Doubt is a Dangerous Thing

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My name is Derrick Rathgeber, and I am a Colored Pencil Artist. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a child I found myself finding anything and everything to draw and doodle on. From receipts to brown grocery bags, nothing was off limits. I would lose myself into my imagination by creating characters, cool creatures, and even whole worlds for them to live in. As I grew older I wanted to learn how to make my characters look more realistic, and make the world they live in come alive. I couldn’t afford lessons, and I didn’t have a mentor so I watched and studied cartoons, and animated movies. When kids were watching them for entertainment, I was trying to figure out how they worked. I was enamored with artwork coming to life. I wanted to do that. In the year 2000 I got an opportunity to attend Collins College. There I had my chance to learn how to do real life animation. It was one of the greatest and most difficult times of my life. On one hand I got to learn from a legend that worked on several Don Bluth films, and on the other hand the world of traditional animation has been lost to computer animation. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in 2005, and decided to move back towards family with my newly wedded wife, and our daughter. With new experiences as a father and husband, I started to draw more pictures of things that reminded me of them like fairies, flowers, and animals. These are drawings that I don’t think I would have drawn had not for being inspired by them. Over time I found that I really found that I had a talent for capturing the colors of the world. I am now 31 years old with four great children and art has become a large part of our lives. My wife writes great poetry and each of my kids has a knack for coloring and drawing fantastic pictures. My oldest daughter has this uncanny ability to craft objects like her mom. We enjoy creating things as a family. I now have the opportunity of sharing my work with you, and teach you everything I know one post at a time. I will bring you step by step lessons that will show you how to use each color pencil in your arsenal to add color and imagination to your life no matter your level as an artist. I have also started a comic strip series which is also available on my blog along with the free art lessons. Come for the Art, and stay for the great stories. “Let us make this world full of art and creativity together.” Derrick Rathgeber

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Doubt is a Dangerous Thing

by Derrick Rathgeber


As an artist the worst thing you can face is doubt. Doubt is that nagging fear, or voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re not good enough, or you’ll never reach the level of the other artists on the web. It can come at you in ways that will make you want to quit and burn your artwork. I can honestly say I to this day face doubt strait in the face, and sometimes I do want to quit.I recently got back into drawing again after a very long hiatus. I had a torn tendon in my drawing wrist that was never allowed to recover properly. When I got injured on the job I was given a brace and set right back to work. Over the years I tried to sketch here and there and my work suffered. My hand would shake, I would drop the pencil, my fingers locked up, and sometimes my wrist felt like it was being torn right off. I couldn’t draw anymore and that sent me into a very angry and dark place. The one thing I thought I was good at was taken from me, and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I doubted that I was ever going to draw again.

One day I found myself digging out my old drawings. I kept a box of my work that survived the rain and the move. I did what I normally would do, and that was pull them out of the box, look at them all and them place them back in the box. To me this was a way of looking back at something I couldn’t get back, and believe me I tried. I would draw out some new drawings, and I was upset that they were out of proportions, and very sketchy. I couldn’t get the look I used to anymore let alone what other artists could do. I think my wife saw me, or heard me because a short time later as a gift she got me a nice sketchbook. She only had one rule that I sketch out whatever comes to my head, and do not share it with anybody, just draw for yourself she said. And I think she was on to something.

Over the next year I did just that. I just started drawing small faces or, weapons, characters and random trees. All short small non detailed drawings, but each one got better. It wasn’t until last year in 2012 that I started rebuilding my portfolio. Something in me snapped and just woke up. I grabbed the largest pice of paper and all the colored pencils I had and created A “Bird in Bloom.” Believe it or not this very large 22×28 piece took me three months to complete, but to me it felt like one of the fasted drawings I have ever done. I was enveloped into getting back to where I used to be as an artist, yet somehow by the end of this piece I was better than I ever was. To put it in perspective the last award I won for a piece of my artwork was in 1999. It was now 2013 and I took this one piece of art and entered it into a show against painters and sculptures. Somehow my RoseArt colored pencil strokes won me Best in Show. This was not a cash prize win, but it was enough to convince me that I was on the right track.

I continued making large pieces and smaller pieces, and I think it wasn’t until the great feedback on the Macaw piece that I found that I may be able to have a career in this. I pushed and shared my work online, and joined various art sites to sell my work. I had high hopes that since I couldn’t work and I wasn’t getting paid by the insurance company that this could be my way of providing. When several months go by and nothing sold DOUBT attacked me again. Every time I would open my email and see all the artists who sold their work, or got a great commission, I would definitely get very envious. Here I am thinking I was good enough to win a juried show, and write lessons for RoseArt; and I cannot even sell one piece of art for my family. It hurt. Sometimes it still does I won’t lie. So Doubt hit again, very hard.

You know what brought me back this time? What keeps me going is all of you. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but you are at home and you chose to read this. Zillions of things on this internet to laugh at and watch and you choose to read the rantings of a beat up colored pencil artist. I appreciate that. When you message me, or write me to congratulate me, or ask me of all people for advice. It pushes me. When I see you struggle in the same ways that I do, and still succeed. I know doubt is a huge waste of time.
Each of us have a story, and in our stories we have a doubt or fear of succeeding. We cannot let this doubt to come into our artwork, because as an artist you know when you erase too much, or overwork the piece it will be ruined. Take a break and draw something you love in a sketch book that you don’t have to share with the world. Do what you love because you love it, and all that doubt will go away.

I have only one more thing to say and this is the most important piece of advice I can give you.
-When you wishing that you had the ability to draw like that great artist you see posting their masterpieces, somewhere there is an artist looking at your masterpieces wishing they could draw like you. Please support and help each other.

Thank you,
Derrick Rathgeber

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