Person of the Week

Cheryl Crawford

Online Art Teacher

Creating drawing tutorial videos has been a blessing for me in that my husband and I have been able to take what little resources we have in space, materials, and finances and, along with balancing family life and rolling with the punches, make something useful, sustainable, and personally satisfying out of them. That in and of itself is a huge victory!

1. What led you to the mission of being an online art teacher?

My mother is an artist and she does traditional fine art – realism. I learned a lot from her and growing up developed the same passion. My mom, her mom, and also my daughter have all been drawn to drawing.

I’ve always been drawn towards animation and characters – like Disney characters and Pixar. w-cheryl-crawford-duckSo I originally started out with that goal to work in the entertainment industry. I wanted to work with a studio and took classes in college to achieve that goal. I came to see that more and more that the entertainment industry has a lot of less than wholesome suggestions and examples.  (Click here to see the drawing lesson for the Cute Rubber Ducky by online art teacher Cheryl Crawford.)

Then I started working with Michael Thoenes who had started a website that used videos to teach how to draw online. (To see this “Learn How To Draw” website click here.)  That took off really well and I started offering classes online. You can find them by looking at my Facebook page, ICanHazDraw! (Click on this link to see one icanhazdraw Facebook page.)  You can also see my lessons on YouTube. (Click here to see some of the lessons on YouTube.) 

2. What does this mission mean to you?

I take it very seriously. Art is not like math or English – it has it’s own niche in life. It is important to the spirit. w-Cheryl-Crawford-heartHaving an appreciation for art helps with a well-rounded outlook on life and living and surviving. For this reason, I try to put my lessons in a context that can reach everyone – such as color, light, and things that are readily available. I don’t want art to be drab or boring, but interesting. An appreciation for art is something that you can have for life. It doesn’t end in high school or college and doesn’t begin at a certain time. It is always there and always alive.  (Click here to learn to draw the Cute Heart With An Arrow by online art teacher Cheryl Crawford.)

I try to be mindful of everyone’s different skills and talents and where they are “at”. It is most important to me that my students are learning to see. That is my ultimate vision as an art teacher, and as my online presence grows I wish to incorporate more and more of that.

Perception is everything. I know I mentioned appreciating art in everyday things we take for granted, like billboards. This is important in that we must not take things at face value. Advertisements, entertainment, and the media in general are crafted to get us to think a certain way, much like a magician’s optical illusion. When I taught my Art Club students, I would also incorporate fun things like comics, film art and fantasy illustrations, because if they see how art is used in ways meaningful and interesting to them, they’re more likely to appreciate it and keep that knowledge for the long term. The principles of the masters are the same principles used for contemporary and commercial art. Application of these principles includes things that may seem obscure like table arrangements or wardrobe organization, things that may be a part of the daily grind and things that bring you a sense of personal satisfaction.

Creating drawing tutorial videos has been a blessing for me in that my husband and I have been able to take what little resources we have in regards to space, materials, and finances and, along with balancing family life and rolling with the punches, make something useful, sustainable, and personally satisfying out of them. That in and of itself is a huge victory!

3. What was your best day as an online art teacher?

Art makes me able to provide for my family. This is how I make a living. w-Cheryl-Crawford-unicornTo be able to do this as an artist is very hard. You have to be able to make a lot of connections. It isn’t like applying for a job that is already made. It isn’t just getting a paycheck for doing a certain thing. It is a lot of extra work. This can be very frustrating for your morale. If you can’t find a way to market your work, it can take a real toll on you. But you can make a substantial income in art. This is one of the most satisfying parts of my work.  (Click here to find out how to draw a Cute Pink Unicorn by online art teacher Cheryl Crawford.)

4. What was your worst day as an online art teacher?

Getting yourself to do the work is the hardest thing. I’m terrible at procrastination. There have been times when I’ve not been able to work for a period of time. w-Cheryl-Crawford-online-artist-familyI have three children and one on the way and this time around I was incredibly sick during the first few months of my pregnancy. It took twenty weeks for me to get back to wanting to work again. This includes art and cleaning the house and the day-to-day taking care of the kids. I don’t like putting off my artwork. I know there have been people out there that have asked, “When are you going to put out another video?” I hate to not follow through on commitment. That always makes me feel awful. I want to follow through.

