October 2, 2015

DENG | Why I Draw

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Wrinkled paper is a huge pet peeve of mine.

In all other aspects, I am not that nitpicky. But once I start drawing, I become almost obsessively detail-oriented. Even the smallest crumple on the edges of the paper will drive me insane. It seems excessive, but this kind of focus is central to my work.

Drawing lulls me into a meditative state, and before I know it, I am so deeply focused that I hardly notice my surroundings. I can forget all of my concerns.

Everyone has a happy place to escape to. This is mine.

It’s difficult to describe what runs through my mind when I’m working on a new piece. I can’t even explain the emotions myself; I don’t know why it’s the only thing that the latest Facebook message can’t pull me away from, I don’t know what it is that keeps me crouched over a table in the worst posture for hours. There’s something strangely comforting about making those painstaking, feathery strokes on the paper. It’s like needlework or knitting. The individual movements might seem trivial, but they are all crucial decisions that are significant and complete each other in the grand scheme of things.

I started taking requests for portraits recently, and doing them has been extremely rewarding. Each one brings me closer to the person I am drawing because I become more appreciative of all the details that make them who they are: every curve, every laugh line is quintessential. The small things matter, and they are often the most beautiful.

In all honesty, though, I was very hesitant to take requests. It was something I kept thinking about kept waiting for “the right time to start.” I convinced myself that I didn’t have time and that other things were more important. I worried that I wasn’t good enough and that there would be a lack of interest. I was always making excuses, wishing but taking no action.

I am extremely guilty of this. Many are familiar with the whole dialogue. “Should I do it?” Cue dramatic sigh.

I’m not sure what ended this prolonged period of angst. Maybe it was the whole “try new things in college” mentality. Maybe it was because I realized that, ironically, all the planning that was meant to streamline and optimize was only delaying me. But it was one conversation in particular that got me thinking. I was talking to my cousin, Brandon, about life at Cornell. And when I asked him how he had the time for his activities, he gave me this answer: “I made time.”

Because if you want something that much, if it’s that important to you, finding time shouldn’t be a problem.

I had to stop fearing because drawing in college taught me to pursue my passions relentlessly and with determination. And perfection is not a prerequisite. I didn’t have a plan, but I realized that I didn’t need one. I just needed to start. And the rest will follow, wherever it will take me.