I always thought I was a terrible artist. Years ago, I drew sketches in my composition book where I wrote fairy tales and was peeved that my dragons looked like clay figures that had melted slightly. I focused on writing instead. It was much less frustrating.
It wasn’t until my breakdown in high school that I suddenly lost my words. I would stare blankly at my computer screen, watching the black space line beat in and out. Nothing. I still needed to express myself though. There were vials of poison inside me, shaking, ready to burst, and I needed some way, any way, to drain them out.
I started by tracing. I was too emotionally brittle to deal with the frustrations of ill-balanced figures, so I traced detailed anime characters and mermaids. Seeing the smooth, perfect lines develop under my hand calmed me. My shakiness steadied after a while, and I started painting. Fruit bowls, abstract guitars, planets. I was nothing if not prolific.
Sooner or later, my words came back, but my need to draw remained. It’s relaxing to not have to think for a while, to see something tangible and recognizable – a face, a seashell, a superhero – appear on what used to be an empty piece of paper. I could get meta about how creating something from nothing is like a poor soul growing rich on the experiences of suffering and renewal, but honestly, for me, painting and drawing is one of the few simple things in my life. I use my mind constantly. It’s a relief to just turn off the thinking part of my brain for a while.