"So your dog died, huh?!"
That's my husband's weirdo uncle ambling into our kitchen as I'm preparing cupcakes for our daughter's birthday party. He fits the stereotype of the weirdo uncle to the T: He tells jokes nobody thinks are funny, has no concept of how to hold a pleasant conversation, and has a slight cross-eyed thing going on, which leaves you wondering which eye to pick when you do have to speak with him.
I went to the kitchen partly (ok, maybe mostly) to avoid him and now, in an effort to minimize eye contact, I try to look really busy by dedicating my full attention to my mixing bowl. "Yeah, we miss him." I say reservedly and launch into full frosting making mode.
The thing is, I'm still super bummed about Wolfie passing away and Weirdo Uncle is the last person I want to share this with.
"I liked that dog!" he titters away. "Uhu! Yeah, he was great."
I turn the hand mixer on high and start to randomly throw cream, sugar and cream cheese into the bowl in a hopes that he'll catch a drift.
The dude threw me off my game and I have no idea what eventually ended up in that frosting. Sure, it turned out pink and frosting-like enough, and it'll pass for frosting by any toddler birthday party attendee's standard, but it had, shall we say, "internal" issues and I couldn't reproduce it if you asked me to.
That's often how I felt about my art, even after completing my official studies. The end product would be passable enough, but I couldn't quite tell you how I made it nor if I could do it again in just that way.
I'd wonder why do I like this painting so much more than that one? What makes people fawn over this piece and ignore the other? It was all a vague guessing game of: "Maybe if I try this? How about if I try that?" and you can definitely learn a lot from experimenting like that. But there comes a point when getting some expert insight is what's called for, something you can reliably come back to, like a user's guide, to reference during your next attempts.
As any good cook will tell you, you need to know a) what goes into a recipe (and what doesn't) and then, b) how to execute it.
For us artists that means knowing a) how to arrange your composition (what goes into the picture and where, and what do you leave out) and then b) having a step by step process that'll help you arrive at the desired result time and time again. (Those are your drawing/painting skills)
Get those two things dialed in, and even the weirdest of uncles won't throw you off your creative or frosting game anymore ;)
To hone your drawing skills right now check out this week's hand drawing demo. And later, definitely consider my upcoming Composition/Visual Storytelling and Figure Drawing classes.