Summer Memories and Imperfect Drawings

It's been a while since I've made time to sit down and draw for myself. Over the weekend, I decided to give myself the assignment of drawing a map of all of my favorite memories from this spring and summer. It turned out to be really fun to reminisce about all we've done in the last six months. Isaac and I traveled all over the country to visit friends and family; we celebrated weddings and new additions (my new nephew, Jack!). Along the way, I took up fly fishing and watercolors and even had the chance to weave my own rug. We climbed our first 14er together and visited the Grand Canyon by train. If you look closely on the map, you might even discover some really good news.

Not only was drawing this map a great way to celebrate the summer, it ended up teaching me something about my creative mindset and process. I started off by drawing the states on the map and then the names, it was going well and I really liked how it was looking. As I began to add the different pieces, I started to make little mistakes and certain elements didn't turn out the way I wanted; I almost put down my pen and quit.

The raw, original illustration.

The full finished map before I superimposed it on my sketchpad with a cool tablecloth.

This idea of only being satisfied when a project turns out absolutely perfect the first time can be an unhealthy obsession. Over the years, I've found that I'm becoming a creative perfectionist – something that I think is healthy only in small doses. Without the ability to let go of perfection, art and design are no longer fun and freeing. I'll easily spend an hour deciding between two different shades of (very similar) blue, I'll agonize over this serif font or that almost-the-same serif font, I'll take 45 minutes crafting a 2 sentence email to a client. These things, I've realized, are what contribute to the creative burnout I experience from time to time. Instead of trusting my instincts as an artist and designer, I let self-doubt take over.

Okay, now back to the map drawing. After some self-coaxing, I decided that it doesn't matter if the map sucks and that I need to finish it because 1) I'm just doing for fun, not for any other reason or purpose, and 2) I'm a freaking Photoshop wizard, the parts I don't like, I can fix in Photoshop or remove completely. I used to have a hard time accepting this as a solution, and I think an illustration purist would say that this is cheating, but I say that I'm using all of the tools in my toolbox to create a final product that matches my vision.

I think the takeaway in all of this is to remember to trust yourself and have fun. Whether we're talking about art, relationships, fitness and maybe even business.

This was the finished product of my Favorite Summer Memories Map. Giving myself permission to use all of the tools available to me, I was able to make a composite using Photoshop so the piece looks more like I envisioned in my head.

This was the finished product of my Favorite Summer Memories Map. Giving myself permission to use all of the tools available to me, I was able to make a composite using Photoshop so the piece looks more like I envisioned in my head.