Skip to main content Go to Site Map
Illustration of a wizard smiling and talking to a dragon.

Desirée Scheper – A wizard taught me to make silly art


  • Student Journal
  • |
  • Animation Production


University is a lot of hard work. Especially at a university like AUB, it can be very hard striking a balance between work and relaxation. I am personally rather bad at the latter. Sitting in a hammock with nothing to do with any temperature above 22ºC is my actual picture of hell. I love drawing, animating, writing – really all fields of creativity – so not doing any of them breaks my brain clean in half as it tries to look for something to do.

But when you spend eight hours a day making good work to get graded on, you run low on creative juices. Then when you come home and finish all the chores you need to do to keep alive, the last thing I want to do is grab my tablet and draw for another three hours to relax. My wrist would break.

There is a pressure to use my limited free time to do hobby work. When there is so much I want to make, and so little time each week when I can actually do it, there is a pressure to use that time well. But we’ve also turned our hobby into a career. And in that career you have to make good work – film-ready, in my case. Following all these briefings can suck a bit of life from the craft, and that makes doing side-projects for fun all the more important and needed. The problem is, if I have to make perfect work at uni or at a job, and then want to make perfect work in my free time too, I’m striving to be flawless all the time. And we all know that’s simply impossible.

I love doing side-projects! Don’t get me wrong – I feel the pressure I talk about more than most, but I’ve also become better at changing the way that pressure affects me. It just took an odd kind of perspective switch, with thanks to a poorly written book and a weird little wizard.

When I first started uni I didn’t really know yet what I was supposed to do with my evenings. I was on top of my work, I was working a little on the side doing commissions, and I wasn’t much of a partygoer. I figured it was now or never, and I should work on a project I had always wanted to finish. I wanted to write a novel!

I planned the whole thing out, spent countless nights writing, even illustrated half the chapters. By summer, it was done. I got it printed and gave copies to friends and family. And you know what? Absolutely nothing came of it.

I felt a little bad about it at first. I mean, I had just spent a year writing something I had been thinking about for years and years; something I was really proud of, and only my mom and sister actually told me what they thought. But eventually I felt a bit better. I was still proud of it. Granted, it’s littered with spelling errors, but I still did something and I learned a lot from it. Most importantly, I had fun!

I loved writing that monstrosity! I love the characters, I adore the cover, and I think I was darn funny in those pages. I loved it so much I wrote two more – hopefully three by the time I graduate!

That silly book made me realise two things about myself: I had been spending so much time trying to make all my work, uni or not, so perfect to meet an impossible standard. And more importantly, I didn’t want to anymore! I was exhausted – I still am. But I have learned to find revelry in my side-projects. Especially the silly ones.

I do my best on them, don’t get me wrong, but you have to think of a different kind of ‘best’. I am a cartoon animator at heart, but I also paint a lot to practise anatomy and colour. One of my favourite paintings I’ve ever done is one of my eyes. I remember showing it to my mom and how much she laughed. See, just a few hours before I had send her another picture; a really cruddy doodle of myself as a wizard. Two drawings, both me. One stunningly and painstakingly painted, and the other made in four minutes because I was bored. Now guess which one I handed in for a grade?

You’re 100% right, it was the wizard. She became a running joke in my final film project. She is in every page of the guides I’ve made, doodled in the background of feedback I’ve given, even burned into my university computer screen. That wizard made me love sketching again and I put her everywhere. Best of all, my team loves her too.

Side-projects are so important to keep your creativity flowing and to get all the ideas out of your head. They are a great way to relax and to keep a hobby-turned-career still a hobby. I can’t recommend side-projects enough. Something that has nothing to do with your portfolio, or career, or betterment in art. Think of something silly and draw that. Drawing something you know is stupid takes the pressure of perfection of, and if you’re lucky in a pile of thousands of cruddy doodles you’ll find your own little wizard. And hopefully she will do for you what she did for me and she’ll turn the pressure off.

Something to think about

If you liked this post you might be interested in our Undergraduate courses.

Explore Categories