This is something that I have struggled with being a mom. As a mom, you have to keep things together. Being a parent is my first and most important job. This comes first. It is good work and right work. I want other moms to be encouraged that they can be a mother and do art. I want mothers to know that they can nurture themselves and their kids. They can do this even in the worst circumstances where there is a lot of stress. There needs to be a cultural support for mothers.

My husband just got hired. He got in with a good company – a “normal” job. We were finally able to feel what “normal” feels like. I was able to rest a bit. Then my husband got laid off. We were right back at square one. It was up and down. I wondered why this was happening. Nope. I had to get back to work. It is so tough to cope with this emotionally. It weighs you down. You take a beating.

One of the reasons why I wanted to the icanhazdraw YouTube Channel is so that I can teach drawing and not bring up issues. w-Cheryl-Crawford-dogI was influenced by what was done in the depression. During the depression, people went to go see movies – even though the people were broke. Movies were an escape. It was place to go to get their mind off of things. They could relax. I thought, “That is such a great thing. I want to be able to do that for people too.”  (Click here to learn to draw the Cute Dog by online art teacher Cheryl Crawford.)

I wanted to have my own little escape too. Considering that so many people are struggling and this includes children going through a lot of stress, I wanted to do the drawing channel. I wanted it to be safe and clean. There are so many influences out there that are not safe or clean or wholesome. They end up influencing negative behaviors. It becomes a downward spiral. My channels are a safe place that people can go to.

On the deepest level, observation and perception means breaking things down to their simplest forms instead of getting overwhelmed by all the details at once. In personal application, this has led me to a deeper appreciation for everything around me. It is my hope that others will also be inspired to do the same. There have been (and there still are) many times when I simply do not have the time, energy, or place to draw or paint. The temptation to let that drag me down into feelings of futility is strong, and to my own detriment I’ve given into that temptation a lot.

5. How did you survive your worst day?

There are days that I might not get through them. I might cry, collapse, shake my fists, get angry – but that isn’t really a good production. What actually helps me is finding humor and laughter. This gets me through the hard times — especially Internet memes and silly, random, slapstick videos. We will go online and find random funny things like conversations with my two year old on YouTube. This guy reenacts these funny anecdotes that he has with his daughter.

Prayer also helps me get through the hard times. When I am praying, I am affirming God’s goodness regardless of what curveballs (job loss, illness, parental burnout, financial lack, unmet needs, feelings of isolation, etc.) the world throws at me. I find so many inspiring passages in the Bible about human hardships in which there seems to be no way out–and a way is provided. These testimonies comfort me and encourage me to keep persevering. Even if I become terribly fearful and depressed, faith alone to hold onto God moment by moment does bring me peace: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 KJV

Perceiving and creating art is really a lot like prayer. There is a desire. There is a thought process. There is a method or ritual. And they are not always in that order! Often I have to really push myself, then the drawing falls into place, then it becomes desirable.

Over the years, I’ve found a way to keep my passion (and sanity) alive. Often I will redirect that creative desire towards other tasks and hobbies that are much more accessible at that given time. I observe and study simple things (like billboards!) and things in my immediate surroundings, preferably found in nature. It may not be what I initially want to do, but it is better than nothing and keeps me flexible. This allows me to continue observing, learning, and appreciating–which keeps me going for another day.

6. What advice would you give someone who might want to become an online art teacher?

Learning doesn’t begin or end. You are always learning. School is its own little world. Learning takes place everywhere. There were times in school when I thought, “I don’t fit in. I’m never going to use this.” But I realized that I’m only going to do this school once and so I’m going to follow through and finish. This has helped keep me on track.

The first thing is going to be to decide to commit. You are going to still fall and you might think, “I can’t do this. It’s not working. I’m going to find something else.”

You can’t let fear dictate. You must follow through and finish. You take into consideration your teachers, your parents, your coaches and those that influence you and consider what they have to say that will help you. They are grown up. They have lived some life. They have experience under their belt. That is a huge one for me – to respect your elders. They have done through things and made mistakes and they do not want anyone else to make those mistakes. If they seem like they are nagging, it is because they care about you.

You have passions that will lead you to a position. Keep in tune with those passions. That is part of who you are. Even if your circumstances change, keep your passions going. It isn’t easy. It is hard. It is OK to feel frustrated. Let it out. Release that tension and follow your passions.