 months later, her work is seen by thousands. Deliberate practice is rarely this easy to see.

Curtiss Murphy, Blogger

March 22, 2013

5 Min Read

(Reposted from my blog)

Sometimes my wife surprises me. Like, last year, when my friend from California told me he was going to be really busy, "I won't have time to work on the art for a while." We were just weeks away from finishing The Gratitude Habit, when our artist backed out. Months of effort had gone into the stories and the coding, but the app was nothing without art.

So, I considered finding a local artist - maybe at one of those 2-year art schools. Or maybe I could hire someone from DeviantArt. I mean, clip-art would be fine, we didn't need Picasso.

So, as I sat in my closet, rocking back-and-forth, chewing my fingers off, my wife walked up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. She surprised me by saying, "I'll do it."

Perplexed, I said, "What? You ... I didn't know you could draw."

"I can't!", she replied, "But we can't wait forever and we can't afford an artist. I'll do it."

In 21 years, I'd never seen my wife draw; not even a doodle! But, she'd always been a good student: meticulous and persistent. I began to get excited.

She dove right in; head first! Each day, she'd draw several new images. It was slow of course. But, we found some help in books like, Understanding Comics, and after a week or so, she found her rhythm. She created art, like this:

Briefcase 1

Briefcase 1

Sure, it wasn't Picasso, but she was doing it! Each little success, motivated her to keep going. Course, we needed a dozens and dozens of images, but, it was a start.

And remember my friend from California? Well, he didn't have time to draw for us, but he had lots of good advice, like "Always use reference art. Find an image on the internet and use it as a guide." That was a huge breakthrough for her. With her iPad in one hand, and her pen in the other, her images began to look like this:

Briefcase 2

Briefcase 2

A drastic improvement. And, good enough to ship! 5-weeks later, after much blood, sweat, and tears, we shipped The Gratitude Habit

But, her journey wasn't over yet. Cause the ink was barely dry, when we started work on Episode 2! This time around, Gigi had stories from his marriage. We needed images of people - lots of them.

I remember when I was growing up, I wasn't that great a student. Often times, in class, I used to doodle on my notebook. Of course, I only did the simple stuff: lightning bolts and swirlies. You can't mess up a swirlie. But, humans were an entirely different subject! Eyeballs and lips and hair? Windows of the soul? Impossible!

And nothing has changed since I was a kid. People are hard to draw. Whether it's me, or my wife. Her early images looked like this:

Muscles are hard!

Muscles are hard!

Proportions were the hardest. They infuriated my wife; almost to tears sometimes. She tried a lot of styles and struggled to find one she could get right. But, she kept at it, and eventually, we settled for this herpy-derpy couple in Good Sex, Great Marriage:

The Herp Derps!

The Herp Derps!

Definitely not Picasso. And that's about the time she found, 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain'. And soon after that, we put together a holiday episode, 'Christmas Gratitude'. We put it together quite quickly, and my wife drew images like this:

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

Compared to her earlier briefcases? Just ... WOW! Each new episode, she'd jump back in and practice, practice, practice. 

Of course, Christmas trees are easier than people. As I write this, we're neck deep into episode 4: 'The Compliment Habit'. This time, Gigi tells stories that involve people! Lots of people.

But my wife is not afraid. She's tackling people head on (pun intended). I think she is surprising herself. She is certainly surprising me. I guess the practice is paying off, because she is discovering a style of her own. A simple sort of elegance that conveys emotion.

For Episode 4, we need to show the two of us at dinner, happily in love. Last night, she drew this:

Couple In Love

Couple In Love

My wife took a risk! She offered to do what she had never done before, knowing full well it would be seen by everyone! But, she practiced, deliberately, for thirty minutes a day. She persisted through failures and frustration. In just ten months, she's gone from "I can't draw", to ... a professional artist, who's work is seen by tens of thousands.

I believe in deliberate practice. But, its rarely this obvious. The evolution is right there, easy to see. My wife couldn't draw. Now she can. 

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