Lines and Colors art blog

Karen X. Cheng learns to dance (and be a designer)

I learned to dance in a year, Sara Cheng
What does learning to dance in a year have to do with learning to draw or paint? A lot, I think.

From Jason Kottke’s blog, I was introduced to this time compressed video of Karen Cheng learning to dance over the course of a year.

She made the decision it was what she wanted to do and she devoted herself to it, saying: “I practiced everywhere. At bus stops. In line at the grocery store. At work — Using the mouse with my right hand and practicing drills with my left hand.”

As Kottke points out, the more interesting thing is that she applied the same approach to changing careers, teaching herself to become a graphic designer by searching out the necessary resources, and devoting herself to it until she was able to leave her job at Microsoft for a position with a design firm.

I’m reminded of the aphorisms “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” and “Make progress each day, even if it is by the thickness of a single sheet of paper.”

I’ll step aside now before I start to sound like a Nike commercial.

For a relevant subject, and some resources for learning to draw, see my previous post: Learning to draw: where to go from here.

[Note: the image above is not an embedded video, please use the links below.]


5 responses to “Karen X. Cheng learns to dance (and be a designer)”

  1. Hi, I really liked your post and thought it was really inspiring. I got a little disapointing though so many youtube comments. People usually miss the point — they attack the “quality” of the dance and forget about the evolution in one year. Others think she already knew how to dance and call it a bogus video. Unfortunatelly, I think, its safer for the majority to think things like that… It makes them feel safer and confortable in their couch. Sorry for the english as a second language here, 🙂

    1. Yes, I agree: progress is the point, not the current state.

      Your English as a second language is pretty good — something you decided to do at some point and set out to accomplish — another case in point.

  2. brilliant! She’s a cool lady!

  3. thevaliantx Avatar

    I don’t think I’d call that “brilliant”. It’s nowhere near brilliant. Brilliant is a doctor. It’s the teachings of Jesus Christ. Brilliant is an olympic figure skater or an MLB starting pitcher along the likes of Greg Maddux, who had very little velocity on his pitches but was the master of controlling the strike zone. Those are examples of brilliance. What I say we have here is blind bravery. The girl clearly has little artistic taste, but I commend her for expressing (even if it looks painful) herself in front of train passengers. If her dance moves are any indicator of her artistic ability with pen and paper, I shudder at the thought of how she was able to land a position at a design firm. I’m inclined to think there is a bit of a fairy tale going on here, or she did a little work on the side in order to land that position. Peace.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      Brilliance is not the point here, nor the artistic merit of her performance.

      What I thought relevant for artists in mentioning this story was the power of intense dedicated practice, and focused self-education, to make noticeable progress in a short span of time.