Twenty-year old Jenny finds her calling

I get a lot of comments from people who see my “progress” charts (like this)  who tell me that it gave them courage to see good artists aren’t born, but have to learn their stuff the hard way, just like everybody else. 1995 always marked a pivotal point for my art for me – less because I suddenly became good, but because that was the year I tried new stuff and made a huge realisation: I can keep improving. I just have to keep going.

I just read through my old diaries and found these two entries, both from 1995, and thought to share them. Aren’t diaries a fascinating device? You really conserve your younger self on the pages, for your older one to read. I always think it’s fascinating.

Whatever your endeavours, good luck with them! And if you meet people who try to put you down by lying to you – emerge stronger for the experience.


19 thoughts on “Twenty-year old Jenny finds her calling

  1. Great Blog Jenny., and it is a simple but not always obvious fact that talent is inborn but you still need to learn how to express it and practice makes perfect ‘ubungen macht dem meister’ (apologies if I’ve mangled German) ;-)

  2. There is something else here, too, that even you might not realise. There is no shame in admitting that you have made progess and that you are good at what you do. Very good. All of your characters now come from your understanding – your memory. Your horses are brilliant. Your sense of proportion and realism is exquisite. Your detail is incredible.

    It took 20 years, but for all that, stand up and take a bow! You deserve it!

    • Oh, I never saw any shame in making progress. ;) As opposed to many young artists I meet today, I was incredibly full of myself when I was a teenager. Without any internet around, I really assumed I was the best teenage artist in the world, lol. The diary entry above was me realising I wasn’t a teenager anymore, but I wouldn’t miraculously progress to a John Howe the day I turned twenty… So I had to readjust my world view!

      • I was not full of myself, probably because from class one on I had a classmate who was perfect in drawing, like copying one to one and even quite good from memory. I always wondered why I could not do it. Nevertheless he gave up art and I am still drawing :D

        • I had such a friend too! She was amazing – drew extremely well from memory and was a human camera when drawing from a photo. Absolutely incredible. She was the one person that kept me from becoming completely big-headed as a teen. And as far as I know, she gave up drawing completely when she went to University. One of the most tragic wastes of amazing talent I’ve ever seen.

  3. I’m 15 and I’m constantly practicing in order to improve my drawing skills. Sometimes I feel disappointed from my work especially when I compare it to others’ one but then I usually realise that you have to concentrate to your art, without caring for what others can draw, paint etc. It ‘ll get you down. You have just to work hard and believe in yourself (that sounds kinda cliche,sorry ;) ). Your nice post reminded me this.

    (Hope there’s no mistake in my english :/ )

    • Maria, just to comment on a comment before Jenny replies, your English seemed fine to me and I’m very glad for you that you’ve realised that you should focus on what you do not what others do.

    • It’s hard not to look at others, and it’s easy to say that you mustn’t let it get to you, but really hard to do. I know that. Once you’re at a point where you’re pretty happy with what you do, and can see other people’s gorgeous work just looking at what you might learn from them, you’ve won.

  4. Timing is everything, and I read your post on the same morning that I read Kim’s post – –and as an older, often-feeling-down-on-myself developing artist, you two give me hope. THANK YOU for this post.

  5. I love your works so much! This post is very interesting, however I think the fact is that people are just different, and this is OK. Your friend lied, but not all the artists who achieve a good level with less effort are liars, everyone has his/her unique path to achieve proficiency. There are babies who enjoy drawing at the age of 1, they are rare, but they do exist, while many other kids begin drawing around 3-4. People are different, so it doesn’t matter how much faster or slower others learn. I think art is one of those fields in which you just don’t need to compare your progress to anyone. What counts most is the joy and the peace that creating transmits.

