How I Got Into The Art I Do

My father is an interior designer who learned to draft by hand on those large, beautiful (tragically disappearing) drafting tables. He was also my first art instructor, and I remember him teaching me perspective and basic scene rendering. These lessons laid the foundation for how I took to observational drawing during my undergrad art minor.

Once I started university art classes, I thrived on life drawing and any assignment that involved making art outside. My first drawing class assignment my first year of college was to sketch a chair, largely as an exercise in the measurement technique we’d just learned. Without thinking, I expanded it into a whole scene.

It wasn’t until we walked around the room, examining the other students’ easels, that I realized everyone else had drawn the chair at 3-4 times the scale that I had and ignored the easels and other students in the background.

The “problem” generally persisted in further assignments, even as I improved my chair-focusing abilities. I loved the large wooden easels in the classroom, with their technical composition and angles, and generally preferred drawing them to the still life drawings we set up.

When I graduated and moved to St. Louis in 2014, I used plein air sketching as a way to acclimate with my new environment. The scenes I drew are extremely ordinary examples of St. Louis architecture, but it felt new and very different from my suburban upbringing. I felt art was necessary to properly take in and adapt to my new home.

However, I didn’t really pursue plein air deeper until I took my first trip to the Philippines in 2015. On that trip, I kept a detailed travel journal littered with sketches. Documenting and responding to the trip felt critical. I was visiting my father’s homeland, collecting heirlooms out of his childhood home, meeting extended family, and simply existing in the land of my bedtime stories. That travel journal remains one of my favorite sketchbook to look back on. That trip kicked off a realization that there was just something in that art that I needed to pursue.

Since then, and more intently in the past couple years, I’ve taken the drive that pushed me to fill my travel sketchbooks and tried to apply it to my everyday life. I don’t draw, without fail, every single day of my life, but I try to create the space to do so, reduce barriers to art creation, and generally interject creative moments whenever I’m able.

Though I do have some formal art training, I only took a couple core drawing classes that imparted skills I still apply today. For the most part, I credit where I am now to consistent practice, honest feedback, and finding internal motivations to keep drawing.

Part of that last part is being intentional about drawing in community. I host a free sketchwalk once a month, and you’re welcome to come join me. Regardless of drawing ability, the best way to improve is to get outside (literally, if possible) and practice. I also bop around town, so come draw with me.