As a Londoner there is a common expectation that you’re busy all the time. It’s the capital, an all accepting and always moving city without limits. It’s why we walk so quickly past tourists with our places to be, and explains why every other high-street shop sells coffee. Unfortunately it can also come with the hazard where your hobbies and personal interests get buried behind the line “I haven’t had chance”. Even with my past Circuses (the title we give for our personal development days at work), the tasks I’d undertaken ended up ambitious to the point that a day away from routine became busier than ever — ok, yes. They were extremely productive, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a trend I wanted to break. I wanted to use this opportunity to “have the chance” to do some of the many things in my catalogue of interests and hobbies otherwise left on the back burner. So my day of personal exploration was spent away from screens, the 25/8 Londoner lifestyle and specifically towards drawing.
Lesson One: Take a minute to look after yourself
Start your day as you mean to go on, and as a personal development day it seemed sensible to take the time to simply look after myself: have a comfortable sleep in albeit 9am, fix a nice breakfast, take a long shower, even play a few quick console games I keep meaning to. Load some old school music onto my phone…
…and obviously say good morning to my best buddy Meeko the hedgehog as per usual. Start of the day complete, I now meant to keep going on.
Lesson Two: Break the ice
I hadn’t sketched properly in what felt like all too long, and so sitting down to start my first study at the V&A Museum had me itching to draw. When I began though… it was utter crap. And I anticipated that. Not because it had been so long, but because I knew I needed to get that gun-hoe head-first excitable energy out of my system. The enthusiasm meant I was rushing without paying enough care or attention, and really there was no point delaying it. I needed to get those first marks down on the blank page before any nervousness took hold, set a standard I could improve, and better appreciate the time I had from then on. Sometimes you need to go in guns blazing, very briefly, just to break the ice and ground yourself.
Lesson Three: don’t forget your roots
Drawing, like many topics, is built on various ‘best practices’ or ‘guidelines’. I don’t believe in religiously following these unchallenged for the risk of creating generic results, although that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Going into the V&A for the day, I packed a rucksack of materials: pens, pencils, charcoals, pastels, paints, you name it — even a needle and thread — all of which I was naturally excited to use. Before any of that though, I knew I had to relive the traditional basics again; Pencil sketches helped build up confidence, appreciate the details, as well as understanding form and function in my subjects. Re-instilling the principles of drawing in a medium which was comfortable allowed me to draw what I saw, not what I assumed. Without these guides in mind, moving into more stylised and permanent or abstract mediums such as charcoal or ink would have seen me skip over these foundations towards pieces which were unconfident, uncoordinated, unbalanced and generally lacking — all knocking back confidence in ability.
Lesson Four: keep yourself open
I’ve never really drawn in a public space before — at least not since school trips, so the concept of hundreds of passing strangers peering in judgement at what I was doing mid-flow brought about a huge self conscious wave. It made me worry that what I was doing wasn’t good enough, in effect I wasn’t good enough, and my work would be seen at an unflattering stage without any way for me to back it up. It put me in a position of vulnerability to which I found myself shielding my piece tactically as people went by. This was short lived though, because really… why hide? Today was crucially about self improvement, and much like my personal Medium articles or approach to work, I want to be able to inspire others. I came to the V&A because seeing others here weeks before during an exhibit visit made me want to do the same. Protecting my work from sight was the antithesis of why I was here. Judgement or not, I would be making people think and perhaps even act: inspire them to give it a go, pick it up once again themselves, or simply be better than me. With this lesson learned I had countless people young and old come up to me, watch me draw, talk to each other about my work, pass on encouragement or start conversations about wanting to find time to sit and sketch too.
Lesson Five: be journey orientated
In past Circus days, I’ve undertaken big challenges: to 3D model the latest iPhone in order to learn the software Cinema 4D. To create 18 unique Planning Poker card designs to better myself at typography. These tasks foremost had an exciting end goal in order to learn, placing a lot of pressure on the literal outcome. This time however I wanted to put learning at the forefront. The fact a few drawings came out ok was a happy by-product to my biggest intention of simply refreshing myself with the craft itself. In doing this there was a growth of confidence allowing me to jump into more experimental pieces such as a bold use of colour — an outcome which could have dictated my process had it been my days intention to create.
Lesson Six: enjoy it
If you’re making time for a personal interest, make sure you’re enjoying it. Undoubtedly you’ll have moments of frustration or stress — that’s pretty much life — although it’s the overall attitude and state of mind which is is important. As my day in the V&A came to an end, I approached the reception desk of the gallery asking when they shut: 5:30, leaving me then with only 15 minutes. “Plenty of time” as I ran away with my chair, to which the staff was a touch confused. Against the clock (now 5 minutes and counting having found a subject) would usually seem quite rushed and manic, it also meant less time for a planned approach yet serendipitously with the opportunity for a riskier an immediate pen sketch. The result was one off my most proud pieces of Circus; demonstrating a culmination of progress throughout the day — capturing character of the subject, usage of a new medium and style, likeness to the subject, and speed of execution. This could have been a very stressful last minute experience. One wrong line and it could have been ruined, however simply by relaxing and enjoying the means above the end I was afforded a refreshing freedom to enjoy myself.
Lesson Seven: take opportunities
When a chance appears, take it. When there is something you want to do, look towards creating the opportunity. There are often occasions throughout daily routines where instead of sitting and watching TV or zoning out on your commute, killing time over a lunch break, you could be following through on that thing you wish you had time for in some small way. Half way through my Circus I got an impromptu invitation to a good friend’s gig. I already had plans, but nothing which couldn’t be rescheduled making the time and opportunity for something I’m rarely able to do yet thoroughly enjoy.
All in all it was a fulfilling day, and my first Circus without a truly defined end. The most important aspect for me however — enjoyment of the whole experience aside — is shining a light on these lessons and hoping they might inspire someone, such as yourself, to go anti-rush and do the same; to make time and act on ‘that thing’ you wish you could find the chance to do.
This article was written by Robert Lloyd, Art Director at Vitamin London; a digital innovation studio who continues to try and Push the Possible, translating ideas into exciting experiences which are more accessible to everyone, and keeping both partners and their audiences in the spotlight.