Something I used to hear a lot when I first started as an art student was “Get out of your comfort zone!” We were always told to try something new, experiment, go crazy, etc, etc. I always associated this mindset with being adventurous. If you’re exploring new territory… you’re on an adventure, right?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that these phrases and taglines can totally mess up your attitude, and I don’t think the comfort zone escapism is any different. Don’t leave comfort and familiarity behind… Expand your comfort zone.
Here’s what I used to
trace draw: guys with longish hair and beards, and immeasurably dark pasts. Then I shifted to this whole weird elvish phase, then it was manga, then Western super hero comics, then some really weird American/Japanese comic hybrid monster thing, and now… Well it suddenly dawned on me that I can still draw bears, elves, manga, AND super heroes. I haven’t forgotten any of that. Especially not the beards. So my comfort zone, which was once limited to tracing off of drawing books, has now expanded to include a wide variety of styles, techniques, and subject manner.
Some people might say that their comfort zone is vampires, while others say that their comfort zone is spaceships. (“All we know is he’s called the Stig!” –Sorry for the TV quote.) But while I was thinking about how much bigger my comfort zone is now, I wondered how I would answer that question. What’s my comfort zone?
What if I convinced myself that it was something like… Stories? I’m comfortable when I’m telling a story. What. Mind blown. I can’t even imagine how BIG that comfort zone is.
And here’s the really crazy part: it doesn’t just apply to drawing, or writing. It applies to behavior. I’m a die-hard introvert. Most of my closest friends are imaginary, and my favorite past times involve socializing with fiction. And for many years, that was the limit of my comfort zone: family and imaginary friends. Anything else was a bit of a strain on my mental well-being. But over the last few years, that comfort zone has expanded: I like talking about writing, and I’m comfortable discussing it (at length) with people. Same with drawing. I’m starting to get over my deep-seated aversion to small chat with strangers, and if I’ve had coffee, I even look forward to meeting new people. I’m comfortable with a pretty decent degree of outwardness.
But I never forget the heart of my comfort zone: quiet time with fictional bearded characters.