Saturday, July 16, 2016

Drawing progress report 4 -- daily art

I've told you about several of the routines that I've adopted this year in my attempt to overcome my lifelong terror of drawing, and what I've learned (or not).  Besides the positive learnings, I've learned something very important in the negative, namely that I don't really want to master realistic drawings.

When I decided to confront drawing head-on, I had several objectives.  I wanted to learn about the various drawing tools -- pencil, charcoal, pen, brush -- and how they worked.  I wanted to figure out which of those tools I liked, and which were giving me marks that I was proud of.  Eventually I want to develop a repertoire of drawing approaches that I could use in my actual art practice, not just in my sketchbooks.

My daily art started out as miscellaneous subjects.  Every day I'd have to find something to draw; often a small object or piece of fruit that happened to be on the table, or something I drew from a YouTube video, or a random doodle.  Some days turned out better than others, but every day I had two challenges: first, finding a subject, and second, actually drawing it.

I knew this would happen.  I've been doing daily art for 15 of the last 16 years and I know that when you start with a new set of rules it takes a while to get into the groove.  It took me longer to get into this groove than it has in past years, but toward the beginning of May, after my drawing class had ended, I found myself doing some mental evaluation, and came to several realizations:

1.  My most important tool in realistic drawing was probably my eraser.

2.  I didn't want to be an artist whose most important tool was an eraser.

3.  While it might be fun to draw bananas or scissors now and then in my sketchbook, there was no way that I was ever going to incorporate them into my actual art practice.

4.  I love to work in ink, especially the very finest of pens.  I like the fact that you have to live with the line you draw (see realization #2). I love working with a dip pen and liquid ink, but it's way more efficient to use a Micron pen.

5.  My hand is not steady enough to draw perfectly straight or perfectly curved lines, but I love the look of slightly unsteady lines, so I might as well embrace the flaw.

6.  I like abstract, doodle-like drawings more than pictures of actual objects, probably because they allow me to make intricate, complicated compositions.

7.  I do better when I work in series, exactly what I have been practicing and preaching for years in my quilting practice.

Tomorrow I'll start showing you how those realizations are playing out in my daily drawings.  Spoiler alert: I am so delighted with what's happening, I can hardly wait to get up in the morning and get my sketchbook!


  1. I don't draw. I know that if I look hard enough and long enough and use the eraser enough that I can produce a passable likeness - but have no need or purpose for the end result of all that looking and drawing and erasing. It wasn't until reading your post that I realised that this is the reason I don't draw so I can't wait to see what it is that has you excited about using your sketchbook!

  2. I am looking forward to the next post. I too have decided I am going to stop saying "I can't draw" and have been drawing more this year. The goal was one index card a day, but I don't meet it every day. My drawings don't look as good as yours though.

  3. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I have these "can't draw" qualms too, but I don't really want to draw. I doodle, like you describe. I'm really not all that interested in making realistic representations of things. But I am looking forward to seeing what you have to show us tomorrow, and I've been trying very hard to build a habit of using my sketchbook/journal daily. I think writing has turned out to be as important to me as is something I'd neglected for a long time. PS I think your drawings are really pretty good. I liked upside-down Picasso in particular!

  4. I am so glad to read that you are not interested in realistic drawings of scissors etc. I picture you as a mark maker with charcoal and white paint and sticks with walnut ink on them - repetition, gesture, more abstract. there are books out there for encouraging this kind of drawing - but it's just as hard, if not harder, to do it on a regular basis as the representational. Me too about seeing what you show us tomorrow. x

  5. I just happened across your drawing exercises and want to encourage you to stick with it- drawing is a learned skill and 'talent' is nothing more than being interested enough to do the work! (I taught middle school and high school art for years, can you tell?) The object of drawing at the beginning is not to turn out perfect replicas of the subject, but instead to learn to see! When you 'see' you will know what to eliminate and what to emphasize so it will look like what YOU see, maybe not what is there in reality. But we have photography for that. And from what you have showed us you ARE getting better and better. I love the Betty Edwards book and used it for years as a framework for my students- but don't use it as a bible- like in your drawing, you are learning what to look for, what is adaptable to your own work, and what area you want to put in time with. Grab those crow quill pens and a nice texture-y paper and go for it! Aside- my first drawing class we spent the entire semester drawing ONE apple over and over. Then again tomorrow and the next day. I never understood the point until long after the class was over but THAT is what has informed the way I SEE ever since (and headed form 50th college reunion soon!) Good luck- it's been fun following you!

  6. I need to do this too, but I offer you a trick I once learned in architecture school that I use whenever I sketch or trace an object - long lines are the worst and it is often very hard to keep it going without being a bit wobbly and when the lines curve - it gets worse. So - lift that pen anywhere along the line and start again right next to it leaving a small empty spot. Your eye will always fill in the spot and by starting again next to it you can alter the angle of your hand if need be and never leave a blotch regardless of the tool you're using.