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Learning something new can be hard, but the lessons learned are worth every tear shed

Learning something new can be hard, but the lessons learned are worth every tear shed. 


It was the third week of the Page Layout and Design class. We met on Mondays and Wednesdays from ten to twelve.

The teacher, Ronald Dorfman, asked how we were doing on the assignment, an eight-page brochure.

He stood behind my desk and asked me what I thought of the project. I couldn’t answer him because I was crying.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have cried if I had a good night’s sleep. I woke up that morning at three-thirty, anxious about my assignment. Instead of going back to sleep I watched Lynda.com videos on Adobe InDesign. None of it made sense to me.
I couldn’t figure out how to set up master pages, guidelines, and grids.

It is hard to admit I cried in class. The kind of cry where you can’t talk and your chest is heaving.

When I stopped crying, I asked my teacher to show me how to set up master pages, guidelines, and grids. He kept showing me until I understood and finished the assignment.

Learning something new can be  hard no matter what age you are. Two students dropped out of class during this assignment. One was a recent graduate of high school and the other student was a grandmother.

Maybe if they had cried in class they wouldn’t have quit.

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.”
— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The last time I did any graphic design was in 1983 when I worked as a graphic designer for The Tokyo Journal, an English language magazine in Tokyo, Japan. All of the design was done by hand. We hand-drew lines with a ruler and an ink pen and the type was typeset at the printers and pasted by hand. Spelling mistakes were cut out with an Exacto knife and the correct letter cut and glued in its place.

Now here I was thirty-two years later, sitting at a computer, learning how to do graphic design.

My teacher, Ronald Dorfman, also had to learn how to use computers when they first came out to revolutionize the graphic design industry. He went from hand-drawing his book covers to designing them with computers. He was an inspiration to not quit and adapt to new technology.

For my last class assignment, I made a ninety-eight-page coloring book with forty hand-drawn cats. The book was formatted in Adobe InDesign using master pages, guidelines, and grids.

shopify postcards 40CATS#1(20)shopify postcards 40CATS#2(20)

The book, Color The Cats — Forty Real Cats From Around the World and Their Stories, was published on Amazon on December 16th, 2015. I had a proof copy to show Mr. Dorfman at my final review.

Today I start another class, Animation, Art 238.

Hopefully I won’t cry in class.

A Gift For You


For the month of February, I am giving away a PDF of my coloring book for new subscribers.

If you already subscribe, please check your email. I send you the PDF to the coloring book in an email yesterday.
A small thank-you for reading my stories. (smile)
Get your FREE coloring book!





Do you think it is hard to learn something new?

Please tell me in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • La McCoy

    I love the cat coloring book. So does Edel.

  • jesspetersonart

    Wow, thanks for sharing this Pamela. I appreciate your transparency. It’s strange to think how graphic designers did everything by hand, but that’s all they had, no computers available. Crazy. You are very brave learning all this. YES–a million times Yes–it’s hard to learn something new-no matter how old you are. I’m trying to learn how to sculpt myself with clay. And it’s the full figure. Very overwhelming. I’ve never worked with Adobe InDesign. I did a 30 day trial with AfterEffects once, but that was not enough time to learn much. Those programs are pretty amazing. I hope you have a better time with Animation. What program are you learning for this Animation class?

    • Hello jesspetersonart,
      So nice to hear from you.
      This story took me months to finally publish. 🙂
      Sculpting the full figure does sound hard. Especially getting the proportions right. After Effects sounds interesting. Is that how you make your videos? The software we will be using is called ToonBoom. Our first project will be a flip-book. Maybe I will write about we are learning every week in class?

      • jesspetersonart

        Yes, the proportions are the hard part. And getting the face to look like mine. I enjoy doing details though. And I like hair-that part is freer than working on the eyes, which are so precise. I’ve been making my videos with iMovie, that’s the only program I have right now. I’d love to work with more advanced ones though, like what you’re doing, the adobe ones. I’ve never heard of ToonBoom, the flip book sounds fun! I’d love to know how your animation class is going. I’m interested in that kind of thing. I’ve always enjoyed making videos with my art. I’ve got an idea about an ebook (or kindle?) that would not just be the normal ‘scroll though the pages’ kind of book, it would have different effects and sounds. I wonder if it’s possible to make it available for all mobile devices so anyone could view it. Anyway, are you having fun in the animation class?

        • Hello Jessica,
          Sculpture can be like writing a novel, the main frame is the story-line and the details of the book would be each individual hair or texture. I would love to see what what it looks like.
          The animation class is interesting. We have mainly talked about the history of animation. I have to work in my flip book this weekend.
          I have to try iMovie. Something to be text on top of my cat videos.
          The class is fun.

  • Pat Meyers

    Short answer – YES! It’s hard to learn something new. And when you are going it alone — double harder. Thank goodness for an instructor who took the time. Golden.

    • Hello Pat,
      How are you this fine day? Have you ever had an instructor that was patient?

  • Berdeane Bodley

    That’s my girl, look at all you have accomplished in your life, I am beyond proud of you, and as for crying, no shame there. Look at your grid of forty cats, love it and love you more.

    • Hi Mom,
      I love you and love you more.
      Thank you for being a good encourager.
      Your daughter, the one who always got a stomach ache right when we had to wash the dishes

      • Berdeane Bodley

        Remember when I came to visit you in Clagary & you asked me to make the salad & I phoned all my friends………. too funny. That’s what Mothers are for!!! xo

  • Congrats, Pamela! Learning new technology is never easy. But look what you accomplished! Here’s to your continued success!

    • Thank you John,
      And may the paint never dry unused in your tubes.

  • Meredith Robbins

    Good for you and not giving up! I struggle every week with InDesign and often want to cry. I think I have watched the same videos over, and over again. Just to learn the same thing one day it will stick. When I first started in college we did everything by hand too. It’s great to see how computers have come along and helped us out. It can be so frustrating Keep at it maybe we can trade tips some day.

  • Robn Patrick

    I am so proud of you! Proud of how you you use your gifts, proud of how you persevere, and now I’m proud that you cried in class. Life is interesting isn’t it? We can either hide away and cry alone or we can go out in the world and take a chance and, yes, sometimes cry out there. I like your style in so many ways!

    • Hello Robn,
      I always thought there was an i between the b and the n. A creative spelling for a creative friend. Thank you for your encouragement Robn. That what makes life interesting, taking a chance. Here is to all the crying we want to do as we learn to not hide.
      Hugs to you.

      • Robn Patrick

        It IS spelled Robin. For some reason it got changed in sending it via internet or something! It’s a wild world out there on the WWW but the truth is out there!

  • Pamela! I love that you continue to take classes and learn new things. As a teacher, I often preach about the importance of becoming a life-long learner, but I don’t always practice what I preach. You inspire me!

    • Hello Harvest,
      There is always something new to learn. I am so excited by the animation class. My motto is, “Keep Dreaming – You are not dead yet.”
      How fun you are a teacher. What do you teach?

      • I should have said former teacher, as I’m not teaching at the moment. But I’ve taught middle school English and, most recently, English as a Second language at the University level for international students. Love your motto!