Is that the best you can do?

This is the question I remember my dad asking every time I showed him something I had drawn. He didn’t mean to be sarcastic. He meant it sincerely. He wanted to know if what I was showing him represented my best effort. It didn’t have to be perfect, or even good, but it did have to be the very best I was capable of at the time. He was an architect with strong drawing skills, and he made sure I was well supplied with paper, pencils and art supplies. He bought me how-to-draw and paint books (Walter T Foster and Walter J Wilwerding), and books and magazines featuring the work of wonderful illustrators like Tom Lovell, Bob Kuhn and Jay Matternes.

My dad had “the eye”. I remember him showing me reproductions of John Singer Sargent when I was barely in walking shoes. There were no galleries or libraries anywhere near our home, so my exposure to great art came entirely through him. I hear his voice ask me that question with every piece I complete. Is the drawing accurate? Is it well designed? Is the technique effective? I think of my artwork speaking for me when I am no longer here. Does it speak with my voice, my heart? My dad loved skilled drawing and figurative painting, and so do I.