“Nope. That doesn’t look right.” I say out loud to myself. I grab the eraser and begin again. How does a table look from the side? What parts are actually visible? I concentrate and imagine a folding table. Okay. A line here, two lines parallel. And the top of the table looks much narrower than it actually is, when seen from the side.
I sketch, erase, and sketch again. Eventually, I get it. It looks right, or right-ish, certainly as right as I can get it now.
I put down my pencil, mentally tired. A new part of my brain is getting a workout, and I can feel it. I’m not a particularly visual-oriented person, so it’s a stretch to try to recreate reality on a piece of paper.
Or, not reality. A facsimile of reality, a caricature of reality. I’m not drawing reality. I’m drawing comics. It is definitely fun! And it is my relaxation, my calming activity before bed right now.
It was back in 2015 when I first thought about comics and me. I realized how concise, how clear a visual might be in conveying my experience. Can a 1000- or 1200-word blog post be summed up in a few frames of comics? Sometimes. Sometimes not. But I know computer use is hard for many people after mTBI, so maybe I could reach a broader audience with something quicker and easier to digest. Wouldn’t it be great to make my words, my message more accessible to people?
Like many great ideas, I have been slow to implement. There just isn’t a lot of extra energy lying around these past handful of years. And, I have had this one problem. A big one. I can’t draw. Whoops!
The task of learning to draw felt overwhelming, impossible. And, in some ways it is. Years and years of practice are needed to draw well. But since my initial idea, I have seen the wide variety of drawing skills displayed in comics and realized – there is room for me. I don’t have to draw well, I just have to draw well enough to be understood.
In my slow crawl towards comic making, I did buy a book – a very helpful book – How to Draw in 30 Days back in 2016. This was a great choice for me. The writer provides step by step instructions on specific images so even if you don’t have any particular talent, if you follow his instructions you end up with stuff that looks pretty good.
I didn’t finish the book – I’m not even close, still, in 2019. And 30 days? Hah. I knew I wasn’t going to do anything in 30 days. Speed is not an option in my life, particularly when learning is involved. But the parts I have completed taught me important stuff that has slowly, slowly sunk into my skull.
During a fit of winter inspiration, I decided taking a class about comics is my next logical step. So. I signed up for a graphic novel class with a local art organization and started it two Mondays ago.
There are some roadblocks to me being successful. It is at night (sad face). It is in a building that does not have walls that go all the way to the ceiling, so you can hear just about every word of the class next door (even bigger sad face). The HVAC system rattles and moans like a monster all evening (sad face). The class runs 2 ½ hours (worried face). I want this, though, and the class isn’t offered during the day. So I took a big hit of caffeine, rested during the day, and made it there.
I learned things. First, that I am likely the worst drawer in the class. I expected that, though. More importantly, I learned how fun it is to explore comics in a group setting, with a great teacher, and to be exposed to all sorts of new ideas and interests. That, for me, is 100% worth it.
It was during class that I felt – yes, felt – a new part of my brain engage. This whole other part of my mental capacity that I didn’t even know existed crawled out of a closet in the dark recesses of my mind, brushed off the cobwebs, and became completely engaged in learning. A strange sensation.
And now I’ve been drawing. Last week I drew three comics. This week, I hope to draw three more. I’m making progress. Any skill requires practice. The more I draw, the better I will become at drawing.
One big downside. I expected to be tired after class. Of course, right? It was at night and is a new environment. What I didn’t expect was to be deeply core exhausted the next day. And only semi-functional the day after. And for about three more days after that I could tell my sparkle had been seriously dampened. That new part of me I used during my class was completely worn out. No stamina yet.
But I recovered. Luck is with me, and my class was canceled this past Monday, so I’ll have a full two week break before attempting it again. This time, I’m clearing my calendar the day after. But the reality is – most likely – it won’t be as bad. The first time doing something new is almost always difficult. The next time can be the worst, or a little easier. By the third time, almost always, it becomes more manageable. Over time and repetition, any situation becomes less draining.
That is the beauty of an adaptive brain. This class is a little outside my capacity, even with caffeine and rest and everything else. So, I will plan accordingly, put in place the accommodations I can, and keep at it. With time, it won’t be so hard for me to attend. It will become, if not easy, then doable. My ability to cope will improve. It is inevitable. It is inevitable.