    • I did not take exception to her copying – I took exception to her copying and, when asked if she’d copied, lying and claiming she’d done it without reference. I don’t mind copying poses – any good artist has done it for practice and for understanding, whether from life, from photos, or even from another’ s art. But there’s still a huge difference in my admiration for an artist who comes up with a complicated pose from memory, as opposed to someone who’s merely copied it well. And, of course, any admiration evaporates quickly when it turns out that someone who claimed they could draw everything from memory are found out to have been lying.

      • I can’t agree more, you’re absolutely right Jenny, and I admire your talent, your wonderful drawings and your amazing memory for details.
        I just read the words “if you meet people who try to put you down by lying to you…” and thought that many times it just can’t be easy to understand who is lying and who is not, who is trying to put you down, and who is simply telling the truth. There are some sad memories on my mind, of when people asked me about my work and reacted as if I was lying after hearing my most sincere replies… it really hurt me.
        I think to get where one wants to get in the best way, one should try not to be conditioned by other people’s progress. While admiration lifts the spirit up and is constructive (no matter whether the admired work is a true artwork or not), comparison can pull down and become destructive.

  6. What I think is most impressive about your old diary entry is that you were able to pin-point your weaknesses quite exactly – I have a hard time doing that (it usually takes me years!), and a harder time doing something about it. And considering that you were analysing your weaknesses and knew that they were there, you were already far beyond the level of B., who instead of admitting that she couldn’t (or didn’t want to) draw from memory, claimed that she did!
    (And I loved looking at your old progress charts. At the moment, I feel that I’m not only stagnating, but actually moving backwards… so it’s good to see that you felt that way, too (after the birth of your kids, too :D), and that you eventually got out of it, better than before! It’s giving me hope for the future even when I’m slightly desperate about the present. ;))

  7. Jenny, I am 20 years old and now you definetely gave me an idea. :)

    When you say reference, you say when a person draws looking at an exact image of what he/she is drawing? Like drawing a character looking at the character’s photo in the same position?
    I do that quite often… (I say it when people ask)
    I also try to draw by memory and sometimes good things come out, but I have a specially difficult issue with faces. For example, I have a drawing of Maglor (in pencil), actually my first Tolkien drawing. It has some cool, maybe difficult do do, I don’t know, positions of hands, legs and so, but his face remains in blank. I can imagine it, but I can’t execute. It’s kinda frustrating and I wish sometimes I could look at some reference, but… well, the face is the most subjective trace of any Silmarillion character, so I’m in trouble.
    Looking at your old sketches and seeing your improvement through time really gives me hope that I am going to get better some time, if I practice more. I really hope I will, and maybe I can draw his face some day. I also tried to paint another drawing with watercolours after reading your latest watercolour guide, and it really-really went out waaaay better than I could ever imagine! Until now I only knew coloured pencils (yep, from childhood). So I believe I have to thank you for the recent artistic improvement I’ve had, even though I do not have much time to practice.

    Kind regards from Brazil
    (things here are mad. No, they’re not respecting human rights. There are tear gas bombs being thrown by the police even at hospital’s doors, at kids and at elders, to ensure Confederations Cup goes as smoothly as spanking the people can provide.)

    • Oh my, yes – I’ve seen the images from Brasil on the news and in the papers. All the best and heartfelt wishes that your government receives a peaceful wakeup call.

      By reference, I meant drawing from a photo, yes – either in the exact same position or just for bits of the image. There’s definitely nothing wrong with either of these! I had also copied from photos – of football players ;) – but I had never claimed that they were drawn freehand. I had also noticed that copying photos did an immense lot for my understanding of proportions, folds, light and shadow – of course it needs to be done if you ever want to achieve any realism.

      When I had seen B’s pictures, I immediately asked her if she’d copied from comic panels, because I was sure she had. (My ego couldn’t accept that a thirteen-year-old could draw like this without reference!) So she lied, plain and simple, when she said she hadn’t copied them. And that was what made me angry when I found out.

      I still use reference today, but usually loosely – you’d be hard put to find any pose in my drawings that was exactly copied from something else. If you do it’s probably horses. ;)

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