I made art regularly for 18 years from age 5 to 23.
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.
First thing I did was dump out all my art supplies on my bed. It wasn’t a lot–over the years, I’d given away many supplies because I wasn’t using them and wanted them to go to someone who would.
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.
Here’s my Art Bag. It contains the following:
- 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 decorated my Hubs’ birthday card envelope (yes, one of my nicknames for him is Snakey because he was born in the Year of the Snake).
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.
I sketched some new clothes I got from my neighborhood used clothing store. Doing this gave me a sense of satisfaction, more so than if I had just hung them in my closet.
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.
love love love this! you are such an inspiration, Peg. you’re really pushing me off my ass. and that is no easy task! 😉
Peg Cheng says
Wow! I’m honored to know that I’m doing that for you, Heather! I can’t wait to hear more about this. 😀
Clearly you already had the boat and the oars–you just needed to push off from the dock.
I wonder if you’ve ever done sumi-e? Looking at the jeans, the cardigan, the polka dots, your line seems to have that quick and focused authority. (Sort of like how you blog in short, definite paragraphs, that build a rhythm.)
I was surprised to see Crayola marking pens, thought they only made crayons for kids. Is that a recent thing?
Anyway, best of luck on your latest voyage!
Peg Cheng says
Hey, thanks, Edgy. It’s been a fun voyage so far! I tried Chinese brush painting once, which is like sumi-e. I didn’t like it because it felt too disciplined–like there’s a right way and a wrong way to paint your strokes. I’m way more freeform. But, who knows? I might try it again. You’re right–I do like to quick and focused things–I’m way more of a sprinter than a marathoner and it comes out in most of my creative pursuits. Though my recent novel is making me into a marathoner. And yes, Crayola has been making markers (and colored pencils) for years. They’re very affordable, especially during Back-to-School sales in August.
I already knew you had great artistic talent after the life drawing class we did last summer, so really glad you’ve rediscovered a passion for something you’ve been missing. Look forward to seeing more of your art and love the idea of Fraidy Cat, what a great story idea! And your bag is super cool. 🙂
Peg Cheng says
Thank you, Jeanie! You are so kind to say that. I loved taking that life drawing workshop with you last summer despite the fact that I was sweating buckets from the heat. You inspired me when you took up watercolors last year. I hope we can draw together again someday. 😀