Friday, October 26, 2012

It Took Four Years to Go to Art School, Ten to Forget Everything I Learned - by Christina Forshay

I feel like I've hit a turning point in my illustration career. Up until now, I felt like my illustrations needed to prove to the viewer that I knew how to draw: is that shadow falling where is should be? Are there 35 spokes on that bike wheel? I was putting way too much emphasis on being technical and not enough emphasis on capturing feeling and emotion--the thing that makes readers want to turn the page and see what's going to happen next. During this summer's SCBWI conference, I had an epiphany: it's not necessarily about how "good" of an artist I am or how well I can draw a's about THE STORY and the FEELINGS one's artwork can relay.  Of course I heard this a million times at past illustration conferences, but it never sank in. Why? Because I'd always been on a mission to prove to people that I. CAN. DRAW. And I was trying too hard to make pretty pictures. Pretty pictures that weren't much more than nice to look at.    

It's time for me to let go of the technicalities, the insecurities. I've got to let myself be more free which also means letting more of ME show through in my art. This equals vulnerability. It unleashes my fears of being a fake, not good enough, an imposter in the illustration world. That's scary. But it I know I need to "let go" to take my art to the next level. 

So, how will I do this exactly? Well, the next illustration that I'm working on is for a gallery show. And this particular piece of art looks NOTHING like the rest of my stuff. The lines aren't straight, the perspective isn't perfect, the bike doesn't have the same number of spokes as my reference picture. But I'm excited about it. I'm also going to listen to what many author/illustrators at this summer's SCBWI Conference said: write about what you know and who you are. 

I attended a breakout session at this summer's conference by Dan Yaccarino in which he talked about k "All the Way to America", a book based on his family's journey from Italy to the US. He explained that it was such a personal story that, at times, it was hard to share. Hard to reveal such personal things. But now I've come to realize that these personal stories and details are what helps the reader to relate to your art and writing. The fact that others might be able to relate to what you have to say.  It's art at it's basic level: the human connection.

As scary as it is to set my creative self free, it's liberating. It's new and fresh. It feels more like me.

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
― Madeleine L'Engle

Here's a TED Talk by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability. A very interesting take on vulnerability and the human connection. Watch:


  1. This was a really great post, Christina. Thank you so much for sharing where you are and have been on your journey, and I'm excited to see where you're going!

  2. What a great point, Christina! I think this is relevant for many of us. I can't wait to see your new piece.

  3. Yep, that's what happens when you open up and share - you touch someone else where they are vulnerable too. And I'm sure I am not alone when I say I'm grateful.

  4. You mean I'm not the only one?! ;)
    I came away from the LA SCBWI Conference with just about the exactly same conclusions. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. Best of luck with the gallery piece, can't wait to see it! :)

  5. This was a fantastic post, Christina. I've been experiencing this same thing for some time. I suppose everything should just flow naturally when you just let loose the style a little...however, it's not as easy as that sounds! Excited for you and cheering you on. <3