The benefits of taking a hiatus
I stopped drawing for a long time. There is a time and season for every activity under the sun, and in the late 90s/early 00s it was time to put the pencils and paper to one side and give the drawing a rest. During that period I dabbled in other forms of creative expression - writing and 3D/digital art - and in retrospect, this was a good thing; it enlarged my repertory of skills and enabled improvements to the work in traditional media when I came back to it. Because I knew how to use graphics software, I was able make alterations to scanned pictures, such as digital repositioning where the composition was screwy and making alterations to the brightness and contrast of a picture, turning partially-completed pictures into more finished ones.
Also, and perhaps more significantly, because I'd been unable to draw for a long time, recovering the ability was a gift, making me more grateful for what I could do and less ungrateful for things I couldn't. I struggled, and continue to struggle, with rendering the human figure, but while the twentysomething me would have continued grappling with this problem and ignored other subjects, the fortysomething me is able to put the people pictures on the back burner and concentrate on what I'm actually good at, which is scenery and architecture.
The other thing I've acquired is the patience to see a picture through to completion, even when it seems not to be going well. There are still unfinished pictures in my pile at home, but the ratio of completed to incomplete pictures is better than it was twenty years ago, and every once in a while I fish out pictures that haven't gone so well and try to find an alternative approach to make them work.
The reason for this break from traditional media? I was drawing from an early age and continued to draw right up to my mid-twenties. As a young adult, finding myself surrounded by more gifted artists at Brighton University and knowing I had to make a career out of this skill very soon, I pushed myself to get better and attain that professional standard. And then I got my first job, which involved drawing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I... broke. It was too much.
Drawing became painful. Not physically painful, but inwardly painful in a way that I have never been able to adequately explain to anyone. It had ceased to be enjoyable long before, but now there was a debt to pay off even after drawing just a couple of lines and I had to stop, find something else to do, and find some other way to discharge the creative energies that built up and up over time.