Right before I turned 23, I moved from Southern California to Seattle to start my Master’s in Public Policy at the University of Washington. I also stopped making art.
It’s now 23 years later.
Except for a period of time when I got into rubber stamping with my friend Alisa and made a lot of my own greeting cards, I haven’t made art regularly in more than two decades. That’s a long time.
Finishing my novel draft gave me the freedom to sit back and relax a little. It’s been more than two years since I’ve felt this free to do what I want. It didn’t take long for me to realize what I wanted to do.
I wanted to make art again.
I wanted to create an Art Bag out of an old purse that I could grab anytime and start drawing, whether it was at home, in my garden, or out in the world. I looked through my supplies and picked the essential supplies that I needed.
I was missing a few things so I headed to the Dakota Art Store in my neighborhood. This was the first time I’d stepped foot in the place and it had been open for six years! I was filled with regret that I hadn’t visited earlier, but I put that aside because being in the store filled me with such joy.
- Canson Mix Media 5.5×8.5 inch spiral-bound sketchbook (cover is decorated with ephemera I’ve collected including a couch sticker from the Lagunitas Brewery, a Chinese red envelope (ang bao), and letterpress art by ilee papergoods)
- 2 Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils in Copy Not NP Blue and and Rose
- 3 Faber-Castell Goldfaber Color pencils in Light Yellow Ochre, Burnt Ochre, and Black
- brass bullet pencil sharpener (keep it in a ziploc bag)
- 2 Marks A Lot thin-version permanent markers in black
- kneaded eraser (love this kind of erase so much more than the hard ones)
- glue stick
This month, as I took a break from writing, I allowed myself to draw whatever I wanted.
I drew a character I’ve created called Fraidy Cat in chalk on a table at our local ice cream shop, Full Tilt. (By the way, if you live in Seattle and can’t eat dairy products (like me), check out Full Tilt. Every day, they have vegan flavors, along with their regular options.)
I sketched an idea I have for a zine called FROGGY, based on a short story I wrote about my stuffed frog (yep, you guessed it, his name is Froggy) years ago. I’m particularly proud of the drawing I made of my brown leather purse in the lower left-hand corner. It was the only thing I drew while looking at an actual object–everything else I drew freehand–and it delighted me that I could still do a decent still life.
Yesterday, I drew a picture of Fraidy Cat, which is the drawing at the top of this essay. I want to make a zine about her–a cat that loves to read and wants desperately to be a writer, but is afraid to write. Drawing her made me happy. It also made me wonder why I stopped doing something that I love to do for so many years.
There are so many reasons why, and I’m not going to get into all of them here–though I think I will explore this in my future zines–but the main reason was, I thought I didn’t have time for it.
For the past 23 years that I’ve lived in Seattle, I’ve had this strong, overriding feeling that I had to work hard and earn a living, and making art just didn’t fit into that equation. Now, I realize that if I had drawn just five minutes a day, it would have made me happier as I continued to work and earn a living.
It’s amazing how long it takes me to learn a greater truth. But I’m also amazed at how quickly I can shift gears once I accept that truth.
I no longer feel right calling myself an author and a speaker. As I redesigned my web site this month, I took a leap and added “Artist” to my title.
It looked right. It felt right. It was like finding the missing piece to a puzzle that I didn’t even realize wasn’t finished.
I’m an author, a speaker, and an artist.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.