Thursday, January 16, 2014


When I first enrolled at American Academy Of Art in Chicago, we were required to attend an orientation. Not much about that day stuck in my mind. I remember hearing the school rules about attendance, where the library was, and dull things like that. Before the end of it however, we were told an interesting story. It story went like this:

While being interviewed a famous musician was asked why he practiced everyday. His response was "If I don't practice one day, I can tell; If I don't practice two days, my family can tell; If I don't practice three days the critics can tell; and, If I don't practice for four days the audience can tell."

A number of years ago I received a copy of The Complete Terry And The Pirates Vol. 1 by Milton Caniff. This book reprints daily and Sunday newspaper strips from 1934 to 1936. I'm not really a big fan of newspaper adventure strips, so when I got it I flipped through it a couple of times and then put it on my bookshelf with the intention of reading it "someday".

Well, someday came at the end of last year when looking for something to read on the way to my office. I was a great deal of the way through it when I decided to take a look at the first couple of strips and discovered something amazing. The artwork done over the course of one year had improved drastically. It changed so much that the illustrator in 1934 couldn't be recognized as the same person by the art in 1935. Hard to believe? Take a look at this:

This is the first Terry strip from October 22, 1934

This is from June 8, 1936, about a year and a half later

So why was there such a drastic change in the artwork? The answer is easy: Milton Caniff drew every day - EVERY SINGLE DAY. He wasn't endowed with a magical "talent" that allowed him to whip up masterpieces off the top of his head.  He worked by drawing and drawing,  observing and observing, experimenting and experimenting and then drawing some more. 

The magic formula for becoming a great illustrator is drawing everyday, observing what others do, and experimenting with techniques learned. 

For this new year, I am making an effort to do this. I myself am guilty of not being consistent with my drawing. So both when I am working on something and when I am in between projects, I will also be creating a side illustration. It may be a sketch, a painting, or  figure studies. If you are interested in seeing how I do, you can chart my progress of my Facebook page in the album 2014.  My plan is to have, at the very least, 365  pictures added to it by December 31.