//what a sketch taught me

“You’re feeling the character out,” Lauren told me. “It’s supposed to be loose.”

I groaned, a fraction away from throwing in the towel, and maybe my pencil. “I’m really bad at sketching. Really bad.”

Lauren rolled her eyes. We were Skyping for the first time in a month (the holidays halted our several-times-a-week Skype hangouts), and as usual, we were drawing. I held up my sketchbook. “I’m happy with his outfit, I guess, but the sketch is horrible.”

“Aww, it’s not horrible, ” she said, obviously blinded by her love for the character I was sketching. “I think it’s good.”

For probably the sixth time, I moaned, “I’m so bad at sketching.”

“I love sketching. I’m really bad at finishing things, but I’ll sketch all day,” she said.

“I’m the other way around.” I tapped my pencil against the page. “Either I do a full-blown portrait or nothing at all. I’ve always been that way.”

She continued to encourage my sketching and I switched to another sketch – I decided to try a sloppy, whatever-it’s-just-a-sketch-anyway doodle of our shared tiny goth germophobe character, Alucard. We talked and sketched, but what I’d said stuck in the back of my mind. I’ve always been that way. And it’s true – I have a very clear memory of being seven, and my older sister Maralie put together a craft where I, my baby sister, and my older brother each painted a seagull as a gift for Mom. I was putting ridges in my seagull’s legs – for realism – when Maralie said, with laughter and frustration, “No, Mirriam, we’re aiming for simple here.”

“But – detail,” I stammered, really confused as to why anyone wouldn’t want a realistic seagull. Of course I had the paint skills of a seven-year-old and nothing I painted was going to look realistic, but the incident stuck with me. I can remember my piano teachers over the years telling me, “You’re overcomplicating this. It isn’t hard. Just relax.” I can remember the years of being told, “It’s just adding numbers, okay? Math isn’t that hard! You’re making things more difficult for yourself.”

It was true. I had always been this way. I have always been this way. But as I sketched – trying to loosen up, to realize this was for fun and practice, nothing more – I realized I was actually happy with it. It was way better than my previous one. I was ‘feeling the character out,’ and the more I relaxed, the more I loosened my grip on control, the more fun I was having. And fun wasn’t the only result – the result was a small, messy sketch I was entirely happy with. It did more than capture details – it captured him.

After dinner, I settled down with music to try and work on a commission I’ve been attempting to wrangle for months. I was never happy with it. This was my fifth try; I had scrapped every attempt beforehand and this was resulting in the world’s longest art commission, I was sure of it. Every time I looked at it, it felt stiff. If I’m not happy with the groundwork for a drawing, then anything I try to build on top of it crumbles beneath my own dissatisfaction.

I scrapped the fifth try and sat staring at a blank sheet of paper. The sixth attempt. Something had to give; I couldn’t keep doing this forever. I remembered what I’d learned during my call with Lauren. I was doing to this drawing what I do to everything of any importance – I grasp it tighter and tighter until my metaphorical pencil snaps. I procrastinate in the name of perfectionism – because really, the older I get the more I realize that’s what perfectionism is. It’s glorified procrastination. We don’t move on, we don’t grow and learn. We remain stunted in the name of ‘making it perfect.’

I like perfect things as much as the next person – but anything we do ourselves is not going to be perfect. Perfect things come from God. Sunsets are perfect. Stars are perfect. My artwork? Yeah, it’s never going to be perfect. But I can continue to do lame sketch after lame sketch until suddenly, an okay sketch emerges, and then one I like, and then one day I’ll actually like my own sketching. I’ll get closer to perfection the more mistakes I make.

Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Make mistakes. Because making a mistake means you’ve tried, and as long as you keep trying, you’ll improve. I just need to remember to loosen up, to feel things out, and to strive for the next step upward instead of immediate perfection. Mistakes mean you’ve tried, and trying – that’s a worthwhile thing.



//art dump + I changed my mind about one detail

Earlier this week, I said in this post that I would post a picture of whatever sketch I sent out before I mailed it. I decided against that today, because hey – surprises are fun! I don’t want to spoil the delight of a small surprise by revealing it too soon. HOWEVER, I added a personal clause – if the receiver sends me a picture of/with said sketch, I will post it here so everyone else can see it. I’ve had a few more requests to show my artwork here, and sometimes it slips my mind – I post it regularly on Facebook, which means I forget that my entire blog readership does not reside on Facebook. So, in place of posting the mail-sketches each Saturday, I’m going to try and remember to post more of my weekly artwork here. I’ve collected quite a bit over the last few days (I’m working on a month-long marketing course called Storyseller University, and during each audio lesson I have half an hour or so of free drawing time).

