Art vs. realism in drawing

Recently, a friend commissioned a few portraits from me, and after I had finished them, I went over to her house to drop them off. While there, I told her how for so long, I felt like I wasn’t really an artist, because mostly I just really love to draw faces, and I like to draw them as realistically as possible. 

I think she could tell that I still harbor a little bit of self consciousness about that, and she said that she understood where I was coming from—that the art community doesn’t always have a high opinion of realism—but that she thought the only reason for that was because of photography. She felt like, if photography didn’t exist, realism would be considered just as valid a form of art. 

I really appreciated her saying that, and just the appreciation she has for what I do. It also got me thinking, why do photographs make realistic art less valuable? The simplest answer, I think, is that someone can produce the same result (or something similar) with less effort. But this got me thinking, couldn’t you say the same thing about abstract or impressionistic forms of art? There are so many digital shortcuts that you can really make any kind of art, and you can probably do it in less steps using a computer. 

Basically, I feel like, the value of art doesn’t need to depend so much on “well technology can make that easier/better/more quickly.” I would be hard pressed to list all of the reasons why art matters, but ultimately, if a given style of art (even realism!) is meaningful to me to create, and meaningful or pleasing or just fun for someone else to see and appreciate, then I think that’s good enough.

Mostly I’m still just giving myself a pep talk and unlearning all the dismissive stuff I’ve heard or thought to myself and internalized. Because I just really, really like drawing faces 🙂

It Gets Better (especially when you are at the beck and call of your brand new offspring)

Imagine walking into a room where a women is in labor. She is screaming and sobbing and shaking. You raise your eyebrows and say, “you know, it’s just gonna get harder,” and then walk out. Perhaps that would have been the better comic, but I’ll leave it to your imagination.

It’s absurd, and yet, if you are a new mom or dad, you might just have had an interaction like this. Like, fifty times. (Or if you’re pregnant, which may well be harder than the insane demands of being a new parent).

If you are anything like me, this is one of the most soul crushing things you hear, and sometimes you just want someone to tell you that no, you aren’t crazy–caring for a newborn is a *ridiculous* amount of work, and eventually it will won’t be so hard.

So let me tell you. It DOES get easier. Unless you have the easiest baby on the block and have been bestowed with superpowers, or, in the other direction, unless you have a highly medically demanding child (and even often then, I have heard), it gets better.

Babies are precious and magical and somehow have the telepathic ability that enables them to know exactly when you were about to eat dinner or use the restroom or watch a show and derail your plans, and sometimes you’ll probably be able to feel that awesomeness, but sometimes you absolutely won’t feel that way because you will be just so, so tired. And, as my dad says, some things will get harder. But many things will get easier.


Utah is possibly most infamous for its alternating hot flashes and cold sweats. Possibly it is experiencing menopause. In any case, the poor state is continually enduring the verbal abuse of its citizens because of this unfortunate condition. Any kind words and well wishes would be greatly appreciated.

When Bad Things Don’t Happen to You

All kids (or at least all kids in big families, or at least all middle children in big families, or at least all two-braided children with a penchant for eating twigs) at one point or another, really really really really want something terrible to happen. Preferably something like surviving a tornado by crouching under a sink while the house is shredding itself into pillow feather-sized scraps of paint and plaster and roof tiles, while the windows spontaneously disintegrate in a shower of baking soda. You imagine scenes of total chaos with sad or angry concertos playing in the background and some how you are invincible as you watch this sad apocalypse until you look down and realize that your leg has too many angles and a rib is poking out of your skin, and you’ll need to be rushed on a stretcher (in the middle of the night, probably) to a hospital where faces with looks of horror and pity swarm around you like a kaleidoscope.

Unless I have really terrible amnesia that is so bad I’m not even aware of it, nothing like that has ever happened to me. Once I broke my collar bone by walking in front of a swingset-in-use when I was three, but I don’t remember that, and I didn’t remember it in elementary school either.

So when my brother broke his arm skiing during my second grade year, which was a lot more impressive than walking in front of a swingset anyway, I felt lots of jealousy–the same kind of jealousy I felt for my sister’s diabetes and the shots she had to take every day.


Unfortunately, I was neither brave enough nor smart enough to realize that if I started doing dangerous things like downhill skiing or jumping on the trampoline on top of a full sized rocking horse that was actually a cow, like my other brother did, I might get a chance to break a bone or crush my skull or disembowel myself. If I could just do those things, I might have my day of physiological trauma and the recovery period following it, a recovery that I always pictured with classmates who never had cared about me before showing up at my doorstep with baskets of flowers and chocolate.

Deep down, I could never compete with my brother and his ability to get into trouble of all sorts, especially the kinds he did: disapproving adults by laughing up and down our neighborly street after three in the morning, or crushing his other arm, years later, under a construction roller at his job. But it just wasn’t fair that he got to wear his cast for two months and got to be subject of so much gossip from adults, and admiration from peers, and sympathy from both. He just didn’t know how good he had it.

I also couldn’t think of anyway to have so many things I wanted without seriously compromising my ability to do things like carry a plate of burritos from the microwave to the table.

But, I did know that you didn’t always have to do super dangerous things to get hurt and that things everybody did, like jumping on the tramp, could make you break your arm too.

Then I realized, just maybe, I could get away with not breaking my arm but it seeming as if I had.

So, one morning, shortly after my brother’s arm was better I got up extra early and hid the thick brown bandaging in my backpack, started my walk to school, paused along the road so my brother would go ahead without me and wrapped it around my arm.

Mrs. Finnigan, my second grade teacher, noticed immediately when I walked it, just as class was starting.


So far, it was probably the best school day I had ever had.

No one else said anything about it, but I wasn’t too worried because they still had plenty of time to show up at my doorstep with flowers and chocolate–they had weeks.

However, someone must have noticed and passed the word along, because my brother cornered me about it after school.

Brother: Lizzie, did you wear a cast to school today?

Me: Nope.

Brother: Are you sure?

Me: Um. Definitely.

Brother: Okay, I’ll believe you.

Me: You will?

Brother: But if I see you wear a cast tomorrow, I’ll tell everyone in the school that you lied.

So I didn’t put it on the next day.


The worst part was that nothing terrible happened. My brother didn’t report me to my parents or the principal or all of his friends. I didn’t even get in trouble for misbehaving. I didn’t even have the guts to keep on misbehaving. You would think that if I couldn’t have my days in an arm cast, I could at least get some notoriety for misbehaving so badly–that would have been some consolation. Instead, I remained the not-trouble maker to whom life-threatening situations and other disasters didn’t happen.


I have been working on these states ALL SUMMER. But I still have several left, so this will be a one-at-a-time deal.

(Once, my younger brother was playing in the dirt and and came up to my dad saying, “Look! It’s a baby spider!” Actually, it was a scorpion. That happened here.)