May 13, 2019

My Progression As An Artist

by Corrina Thurston

As many of you know, I started drawing in 2010 with no intention of ever calling myself and “artist.” At the time, I was chronically ill, mostly bedridden, and in severe pain. I had a migraine that never left (for over 6 years…), sensitivity to light and sound, extreme fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, digestive issues, brain fog and cognitive issues, and more.

By 2010, I’d already been suffering from this unknown (at the time) illness, and I felt like such a burden on my family, like my life had no purpose, that I was becoming suicidal.

I felt like there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t even read. There was nothing to distract me from my pain and dire circumstances.

That is, until one day I randomly picked up a pencil and started to draw.

The first drawing I did, experimenting with colored pencil to see how bright I could get the colors.

This image above is the first drawing I did, from my bed, on an old piece of poster board left over from high school. It started out as just a sketch with a number two pencil, but I quickly decided I wanted COLOR. But what was I to do? I was stuck in bed so there was no way I could use paints or pastels, they would be far to messy and require too much energy to clean. So I turned to colored pencils, which I could do from my bed without the mess, and as I experimented, I realized I could get similarly bright and opaque colors!

After experimenting with the naked lady drawing, I immediately turned to drawing animals, which have always been a passion of mine. My next drawing was a parrot, using a reference photo from a San Diego Zoo magazine I had in my room.

My Parrot drawing, the second drawing I did, and my first animal, still experimenting with how bright I could get colored pencil to be. This is on a white piece of (too smooth, I just didn’t know that yet) paper.

From the same magazine, I drew another bird, a Pochard, which was sitting on smooth water, which means it was my third drawing, my second animal, and my first real drawing of trying to get realistic water. Similar to the Parrot, this was drawn on too smooth paper not really made for the amount of pressure and layers I was applying, I was just too inexperienced to know that at the time!

Pochard, my third drawing.

Each of these first three drawings was extremely experimental as I’d never used colored pencil like this before and with drawing in general, I had no idea what I was doing! All I knew was that I found it interesting and it was helping to distract me from my pain and misery.

So I kept going.

Now, this is where I started to noticeably progress. I took what I’d learned from the first three drawings and I made more calculated decisions for the next few, including better paper! I also bought an x-acto knife to help me etch away some of the pencil and get a few more tiny details, like the fur of the chipmunk.

As you can see, my first drawings, although colorful and fun, were a little bit on the dark side. Looking back now, I think some of my depression was still coming through my artwork, choosing images and drawings that had dark backgrounds.

It wasn’t until a little while later that my depression wasn’t as severe, and you can see a distinct change in some of my artwork, like these next pieces below:

Suddenly, my drawings were getting a little brighter, a little happier, and a lot more skilled very quickly.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that sometimes I do things…er…slightly backwards. For example, most people who start drawing start in black and white with graphite and then move on to the more complicated color drawings. Not me! It was around this time, two years into drawing, that I decided I wanted to try drawing in graphite. I wanted to use the graphite to try some portraits.

My first attempt was…less than great. I only used one pencil, not realizing there were different grades of graphite for different shades. But considering I hadn’t really drawn faces before, the proportions weren’t bad.

My first graphite portrait attempt on January 24th, 2012.

The next day, I discovered a second grade of pencil as well and tried again, with the result being this drawing of Halle Barry below:

My second attempt at a graphite portrait, on January 25th, 2012.

You’ll notice a significant increase in skill in what was only a single day, mostly because of the discovery of multiple shades of pencil. You may also notice that my papers were very dirty! colored pencil doesn’t smudge very much, so I wasn’t used to having to be careful about getting graphite on my hand and then smudging it on the paper. That was, and continues to be, a struggle! Especially when I was still drawing on my lap while lying in bed.

From here, things progressed very quickly as you can see by these next few drawings.

All of the graphite drawings shown in this post so far were done within 2 months of each other, from January 24th, to the last one on March 26th.

It’s amazing how quickly you can learn something when you are focused and don’t have anything else to help distract you from your predicament.

Wanting to keep challenging myself, I went back to my colored pencil drawings and decided to attempt more water drawings. Yikes are these difficult.

I also decided to try to work a little bigger, like with my Lemurs drawing below at 16×20 inches big.

Lemurs, in colored pencil.

With my confidence growing and finally starting to think of myself as an “artist,” I decided to open myself up to some pet portrait commissioned drawings for clients, which is something I’d been asked to do a few times but had turned down out of fear.

I still continue to do commissioned drawings of animals, pets, and people, both in graphite and in colored pencil, but I only take a limited amount each year.

Recently, as many of you may know, I’ve started a new series of drawings called Threatened & Endangered. I’ve completed 3 (and a half) drawings so far in this series.

This series is in black and white with a mixture of graphite and colored pencil. They’re bigger than my usual drawings, getting up to 22×30 inches big, and feature animals from around the world that are considered threatened, endangered, or vulnerable. This series is meant to bring awareness to these species, and some of the profits from each piece sold and prints sold will be donated to an organization that helps that particular species. For example, some of the proceeds from the African Elephant drawing and prints sold of it are being donated to the 96 Elephants campaign by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

So there you have it, my progression as an artist from 2010 until when this is being written in 2019.

From these early experimentations:

To some of these:

Do you have a favorite drawing of mine? Let me know! Or do you have a favorite animal I haven’t drawn yet? Let me know that too!

2 thoughts on “My Progression As An Artist

  1. Corrina, you are an amazing artist. I have shared this so everyone can see you talent. ❤️

  2. I love, love, love the endangered species series!

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