Being open to learn is so important. If you are a good learner, you realize the possibilities are endless. You just need to be willing to allow yourself enough time to learn it before giving up. I’ve always loved to learn!
Once I reached my mid-twenties and starting thinking seriously about my future, I thought investing in my art would be a good step. I signed up for a portrait drawing class at a local community college and went to it every Tuesday night for a semester. My good friend Ashley Green (@aeartgm) took the class with me as well, so it was quite the treat!
I never thought of myself as a pro-artist, but I believed I could hold my own and had some good pieces. I had a portfolio of artwork I had done over the years, and was looking forward to showing the professor. I will never forget the humbling I got that day. She looks through, seems indifferent and goes “hmm, yeah these are pretty good…. for a LINE drawing…”. The way she emphasized the word line, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted. I ask, “What’s a… LINE drawing?” She explains that in realism, you don’t want to use lines to draw, and instead create shades of value in shapes.
I went home with a bruised ego that night, but also a new determination to conquer the (apparently) despicable line drawing. We had homework each class, so I started practicing more than I ever had before. My realism got better and better and I learned some great techniques in the class. Sometimes the professor would come over, take my pencil, and make some scratches of her own to fix my work. She pushed so many buttons, but it truly opened so many doors for me. Sometimes you need those hard-ass people in your life, to give you the push you would never do yourself.
After that class was over, I was amazed at how realistic I could get portraits. My first one was picture of my mom and dad. I gave it to my mom for Mother’s Day and it was the most rewarding gift I had ever given. I started thinking that I wanted more of this in my life.
The seeds of Lights and Darks were planted and started to take root. I put feelers out there in the social media world, offering portrait commissions. In the beginning, I had very few orders. When I started, I never expected it would be something I could do as a serious “small business”. Over time, my skills grew and client base increased. The class sparked my investment in learning more about art, and I’ve been “studying” in other ways ever since.
YouTube is a gold mine for art lessons. If you’re wondering how to improve your art skills, just flip on some art channels on YouTube and let it roll! You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube… and the best part? It’s free!
Time went on, and drawing became a staple in my every day life. When you practice something consistently, you’re bound to get better. I learned new skills and started branching out into color pieces. Finding Prismacolor colored pencils was another important step in my artistic career. I couldn’t believe the way you could blend colors and create realism from a simple pencil. On the quest for more color, I picked up acrylic, watercolor, wall and spray paint techniques. My latest love is Pan Pastels, which look like makeup tins that you apply with a sponge applicator.
My ability levels grew and I became more comfortable with drawing a diverse array of subjects with a variety of mediums. I started to get more portrait orders and became more serious about my art. The support from my old work family was incredible. I think back on those moments fondly, because everyone I worked with at that time supported me and believed in my art more than I did. A friend (Courtney) at my old job pushed me to finally make an official art account on Instagram. This was the next step to creating a real business.
My Instagram account (@lights.and.darks) took a while to grow, but brought forth some special moments. One of my first Prismacolor pencil drawings was a piece I created of Britney Spears. The piece ended up going slightly viral” and got over 1,000 likes. Being used to an average of 25 likes, I was stoked to see the amount of reach I had achieved with Instagram. From then on, I decided to use Instagram as a foundation to build upon.
Step by step, another piece of the puzzle is added and the journey moves forward. The time had finally come where taking the plunge and making the business “official” was the next move. It couldn’t be denied any longer. I was starting to make money, and wanted to do right by our friends, the IRS. The thought of coming all this way and getting slammed by the government for tax issues wrenched my gut. It’s just easier on the heart to do the right thing.
Putting the business on the books came with a lot of confusion and stress, as I expected. However, I have made it through to the other side! On my next blog post, I will give a little bit of detail on how I went about creating Lights and Darks and made things official.
Stay tuned for the next entry! If you have made it to the end of this post, I appreciate you. One of the best gifts we can give each other is support. Your support makes a difference to me!
Let me know what topics you’d like to hear more on! Now that we are almost up to date with the story of Lights and Darks, there will be some room for new content ideas. I would love to hear from you!