Dala Gotland Sheep, or: a study in persistence
Sometimes an idea pans out beautifully from the moment pencil hits paper–and sometimes, even knowing exactly what one wants–it doesn’t.
A dala sheep had been on my list of potential projects for ages (or nearly three years, at any rate). But it’s non-traditional; horses, pigs, and roosters are the three dala animals a person generally sees, and even then the horse is what gets the vast majority of the attention. Add to that wool is intimidating to draw, and the fact that I already had a satisfying bunch of dala drawings, the sheep didn’t happen . . . until this fall.
I settled on a Gotland Sheep, a Swedish breed with beautiful smoky black to silvery blue wool. The picture was sketched out. I began coloring it in. I loved how the little dala lamb turned out. I was pleased with the ewe’s face . . . and then I realized that the ewe’s body was wrong, and there wasn’t enough paper to lengthen it properly. Tweaking along the ewe’s spine just made it worse.
Sometimes trying to salvage a drawing is well worth it, especially when hours of work have already gone into it, but sometimes–even with finished aspects that one really likes–it’s just better to scrap it and start over. And even with how much I loved that little lamb, that’s what I did.
I re-sketched everything out, re-colored the lamb, worked on the ewe’s face, and burned through my black, powder blue, silver, and slate pencils on the wool . . .
And ultimately, I’m even happier with the features that I’d liked before–the lamb is as cute or cuter and the ewe’s face just as motherly. I got to improve some things I had been fine with–previously, the ewe’s wool was very plush and fuzzy-looking, but in re-doing it, I got to experiment some more in capturing the Gotland ringlets. And I finally was able to fix what was broken with the her in the first attempt: her proportions!
When things don’t work as expected, don’t be afraid of starting over. It can be a daunting prospect–all that work, seemingly wasted. Except, it isn’t wasted. Doing something once can teach you a lot, but doing it twice gives you a chance to fix what was broken. Doing it twice gives you the chance to apply what you learned the first time around, making the second time easier. And doing it twice means that you may have failed once, but you didn’t give in to failure. You kept going.
So keep going! Don’t give up after the first attempt. You can’t improve your drawing if you quit sketching. You can’t improve your writing if you cease putting words on paper. You can’t improve your embouchure and technique if you refuse to play your musical instrument. You can only get better if you keep going.