The Difference of a Decade

Time is an illusion.

Albert Einstein

There’s a trend going on these days, which I have seen on Twitter specifically, of artists sharing the difference in their work after a decade. Seeing so many people do this, and to see such drastic improvements over time, is inspiring. I didn’t want to just share a couple of images in a tweet, though. That couldn’t quite cover the time in a way that’s acceptable to me.

I haven’t looked at much of my artwork over the last ten years. Before reviewing it, I knew that not much would be there compared to others. I knew it wouldn’t be high in quality and that I would be embarrassed by how bad it all will be. But I also knew that I shouldn’t be comparing myself, or my artwork, to others in this way.

It turns out, though, only one of those things is true. There’s not much of it. However, the quality isn’t bad and it certainly doesn’t embarrass me. I tried to create and succeeded in making new things. Some are more complete than others, and I did my best. That much is evident.

I had, and have, room to improve. And overall, it looks like I managed to do it. I fell down a few times, took a couple stumbling steps back, but in the end my skill in digital art is moving forward again.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Something New

Ten years ago, in the spring of 2009, I was finishing up a course at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. It was a two-semester course called Performing Arts Preparation, that I took out of personal interest. I wanted to practice acting, singing, and hoped to become more confident. I did manage these things, and while the year was stressful I do value what I learned and the people I met.

During that time, my health was extremely poor. I wasn’t sleeping and I was always exhausted, depressed, anxious, and spent most of my mental space focusing on staying conscious.

It took a few more years before I got myself into a better place.

I did a lot of drawing during this time. Sketches on paper and only sometimes colouring on the PC with Photoshop. It was intended as a distraction but it was a start.

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

Lewis Carroll

A Decade of Art


At the beginning of the year, I created a gift for a friend of her character. It was simple with no shading and the use of default Photoshop brushes. (Such as leaves, grass, petals, etc.) I would have inked it in Photoshop, too, using the mouse and pen tool to mimic the look of having a tablet or using a pen on paper.

2009 January 24
Original character, belonging to Syrcaid. Created as a gift for Syrcaid.

Aside from the completed piece above, most of my work in 2009 was drawn directly into sketchbooks. There were images of my own original characters, or something new and random that I felt the need to draw.

There will be a few images with a deviantART watermark in the middle of them, which you’ll have to forgive me for. For these, I do not currently know the location of the original. (In my defense, I moved in 2018 and these would be on a CD, DVD, or hard drive somewhere in a box.)

2009 March 03
A combination of sketches from multiple pages of my sketchbook. Ink on paper,

And I would draw all the time. Over lunch, while waiting for class, or when I should have been working on classwork. This was not much different from what I would do in high school, or during my time at George Brown College. I had thoroughly developed the habit of carrying around a sketchbook, or three, and doodling whatever came into mind.

I couldn’t be bored.


Here is another piece I don’t actually recall drawing. Looking at it now, though, it has promise and might be worth redoing at some point as a then-and-now comparison. (I can actually draw hands and feet, for one thing!)

2010 February 09
A small faerie, ink on paper.

The next sketchbook page features an original character of mine, Starphire. (Or, Starfi, as they are also called.) As well as a few random characters. Starfi is shown on the left-hand side, and one version of them has been coloured.

Random Trivia: Starphire is the character I would originally use to represent “me” online. I would create them in online games like World of Warcraft and AION, and it is still the name I use in my email. (And that is the height of professionalism, obviously.) Nowadays, Starphire exists as a character in one of the stories I’m working on. They no longer represent “me” but are still much a part of my sketchbooks, writing, and appear in dreams.

2010 May 03
Ink on paper, coloured in Photoshop.

This next drawing (below) was done when there was some quiet time at work, where I could actually sit and draw for an hour or so (over the course of a day) and complete some drawings. Mermaids were the go-to thing to draw for a while, and this is one of many.

2010 July 08
Pencil on paper, coloured in Photoshop.

Colour was added in the evenings, or during free time on a day off, while at home with access to a PC.

Next is another drawing that started as pencil on paper, and was inked and coloured in Photoshop afterward.

2010 July 11
Pencil on paper, coloured in Photoshop.

I was trying to go for a “vector art” feel here, without actually using Illustrator (because I didn’t know how). Looking back on these drawings from 2010 though, I feel like I had a better understanding of how to draw than I do now. I was creating all the time and also taking Figure Drawing classes as I wanted.

It wasn’t long before I just… stopped drawing.


What happened in 2011? That’s a good question.

I don’t know, either.

I continued with the vector-like style for a while, using the mouse and pen tool in Photoshop to ink drawings. I wanted a high-end tablet so badly, but had trouble using the one I had. I couldn’t get over the disconnect of drawing on a black sheet and looking at the screen. So, I stuck with faking it with the mouse/pen tool combination.

It seemed to work reasonably well. It was time-consuming, though, and I do not miss it.

