Doing Art

Oct 26, 2020 | Pen and Ink

My sister-in-law encourages me to dabble in art – she’s even said she likes some of my little sketches better than $750 paintings we’ve seen, together, at an art gallery. I’m not sure why, although I’ll admit that the thought of anyone paying $750 for the paintings we saw hanging on the gallery walls was encouraging – my first thought was, “I could do that!” And it wasn’t that they were bad, or amateurish, but that – unlike when I study a detailed, luminous, realistic, oil painting by Jacque Louis David – I honestly felt like those paintings represented an attainable goal. So does Jackson Pollock or Jo Baer, and I could do Duchamp but my husband disposed of our old porcelain toilet before I could take a Sharpie marker to it.

Sunday, I fell into her trap. “Have you been doing much art, lately?” she asked.

“No,” I said. I couldn’t think of any art projects I’d done in the past couple of months. “Not really. I’ve been writing, but that’s not art.”

“What about the sketches you’ve been posting to Instagram?”

The what? Oh. Splat! Face first, right at the feet of my biggest fan.

“Inktober! Yes, I guess I have been ‘doing art.'”

I don’t take myself seriously when it comes to art. Not the way I do with writing. It’s not a thing I can imagine doing professionally. But that’s not the point, is it? I “do art” the way some people meditate. To relax. Those sketches, if I really work on them, force me to slow down, to have patience with myself, to study and see the details in a thing.

I am learning not to compare my sketches unfavorably to artists who have spent a lifetime learning and practicing, becoming artists. I am humbled when I post to Instagram, and one or more of the artists I admire clicks the little heart. They don’t sneer; they are welcoming and encouraging. Of course, they might sneer, if I pasted my sketches on that art gallery wall with a price tag of $750. Maybe we can all have a laugh, go out for drinks on my ill gotten gains, the day I work up the nerve to do that.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Ng Ming Qian

    I’ve been keeping up with your Inktober sketches on Instagram, and I think you’re great at it! My primary school teachers said I was great at art, but I have come to realize they were too encouraging lol. Drawing, painting, or anything that requires a canvas just isn’t my strong suit.

    I went art jamming at the start of this year in January, and I tried to paint my favorite flower (it’s a king protea), and well, let’s just say people weren’t impressed. I eventually gave up on touching it up and the entire canvas went into the refuse chute in one of my recent stress cleaning moments.

    Hope to see more of your original pieces weaved into your blog posts in time to come, that would be fun!
    Ng Ming Qian recently posted…Hallotober: 5 Blogging Challenges Not to be Missed!My Profile

  2. Holly

    I looked up images of the King Protea, Ming Quan. You picked THAT to start with? Ambitious! I’m not surprised you weren’t thrilled with the result – it looks easy at first, until you really study the details. I am sorry you scrapped your drafts, though. How will anyone see how far you’ve come, should you try again? 😊

    • Holly Jahangiri

      I don’t lack confidence in my writing. I don’t lack confidence in myself. And I won’t insult your judgement by rejecting compliments on my sketches.

      I suppose the thing is the perceived gap between what I want to express and what I’m able to express. I’m a frustrated three year old wanting to give a doctoral dissertation, when it comes to visual art.

      But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dabbling in it, and as with writing – practice makes better, if not quite perfect. 😉

  3. Michelle Rau

    I feel the same way about my “doodles” and was reminded by a friend that they are, indeed, art, so I’m reminding you! Nicely done critters. Some of my doodles are on instagram (mirau_public) and Patreon.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Michelle! Hi there. I think I need two Instagram accounts. I enjoy the site, but it does not have sufficient privacy controls.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      And of course, you had only to knock – happy to let you into the now locked and personal ‘gram!

      Interestingly, since locking it, I’ve seen more of my friends’ posts. No ads. Instead of blocking the scammers and imposters, I just delete their requests. I can’t believe they actually ASK TO FOLLOW!?!

  4. Marian Allen

    Bob Jasper — What HE said. Your sketches are awesomesauce.

    • Holly Jahangiri

      I think you’re both too kind, but I love you, too!


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