My friend Pebbles and I have been keeping each other’s drawing skills fantastic-elastic with sketch trades – hers are digital (and stunning. I think I got the better end of the bargain) while I stick to traditional art, and we pick our new poison each time we complete a sketch for the other person.

Also, my friend Fluffy and I started ten-minute speed sketches (they’ve been animals thus far) where we work from the same image and produce entirely different drawings. Exercises like these are fun, competitive, and keep the art muscles limber. I highly recommend them. If you have artistic friends, coax them with coffee, cookies, etc. and practice in pairs!


 kim jae wook as Apollo


ji chang wook as Ariel


go ayano as gein from rurouni kenshin (live-action movie)


also gein, a rough sketch


hiro mizushima, a light sketch


rurouni kenshin and gein (live-action movie. these two are like my version of a fantasy football team.)


seungri from big bang



P.S. I’m going to be gone from early tomorrow morning (early as in: five a.m.) till late Sunday afternoon. I’ll put the post announcing the sketch-winner on automatic, but if your comments don’t show up until Sunday evening, that’s why. Have a frabjous weekend, pirates!

//from me to you, because I love you (no, seriously, I have stuff for you)

Who doesn’t love getting mail? I’m not talking the usual collection of bills, promotions, and junk – I’m talking about real letters, handwritten by friends. Even getting a post card is enough to fix a bad day. Mail is fun – and mail with surprises tucked inside are even better! I have amazing blog readers, and for the past few months I’ve been mulling over what I can do to thank you for your continued companionship. It struck me this morning as I organized my desk and straightened my stationary – everybody loves letters. Everybody loves art. (In my experience, at least. Even the darkest supervillain lurking in his black and craggy lair loves art.)

if saruman had received more letters, he would have been a happier wizard.

Where am I going with this? I’ve decided to send out a sketch – nothing fancy or large, but something like what I’d enjoy receiving – to a different blog reader each week. I’ll choose a reader each week based on their comments. (It’s also a good incentive for me to keep sketching, even on days I don’t feel like it!) I’ll announce the winner each Saturday and include my email so you can send me your mailing address. If the chosen reader is not comfortable giving me their email address (which is perfectly understandable), I’ll choose someone else.


  • You must be a regular commenter (obviously – I can’t choose if you don’t comment!)
  • You must be subscribed to Wishful Thinking
  • And…that’s it!

I’m pretty jazzed about this – and if you see an envelope with a wax seal show up at your house, it’s probably from me.

art: morpheus + masha

As some of you know, one of my birthday presents was a Daler-Rowney A3 sketchbook. It’s a thing of beautiful high quality, and I spent a happy hour or two yesterday getting HB and prismacolor pencil up to my elbows while sketching a somewhat dark interpretation of Morpheus. I promised you all I’d post more of my artwork here, so here’s a glimpse of yesterday’s artistry. (This was for no particular reason other than to break in my new sketchbook and to express some freedom, having just finished two more commissions.) It’s easy for me to get so caught up in always drawing by guidelines – commissions, or portraits – that it’s wonderfully relaxing to spend some time with pure imagination. And for once, the page I’m using is large enough to hold everything!








i. werewolves of London – masha

ii. years and years – king

iii. everybody wants to rule the world – lorde

what not to say to an artist

IMG_2075my imagining of hawkeye, commission

“You’re so lucky you can draw.”

I’ve been drawing like mad lately, and one of the frequent responses I get (from the most well-intentioned of people) is, “Wow, you draw so well…you’re so lucky!” At that point, the compliment goes from – well, complimentary to irritating. It isn’t the person irritating me, it’s the phrasing. Because let me tell you something – there is no luck involved. I was born with the desire to draw, but I didn’t come out of the womb as an art prodigy. I can draw well now because I’ve logged in thousands and thousands of hours hunched over paper with crayons, pens, and pencils in my hand. I’ve scribbled on napkins, white boards, my arm. My hands have been covered in ink and lead and graphite. I’ve thrown away more drawings than I’ve kept. I’ve continued to draw even when I feel all my skill has been sucked out of me.

I don’t put much stock in talent. Loads of people have it. The thing is, if you don’t improve in your talent, it’s worth diddly squat. So please, for the love of all that is good and green in this world, don’t tell an artist they’re lucky they can draw. You might get attacked with a permanent marker.