2012 June 04
Photoshop on PC. Original character, Starphire.

Little drawing was done during this time. It seems I would work on things over 2011-2012, and rarely turn the images into something more. I was not sharing much online at all.


After a couple years of minimal drawing and likely a fair bit of playing MMOS, I tried to create more digital art again. (The lack of art not being the fault of the MMOS, to be clear.)

This was the year I started a new job in Toronto, after the encouragement of my boyfriend to take a chance. I had applied to be an Administrative Assistant, but the company was interested instead in my skill in InDesign and Illustrator.

Illustrator, vector.

Throughout the end of 2014 and into Spring of 2015 I had been looking for a new job. I was applying to jobs in design, customer service, and for sales. The job I had wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t paying off the debt caused by getting an education.

Which I still have. Yaaaay.

I had received a number of calls and emails from shady sources: my resume was up everywhere and was given to just about anyone, it seems. I had numerous individuals contact me about jobs I had not applied for and was not qualified for. Some were obvious scams, and others less so. When I received an email about an entirely different position from a company I applied to, I was skeptical. It had been some time since I applied, too.

But this was the kind of job I wanted. And there was no reason for me to be skeptical.

I set up an interview, got my portfolio ready and met with the team.

And as for the job… I got it.

2015 June 10
A pattern created in Illustrator, vector.

This job helped me grow as a designer and learn to manage multiple projects, deadlines, teams, and get tasks done in a reasonable time frame. I learned a lot about InDesign, too, as I now used the program every day instead of sporadically. And while the job was great for this, it had a negative effect on my ability to draw and create. It was demanding work, of course, so my time and resources went into that and less into my personal projects.

This was also the year I had to get some Health Stuff™ taken care of, thanks to encouragement from the boyfriend. And it was a good thing, too.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.



In 2017, I got engaged.

The fiance lived in California and I in Canada, so we had to make a choice. We decided I should move to California, as it was easier for me to do so than it would be for him.

We knew 2018 was going to be a busy year.

In August 2018, I left my job in Toronto. The company knew about it well in advance, of course. I had been packing for weeks and I needed to ensure I left my job with enough time to make certain there was time to finish doing so before it was time for me to leave the country. With my PC, Leviathan, packed up with all my stuff I had only a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 to use for media. It was at this time that I made the connection: I had a tablet. A tablet that I could use for drawing. And it had a screen I could draw on directly.

I could work with this.

Drawing here was slow going since I had not used a tablet with a screen for art before. There was a bit of a disconnect of not using paper but it was not as jarring as looking at an entirely different screen.

(Turns out, I broke my tablet pen at some point so that certainly didn’t help… it still kinda worked though?)

2018 August

It took some time, but I started to improve and became more comfortable using the tablet. I missed Photoshop, but for now this would do.

2018 August
Self portrait.


In a previous post, I went into detail about some of the things that have changed over the last year, health-wise. This has affected my art in a large way, and 2019 has been considerably more productive, creatively, for me than any other year in recent memory.

I began updating my WordPress blog and portfolio,, on a semi-regular basis. I created and maintain the website for my husband’s company, Tali Gibson Designs LLC. I’ve been designing and creating mockups for both the Tali Gibson Designs company portfolio, as well as my own. I took, and am taking, courses on Udemy to improve and update my skills in the Adobe Creative Suite.

Most of my “improvements” this decade, or things I have accomplished, feel like they have all been done this year. That would not be fair to say, though, as changes have been leading to this for some time now, set in motion years ago.

But I have also accomplished much this year. and that feels pretty great.

Now, I have the luxury of being able to work on my personal and creative projects, where time (and burnout) did not permit it, before.

2019 November 04
Ink on paper, coloured and inked in ArtFlow and edited in Photoshop.
JP from Dead City, a comic by the writer/artist duo Michelle Parker and Jey Pawlik.
2019 December 05
Ink on paper, coloured in ArtFlow and edited in Photoshop.
Original character.

Some works in progress, practicing using the tablet for drawing without sketching out ideas on paper, first.

The next image, I became inspired to create some fan art for The Sims 4. I have been a fan of the franchise since the original Sims game and might be a bit obsessed with it.

2019 December 10
Digital, created in ArtFlow and Photoshop,

Here, I wanted to create a “profile card” of sorts for my current favourite sim. I had a lot of fun with it, practicing different ways of shading and revisiting the trusty Pen Tool in Photoshop to create the plumbob on the right.

Finishing this, I planned to draw more. The sims parents, to be more precise. In fact, I may have started already.

2019 December 11
Digital, created in ArtFlow.

For 2020, my goal is to create more than I have this year and also to improve and try new techniques. I want to not just get back what I had in 2009, in terms of familiarity in drawing figures, but surpass it.

And I would say I’m off to a good start, Wouldn’t you?

What do you think of my progress over the last 10 years? What work is your favourite, and which one do you want to see me revisit? I’d also like to hear about your progress: what has changed for you this decade?

I would love to hear your feedback.

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