The Papyrus Selfie – Finishing Things When You Don’t Want To

This is a drawing I’ve been working on for quite a while, and one I wanted to give up on fairly early in its creation. I had made too many mistakes. Everything was all wrong. Trying to cover up the cavalcade of errors was more trouble than just starting fresh. Even now, after way too much time spent trying to polish the picture, a million flaws jump out at me, and it makes me wonder whether I really want my drawings on this blog at all, or just my writing.

But this is a blog about my growth and development. If I only put things I actually thought were 100% good on here it’d be a damn sparse blog indeed. Still, for as quickly as I lost faith in this particular drawing, I’m glad I finished it. I learned a lot. I’ve spent way too much of my creative life throwing things in the bin (be it a literal bin or the one in the corner of my desktop) as soon as I knew the end product wouldn’t be perfect. To put it mildly, that has not been a very educational experience. And expecting myself to get something right immediately has been a problem I’ve slowly, slooowly been learning to overcome over the years.

How bad am I at this? The only reason I got a passing Art grade at school is my teacher fished my work out of the bin after every lesson. I am an absolute fiend for giving up and throwing things away. And not just drawing either. On the writing side of things I’ve thrown away countless stories, both short and (planned to be) novel-length in their infancy. A lot of them only a few paragraphs in. And I know this isn’t unique to me. A lot of us “perfectionists” can’t help but BURN EVERYTHING TO THE GROUND the moment we’re not meeting our own standards.

But the sad fact is this is a pretty terrible way to actually improve a skill. I can’t make myself good at something by admonishing myself hard enough. Believe me; I’ve tried. So how do I get that coveted skill? How do I improve at this sort of thing?

The answer, as always, has been given to us by a videogame. It has just taken me a while to realize it.


Behold. This random Sims 3 screenshot I took off the internet. Victora, god bless ‘er, has just finished painting a shitty beach. Save for the fact that she can apparently sell it for $33, this is the single most mind-blowingly realistic moment in videogames I have ever. Seen.

Because how do you get good at something in the Sims?

You do it.

You do it a heck of a lot. And you finish what you start.

Victoria has just painted a shitty beach, and no doubt she’ll go on to paint a wonky rabbit. But eventually, she’s going to be crafting masterpieces. Eventually she’ll be able to paint photorealistic portraits of her entire family to hang over their urns when they’re gone. (Er, was I the only one who did that?)

And that’s the secret. The thing we get told a million times but always kind of stubbornly refuse to accept. To be good at something you have to be a bit bad at it first. It’s a lesson I learned about my writing during that degree what I did, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to extrapolate this lesson to anything else.


So, this picture. Adorable, lovable Papyrus and the ever-excellent Undyne posing for a selfie together. I’m proud of this picture because I finished it, but there is a lot about it I’m not happy with. Things that made me want to stop.

For starters, I didn’t utilize layers nearly enough and that led to a real headache when it came to all the shading. So many colours murkily mixing into one another. It was the digital equivalent of trying to paint using a range of colours before letting the stuff next to it dry properly. Compounding this problem I detailed the stuff in the foreground first, since that’s just intuitive, whereas starting at the background and going forward would have been a hell of a lot easier. Next time, I’ll try to take better advantage of the medium I’m working with.

The actual shading and colours I think are way too flat and washed out – I could have properly fixed this but due to the above-mentioned mistakes changing anything about the piece once I’d started would have been a nightmare. Shading, and especially lighting and how that affects colours and depth of shading is something I really need practise with, and something I need to be a lot bolder with overall. There are some beautiful, rich Undertale drawings out there with wonderful lighting and I want to be like them.

Finally I’m not too sure about Undyne’s flexing arm. I used an actual reference for this, but I had to make Undyne’s arm noodlier than the image I was copying from and I think I might have made the arm way too small. Luckily since it’s not a full body picture any screw-ups in proportion aren’t going to be as obvious but it’s still something I need to work on.

Overall, now that the picture is finished I’m not feeling as down on it as I was when I was drawing the thing. But I would love to come back to this in, say, six months’ time and draw it again, to see if I’ve worked through any of the issues I’ve identified here by then. It’ll be interesting, but between then and now expect a lot more self-criticized drawings up here on this blog. I want to use this as a tool for self-improvement rather than just a platform to show off (when it’s warranted). Hopefully this sort of thing is interesting to read, but if not, I’ll create a “Self-Indulgent” category or something and stick things like this in there.

Before I leave off today, here are a few more drawings I’ve finished in the past, and what I like and don’t like about them:


This is a “sporvyn” a creature that appears in one of my novels, but which was invented for a project with a friend and then later used for a sequential art piece in uni – the only piece I ever got a 1st on, in fact!

At a glance, my least favourite things about this are that the thick outlines around the torso are a bit distracting and the stance of the creature is a bit dull. I do love how the sketchy style has melded with the paint style underneath it though. Especially around the face and mushroom cap it gives the thing a lot of depth and makes it look gloomy and unsettling, just like I was going for!


This is, er, a picture of Millhouse Manastorm reading a book on a chair by a fireplace. I drew this because I read out part of Harry Potter in a gnome voice in exchange for gold in World of Warcraft, which just looks weird when you write it out like this.

Like the Papyrus Selfie, there’s a lot that went wrong with this (like those shoes, I could NOT get them to match to save my LIFE) but I decided to press on anyway, and I’m glad I did. That chair in particular I am very proud of. Such richness of colour and shading! I wish I could do stuff like that more consistently. You can tell that my the time I got to the fireplace though I was pretty desperate for this piece to just be finished.


Here are two drawings of mine and my wife’s characters in World of Warcraft, done a few months apart. I’m not happy with the models of the pandaren on either picture and the line work is too thick, stiff and sticks out like a sore thumb against any attempted shading. Though these are some of the first bits of digital art I ever committed myself to finishing, so drawing lines on a tablet (as opposed to paper) was something I really wasn’t used to at all when these were made, and something I’m still improving at now. I’m proud of how Un’goro Crater came out in the second picture though – with it being a very misty area I was worried it was going to dissolve into a nondescript mush of colour. But I think everything came out surprisingly tangible.


And because not everything I do is an attempt at pseudo-painting, here is a nice cartoony image of me chilling out with my favourite Pokémon. If there’s any complaint I can make here it’s what the hell is Tangrowth’s other arm doing? I think I may be guilty of “put this thing in the picture instead of off-frame because you don’t feel confident enough that the viewer will understand that the arm exists at all otherwise” rookie error. You know this rookie error, right? I’m sure there must be a simpler name for it.



And with these last two drawings (I PROMISE) we’re going back to some of the very first digital drawings I ever did. These were for my Very Best Friend who did a talk at Videobrains about Minecraft, but who had lost all her screenshots. The only major complaints I have about either of these are just how much of an ungodly long time both of them took to draw. I bet you only looked at those pictures for a second or two each before your eyes decided they’d seen all they needed to, right?

Well, you know how long they took me to draw?



I love the lighting in both of them, though. In fact I think I’ve somehow gotten worse at lighting since doing these pictures.

Anyway, that’s the end of another rambling, unstructured blog post from yours truly. Tl;dr – finish drawings or bits of writing even if you don’t think you’ll like the end result, just because that’s how learning happens.

Now, onward to tomorrow, and the official start of NaNoWriMo!



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