When I was younger, I did not have enough life experience to really connect with other people through writing. When I was younger, I did not have the confidence to pursue any dreams with music.
However, I did pursue my dreams through my art. It started when I was very young. Most everything I have learned, from art, to music, to computers, has been self-taught.
The most difficult thing for me at this juncture in my life was having no creative passion for over twenty years. Initially, I used to contemplate beautiful artwork that I could create for my commercial portfolio. That all stopped when I had my children.
My creative energy was exhausted, and I was grateful to have a “career on autopilot.” My career allowed for flexible hours. That flexibility saved me when I faced the immense challenges with my children.
Drawing from my strength
My mother told me that when I was in preschool, the teacher came to her and said I had an artistic gift. From that time forward, my parents nurtured it. I didn’t have any expensive lessons or art school. My parents simply provided me with materials and art projects that I enjoyed. I was a consummate paint-by-numbers artist! I remember making the most elaborate “doodle art” poster of fish, which is still on the wall in my old room.
When I was perhaps ten years old, I became such a perfectionist that it became painful for me. I remember I would draw only one line, decide it wasn’t quite right, and then crumple up the piece of paper. I went through many, many reams of paper. At that time, I decided that being an artist was frustrating and wasn’t much fun at all.
Here is an interesting fact about me to share: I’ve always hated drawing. I’m not into freehand sketching at all!
I do love rendering, however. I love color, contrast, and texture.
There was an exception to what I wrote about drawing. The exception came about when I was in Junior High School (That’s what it was called back then). I discovered mazes. I would draw the mazes while I was in class, and whenever I was bored. My mazes were used in the yearbooks at my school. I discovered random patterns to fill up the space. I began by filling up abstract designs with elaborate mazes. Observers said my mazes looked like brains or intestines!
One day, my math teacher was upset about the fact that I was not paying much attention to him. He saw the maze I was drawing. He said to me, “You should have those published!” When I eventually published my maze book, I dedicated the book to him.
I published my maze book, two years after graduating elementary school. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to find my sixth grade teacher to share the book with her. She was certain that I would publish something related to creative writing. Even though my book was more “artistic,” I really wanted to share it with her. However, the school told me she had moved and they had no idea where she went. I do hope to find her someday when this current venture is published.
My mazes began as an exercise to create a “most challenging puzzle.” The puzzle would be for someone else to solve; it required extensive thought as I drew it. I always created the most challenging mazes I could think of. There was a boy at school that I enjoyed frustrating with my mazes. He always worked so hard to solve them. Lest anyone think they could start from the “end” of the maze where it might be simpler, I made sure to make my mazes difficult from either side. I drew my maze from both the beginning and from the end. Then I would connect them.
The reason it is easy for me to explain how I created my mazes, is because my maze book was an educational book. When I was given the opportunity to publish a book of mazes, it was a requirement by the publisher that it be educational. Therefore, at that time I had to analyze and “teach” how to draw a maze!
I gave names to the components of my mazes. It was fun to name those elements. I named them: pinwheels, double pinwheels, tracks, and ladders. I described each component in my book.
Here is how I draw a maze:
“I start with a single path. That path is one line that follows another. It twists and turns as I fill in the area with a pattern. I will divide the path and create a “fork in the road.” Sometimes, I divided it several times into these forks. There is always one pathway that forges on and does not end. It is almost always the one that looks like it will not go through. It is the pathway that goes the opposite way from reaching the exit! I thought I was very clever in that regard. I would make the forking pathways look certain as one path went in the direction toward solving the puzzle. I would have it go for a while until it would dead-end. Other times, I would have two pathways doing that, and then they would simply meet and eliminate each other – you’d be back where you started!”
As I improved using my self-taught technique, my designs became more elaborate. I learned that using tighter maze tunnels or wider maze tunnels could create tone or shading. Tone and shading is another way of describing the lightness and the darkness within an image. In some cases, it was easily achieved through an image such as a candy cane. It lent itself perfectly, with alternating stripes and a simple shape.
In my book, I describe the maze components. I also show the varied pathways to create tone and shading. Here is something that was very interesting to me – I enjoyed puns back then, too! I provided two empty shapes for my “maze students” to fill in by themselves.
The first shape was an empty heart. I wrote, “Have a heart; fill this in!
The second shape was a ghost. I wrote, “Can you give this ghost guts?”
It was such a great experience. One thing I generally don’t enjoy illustrating is people. However, I did my most complicated maze when I illustrated Richard Nixon.
After my book was published, I didn’t create mazes much anymore. I did some pen and ink drawings, but found it too precise. I stopped doing most artwork except for the enjoyable biological renderings that “wowed” my teachers in high school.
While I was looking for some of my original mazes to scan, I came across an envelope filled with letters that I received from publishers all across the country. There were at least fifteen letters saved. I am certain that I sent out more. I typed up all those letters myself. I’m certain my dad helped to proofread everything!
I remember that one publisher was very much interested in publishing my mazes. However, when the publisher learned that I was only fourteen years old, the offer was withdrawn.
I didn’t make any significant amount of money from my Maze Book. But it was a great achievement in my life, and I learned a lot of lessons from it. All of those lessons assisted me when I graduated from college and began my illustration career.
The lesson I still have is that with dedication, commitment, and passion, comes success.
© Judy Unger and http://firstname.lastname@example.org 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.