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It's About Drawing, Not The Drawing

"Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homy restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city."
~Bill Bryson

It's hard to be unconfident in your work. It's hard to be a beginner. These are some impromptu sketches of our little manekins (girlekins) and a camera on top of the book Bird by Bird. It's drawing practice.

Angles and perspective are so confusing! I'm directionally challenged to begin with. If I have to follow directions like, "go west on Boardwalk, then go north at the light at Park Place, there's little chance that I will wind up at Go without any landmarks.

But I'm trying to focus on small successes. I'm happy that the pen does what I want it to do more often than it used to. I just don't know what I want it to do.

For those of you who sketch, do you just have a "feel" for your lines, or are you thinking mindfully about what to do next? Do you look at the page as you draw? Do you work from the top to the bottom? Main subject outward? Do you find yourself following the same general process with each drawing? For example, I start 85% of my mandalas in the center with a circle. I don't sketch frequently enough to have any sort of process.

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Reader Comments (5)

i don't particularly like sketching real objects.. but the most helpful advice i've ever been given about drawing is to draw what you see, not what you THINK you see. as in, draw the line the way it looks, even if it looks wrong. the drawing might look completely off until you put the last line in - and then it will all come together. blind contour drawing also helps to train your eye to really study the details of an object, not the general shape you already have in your head (and may be tempted - even subconsciously - to put on paper).

hope that helps!

07.3.2010 | Unregistered CommenterIngrid

That's a great question and something I don't really have an answer to, which might be why I sometimes struggle with my drawing. Either I'm still settling on a "system", or use a different one for each type of drawing.
With something abstract or a doodle, I go strictly by feel - it's as if musculature of the hand wants to go through certain movement patterns, and the pen follows along. And just like the entire body, I think it's worth it to try to break out of habitual movement patterns and try different ones, though I struggle with this, too.

If I'm trying to draw something in front of me, I try to get the main shapes down and then follow that with details, and do what ingrid says above - draw what I see, not what I think I see.

When I'm drawing as part of my illustrated journal, out of memory or imagination, it's sort of a combination of how both approaches.

I notice that all my people look the same :( and I'm trying to change that.

Great question!

07.3.2010 | Unregistered Commentersophie_vf

Might I suggest Carla Sonheim's Drawing Lab? The book is a fun approach to drawing for mixed media artists...It's gotten me excited about drawing!

07.3.2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn Sokol

I know where you're coming from here. I started drawing when I was sixteen, so compared to some artists who claim they've been drawing since they were three years old, I'm still quite a bit behind even though I'm almost twenty-five now. Most of my drawing has been self-taught, but I frequently read art books at the library or bookstore and art tutorials online and ImagineFX or International Artist magazines in bookstores. :-D

As to how I work my artwork, it varies, but these days I work mainly on "building form" first before going into any great big detail. So I try to draw from the inside out, finding major shapes and lines and working from there. I try to draw quickly, with lots of movement on big paper-- drawing with my arm, not with my wrist in other words! Sometimes I'll time myself for ten minutes or twenty minutes, trying to get in what I can on scrappy newsprint in that short block of time. This has taught me to work quickly and fast, getting the overall sense of the subject down. When I have that ready, than I can start messing with the details if I'm happy with the beginning stages. In theory, this lets me correct anything BEFORE I spend an hour, say, on a nose, and realize that "HEY! That /left nostril/ is TOO big, and I have to go and erase all that dark shaded area I've already put in and mess up my paper!"

I've been learning that practice sketches are of the good and that paper is never wasted. Don't be afraid to go bold and dark and kick up the contrasts (I'm glad you're starting with pen and not pencil, that really helps). Redrawing over lines until it's right doesn't ruin a picture, either and sometimes gives it more character!

Sometimes, I'll turn my drawing upside down so that I concentrate more on the shapes and negative outlines of a subject in this early stage too. It's freakin' HARD to do this and it seriously messes with your brain, but it's a great exercise if you've been staring at something so long and you know you've got something wrong but don't know how to fix it. This is a great way to also avoid relying too much on gridwork, especially if you end up working from a photograph.

Other than that, just keep practicing and soaking in what you can. For your style of penwork, I might suggest the books "First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink" by Claudia Nice and "Keys to Drawing" by Bert Dodson. Your local library might already have them or at least be able to ship with an inter-library loan. Actually, Mark Kistler's "Imagination Station" helped me a LOT as a young artist with perspective and shading. I had to learn I couldn't really DRAW in that style much as I wanted to, but the Imagination Station is great stuff. I know it's for kids and focused mainly on cartoon drawings, but don't scorn it too much or you'll be missing out on a useful and fun book!

07.3.2010 | Unregistered Commenteragnespterry

I always start with OUTLINES! Then I come back and doodle/color/ or sketch in the blank spaces. Usually from top to bottom or center out. It's like a coloring book for me. Now....gotta go read what everyone else said.

07.4.2010 | Unregistered CommenterEden

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