10 Life lessons from my pencil

What drawing people has taught me

Lesson 1: Don’t underestimate the power of a tool.

The tools I use are important in creating. Tools are extensions for peoples hands. When my hands and fingers aren’t able to change an outcome, I need a tool. Tools produce change. I want to learn what the right tools are for the tasks at hand. I have never gotten far drawing a portrait with a hammer, or building a house with a violin. I’m learning that I can’t change people, but I can change outcomes with the proper tools.

When I begin to draw a portrait I need a hard pencil,  I need to use light pressure as I am creating large foundation shapes, this is vital to a successful end product. A hard pencil actually makes soft marks that are easily erasable. If I begin with a soft, dark, lead with a lot of  pressure I will create lines that don’t erase well, I will have a lot of unwanted marks that will make my picture look messy, a face full of scars. How often have I used a cutting word with my children and left scars when I should have used compassion and tenderness to change an outcome.

Patience, kindness and truth to name a few are valuable and sometimes underestimated tools in managing relationships. I need the proper tools to succeed at building healthy enduring relationships, not power tools. and I need certain kinds of lead to accomplish certain effects when I am drawing. I want to have a tool box and fill it with tools for every occasion. I can learn to pause and ask myself:  what does this moment call for, or what do I need when interacting with this particular person in my life. What do I want to accomplish here?  Outcomes are important and to get the outcome we want sometimes we need to change the tool we are using.

 Lesson 2: Every day is like a new canvas 

Use it wisely and you’ll have a studio full of valuable artwork. There are different kinds of paper. Sometimes it’s rough and grainy or it can be smooth. There are different shades of white, different weights and sizes, just as each paper surface is different, each day is a unique canvas to write your story on.The bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. If I look at each day like that, I can ask myself over and over, what will I make today??  We each have a shot at making something valuable today and leaving the past behind. You get to choose what you do with what you have in front of you. What impression will you leave on those around you today by what you put into and onto your canvas. And if you aren’t happy with how it turned out tomorrow you get another chance, a fresh start, a clean canvas.

Lesson 3: Use your time wisely

Just as I want to use all the space I have on my paper when drawing a portrait. I also want to use all my time not wasting even an hour of my day. Young artists often use a corner of their paper. Use it all, I tell my students, make a big splash if you want your work to be seen. Don’t let your work go unnoticed because of all the unused. The white space on your paper, is like white noise, loud and distracting. The time I waste watching TV, playing video games or internet surfing, is like the large, white, unused space in my day. Those around me will focus on the loudest, most dominating voice on the canvas even if its blank.  Are you wasting your time, perhaps in front of the mirror or glued  snap chat? What return on your investment do those things have? what is there to show  at the end of the day, and are those things the only thing others notice in your life, is what you Don’t do? What’s taking most of the space in your day and blinding everyone to the work you want to be recognized for?

Lesson 4: Always Forgive

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Others and self. Jesus said forgive your brother 70 times 7 times, I can always choose forgiveness. Pencil drawing is very forgiving. A misplaced line can easily be erased.  Uneven eyes or a dis-proportioned jawline can be fixed with a small effort.  Life is full of errors, mistakes and sins, some intentional some unintentional, these sins don’t have to end my life or or ruin my hope, i can easily erase a sin and move forward.  The things which aren’t right can be corrected and rewritten. I use erasers through my entire drawing from beginning to end, without an eraser I  would never have a finished and appealing portrait.  God has provided you and I with the ultimate eraser. His name is Jesus and he erases our mistakes. If I mess up i can ask forgiveness,  before long our lives  will be a reflection of beauty. We have a lot of power to create, but not every mark is true and necessary. When you do something that hurts someone else’s image erase it, ask forgiveness.

Lesson 5: Pay attention to little detail

Small details make a big difference. Opening the door for the elderly lady behind you, speaking kindness to the girl sitting alone at lunch, showing respect to a teacher who might not deserve it, keeping your promise, praying, holding your tongue, practicing  patience at the market, I can do these things, these small seemingly insignificant things, you never know how a tiny bit of kindness effects someone, or even ourselves. It may encourage someone who is having a terrible day, it may make your father in heaven smile.   sometimes a little change in my attitude or behavior, sometimes a slight shift in my tone, or a tiny step toward completing a task. In my drawings they make a huge difference in the overall accuracy of the picture. These little moments and decisions ultimately define you. Sometimes a tiny line erased or added can change the entire expression on someones face. Its not always giant leaps and risks that people take in life that count toward but the small consistent steps that bring us forward.

Lesson 6: Don’t give up. 

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Rabbi Studying Torah

Without perseverance nothing else matters. I can’t use up space or find the right tool or erase a line that I stop working on.  A picture takes time, trial and error, focus and a pressing on regardless of what I think or feel or want in the moment. Rarely is a portrait accurate and beautiful from the beginning. It’s a work in process. Drawing has taught me the importance of persevering to the end whether in relationship , work or life.  Don’t give up even though it is hard, even though its not coming out “right” even though I can’t see the end. The bible says, he who endures to the end will be saved. In the beginning even a seed looks small and worthless, it lies in the womb of the earth in time its true meaning and substance emerge and it looks entirely different. My life at times primitive, immature, messy and disproportionate is being work on, the bible also says that He who began a good work in you will complete it until that day. It is through the incomplete messy lines of life that I travel to the finished product. If I give up I’ll never know how beautiful life could be. Whatever your hands find to do, run the race, finish the course, gain the prize. Years ago, my young son said something wise, when I wanted to give up because something wasn’t coming out well, “he said mom its only a waste if you don’t finish.”   Don’t give up, things will get better.

Lesson 7: Don’t commit too early.

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Wait and see. Use temporary lines as you scope out a situation, what the heck does this mean? When I begin a new drawing I have learned my lesson to begin using light lines that are easily erasable, as i am finding the right shapes and as I get the overall proportions correct.Many time I committed too early making hard, dark lines, when I found they were not the proper lines they left marks i couldn’t get rid of. It’s amazing that over time the image emerges and If I commit to early to a particular shape it doesn’t come out as good. If it’s the right shape i see it and then I commit with dark lines. its important to have the freedom to change my mind early on as I’m getting to know my subject. a light sketch is easy to change. Before jumping in with two feet test the waters.   Joni Earekson Tada was paralyzed from the neck down at 18 years old from diving into waters that were too shallow, she committed to her dive too soon.  Don’t make promises that will be hard to take back or if you know you might change your mind.  A job, a vacation, a purchase , a marriage, a college, a decision. Its OK to wait and see. The bible says: “Don’t begin until you count the cost. … “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost … Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”

Lesson 8: Darkness adds Form

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We need both light and darkness to complete a day and a drawing. In order to have a well-rounded life, or a 3 dimensional portrait the darkest values I  add with my pencil are vital. Not everything in life is light, somethings are dark, full of shadows and pain sufferings and sorrow heaviness.  Joni Tada said, the hardest times in life are like splashes of hell, and what are splashes of heaven? Meeting Jesus in those splashes of hell. it is the contrast of the light and the dark which arrests our attention. Living a life of faith isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The life of faith is sorrow and darkness tainted with hope and this is what gives life and faith three dimensional shape. God created light in the darkness and then he brought forth life, but he did not remove the darkness. Don’t avoid the darkest moments in life, embrace them, carry your cross. When I add dark shadows and shading to my portraits it changes my entire drawing- it brings people to life, it adds character and beauty as it contrasts with the lightest parts, in fact it draws ones eyes to the light. The afflictions we experience on earth build our character depth and compassion and draw us to the foot of the one who brings us hope and rest. Peter said 12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed at the revelation of His glory.… it is to reveal his glory! Darkness shapes and define me, providing God an opportunity to show the light of his glory in my life.

Lesson 9: Contrast isn’t Conflict

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Churchill

Winston Churchill said this: If two agree on everything one of them is unnecessary.  There’s beauty in contrast and value in differences. Our wonderful creator designed a world replete with variation. The obvious contrasts between a man and a woman enable reproduction and multiplication. Think of the contrast with the day and the night, how compelling they both are in the human experience.   Contrast creates a pop, a voice heard in the world. It generates  movement in an otherwise stagnant canvas.

Lesson 10: Gain Perspective and You’ll gain understanding

There are time you must change your perspective to gain understanding and move forward successfully. Sometime we look at something so long that we stop seeing whats wrong and whats need to change. To see a change, you need to make a change, look at something from a different angle, upside down, through a lens, on a mantle, up high, through other peoples eyes. Ask for feedback. When you are in a situation and can’t see away out, or you see a problem but aren’t sure what it is you need to solve it, what you need is a new perspective. Walk away from that thing you have been satiated with, and when you return you will see it differently. sometimes a break is the most productive part of your day. Remember when you feel stuck, disengage your brain from the familiar. When your vision is changed your life is changed. When you look at something in a different way you see something different and that could make all the difference in the world.

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