Some cats are just meant to be drawn over and over. That’s my handsome Colbert.
For months, Colbert’s portraiture has been eluding me. Yesterday’s drawing showed promise and got me closer to capturing his personality than ever before. The truth: it still wasn’t quite Colbert. Today I tried for just his head in an attempt to capture what he looks like when he’s pretending not to be observing anything. Because the only time he sits for more than about thirty seconds is when he is sleeping, I have to take at least six snap shots in the hope that at least one shot will capture his Colbert-ness before he moves again. And this little portrait is from the same photo as yesterday’s drawing, even though he looks very different.
Although I don’t believe I have drawn the truest Colbert possibly yet, I see a definite improvement and a much closer resemblance to his nature. The next drawing will be closer, and the one after will be closer yet. It just takes practice and a lot of persistence.
To help me along, I have been drawing other felines from books on how to draw cats. As all pet owners know, our pets never look like any other, even if they are twins or have long pedigrees. Our furry little loved ones are as unique as we are. There may be strong resemblances to others, but each human or furry person has a unique glint in the eye or characteristic smile or ear twitch that differentiates this subject from all others. So, to capture the unique individual on paper may take many attempts. And I am just getting started. But drawing other cats helps me figure out cat-ness, and that can only help me to capture Colbert-ness.
It came to me as I was drawing Colbert 2.0 that the writing process is very much the same process. When we write a description of a setting, a character, or even an event or emotional experience, we are approximating based on our current level of knowledge, skill, and imaginativeness. It’s rare to get the essence of a situation perfect on the first attempt. Thus, we edit, re-write, add, remove, tear up and start again–all moving toward the perfect wording that will capture the essence of what we see in our mind’s eye or feel in our heart. Maybe as a writer you are one of the few who is happy with his/her words the very second alphabetic characters appear on paper or screen. Perhaps you write and erase over and over again, never feeling you have it right. Or maybe you’re like most of us, not being perfectly happy with your wording, but knowing that you could stop yourself from writing anything else for months unless you just get yourself past that little piece of slightly-less-than-perfect line.
The thing about writing–and drawing–is that we get better at depiction the more we practice our art. Yes, Colbert’s nose is not exactly right yet; yes, that sentence needs a bit more work. But chances are pretty good that we will do better on the next story or a new portrait from a different perspective. Every work we produce helps us get better, more realistic, mor confident, more able to say or draw exactly the idea we store in our mind’s eye.
So what if today’s passage, story, or drawing isn’t destined to become the classical work we know is in us? That will come as we practice our art. That will come as we continue to strive for perfection. The real challenge is to never give up, and to never stop learning.
Today is Colbert 2.0. Soon there will be a Colbert 2.7 or 8.1. At some point, he will come out perfect.