‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

The other day I heard a song playing in the background of a show I was watching, and was immediately drawn in. The lyrics seemed strikingly similar to my philosophy on art making and got me thinking about style and voice. I stopped watching the show and went on a music hunt.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I found the song within 5 minutes. Tain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) is a jazz song written by Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young, and recorded by Jimmie Lunceford, Harry James, and Ella Fitzgerald in 1939. There are multiple versions out there, but I like the version by Ella Fitzgerald, which you can listen to here.

 

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

 

There’s an instrumental intro, then Ella begins singing at 1:09:

When I was a kid about half past three
My ma said, “Daughter, come here to me”
Says, “Things may come and things may go
But this is one thing you ought to know”

Oh, ’tain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it
That’s what gets results

At this point, I was just listening to the song passively. I liked it, it was catchy, but it hadn’t really roped me in yet. Ella presses on:

‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the time that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the time that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the time that you do it
That’s what gets results

And that’s when I started to pay more attention. It’s not what you do… it’s the time that you do it? It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it? Holy moly, Ella and I are totally on the same page! Ella ignores me and keeps singing:

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

You can try hard,
Don’t mean a thing
Take it easy, breezy,
Then your jive will swing

Uh, hello? Don’t try so hard? Let it go? Enjoy the process? Wabi-sabi? Then your style will sing?!

Oh, it ’tain’t what you do; it’s the place that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the time that you do it
‘Tain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it
That’s what gets results

Yes, yes, YES! Sing it, Ella! Have a dedicated drawing space! Carve out alone time! Draw consistently! Draw with a positive mindset!

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

You’ve learned your A B C’s
You’ve learned your D F G’s
But this is something you don’t learn in school

Praise be! Ella, yes! You can learn the drawing fundamentals—perspective, anatomy, shading—in school but STYLE is something you don’t learn in school!

So get your hep boots on
And then you’ll carry on
But remember if you try too hard
It don’t mean a thing, take it easy

Stop trying so dang hard and just let it flow out of you! If you get stuck in a negative spiral—doubting your work, doubting your abilities, and making excuses—you won’t get anywhere or do anything! Put your boots on, and carry on. Grab your pen and JUST DRAW.

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

‘Tain’t what bring do; it’s the way that you bring it
‘Tain’t what swing do; it’s the way that you swing it
‘Tain’t what sing do; it’s the way that you sing it

It’s the way YOU bring it. It’s the way YOU swing it. It’s the way YOU sing it. It’s your style, it’s the way you make art and…

That’s what gets results
That’s what gets results…

BAH! Thank you, Melvin, James and Ella. Thank you for this glorious song on creativity, and the lovely reminder to embrace the art that’s inside you just waiting for you to chill out and let it flow.

'Tain't What You Do. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do. Thanks for reading!

And don’t forget: take it easy, breezy, then your jive will sing! 😀

 

<3,
Christine

 

Discover your artistic style!

Get my Influence Map Making Guide to find your influences and start uncovering your unique artistic style!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit