Happy Little Accidents: How children survive teaching us new technologies

Posted by Cindi Tanner on

(Deep Blue Sublimation excerpt from the Grunge Crosshatch Collection of art door vinyl decals)
Serious art videos regularly decry the artist who stumbles upon designs as "happy accidents". We are instructed emphatically from the voice of knowledge in these online tutorials that the composition must be carefully planned! The intentionality of the artist ought to be patiently demonstrated in subject matter and technique reasearch and ample sketch work prior to the actual confrontation with the canvas. Scrooge said it best, "Bah! Humbug!"
I drive my disciplined artist son James bonkers with my impatient approach to art. Both James and Leiland (the younger brother) had no clue after knowing their mom since they were little that I was hostile to the preliminary sketch. I do reference research, fine, but I refuse to do practice sketches.
I draw a detailed pencil drawing on the watercolor paper before I put a brush to it. That's it-we're off! I am an impatient artist if the standard requires a lot of work before execution of the deed. Others have their methods. This is what I do. 
("Tribal Mother & Baby" watercolor)
(Canada Goose & Nest watercolor)
(Cactus Wren poster watercolor excerpt; AZ Game & Fish Dept.)
(Victorian Girl With Day Hat watercolor)
Imagine the shock to be introduced to digital art and the attempt to sketch with a pretend pencil in the stylus was a complete and utter bust. I was lost. I told the boys we could start the business with James and Leiland creating digital artwork, and I would scan watercolor paintings. "Sure," they said and they dragged me to Best Buy to look at Microsoft Surface Pros. They knew something I did not. 
My boys understood the world of digital files and scale and pixel size or resolution...gobbledygook. Eventually, as I researched the process to print original art on something as large as an 80x36" interior door decal, the reality of scale limitations in print hit hard.
I would have to paint in a much larger format than I ever had before to even begin to scale the painting to the proper size for print.
Investing in a tablet computer was essential; and James began instructing me how to use this brand new medium.
It was painful at first. It was humiliating to see in my head something that betrayed me on the screen. Deleting what I had drawn was a merciful act. This is what I felt like:
And this is what I hoped I looked like to my two sons:
One day James sat me down to watch a series of digital art tutorials he selected for me. He stopped and replayed the video every time I cried, "Wait! Let me see that again!" I watched a Marvel Comics tutorial with none other than the great Stan Lee himself encouraging me to begin drawing "The Marvel Way". Another animation/sic-fi artist demonstrated in simple terms how to create with broad strokes of color and then fine-sculpt the subject by removing color with an erasure tool. A light went off in the biggest, brightest brain synapse ever. That was it-I was off!
I created scores of designs that James evaluated with a brutal eye. As our Creative Director, his approval is required before a design is accepted into our design catalogue. At one point he moaned in frustration, "Mom! What don't you get about LAYERS? You've got to build your design in layers!" I was still thinking in terms of physical paper and brushes. But somewhere in all that excruciating process the transition to digital began to click. It was FREEDOM.
Freedom from mistakes that were unresolvable. Freedom to manipulate designs in almost limitless ways by clicking a button or tapping the stylus on seemingly endless functions. Freedom to explore our dream for a family business in which we could capitalize on what we DO and share with others the transformative power of original art in a very unique application!
Someone else said it best: "There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents." 
Thanks, Bob Ross! And thank you, James and Leiland for not letting it show when you thought my efforts were doomed.

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