Watercolor and ink
5 x 5 inches
I'm talking about a piece of paper and pen* for the purpose of JUST drawing rather than drawing something to plop paint on top of later. Once a week? Once a month? Ever? Never?
If you answered hardly ever, you're in good company. The majority of artists I know only draw when they want to create a finished piece of art, be it a painting, sketch or plein air work.
Can you image what the NFL or pro golf would look like if the players didn't practice the very basics every day, for long hours?
A very unorganized circus flits through my mind. Maybe the Keystone Cops.
So why do we, as artists, think we shouldn't have to practice our basic skills? Regularly?
Let's face it...drawing is the foundation of most art. Values, shadows, form shapes, proportions and use of line are some of the very things that trip us up if we don't practice them.
Does the mere mention of these things make you cringe and want to flip to the next blog? I understand. It doesn't sound like much fun. But when I realized that my lack of knowledge and how to create values, shadows and use line was what stood between me and enjoying the creation of my art, I decide to learn.
And it wasn't hard. It just took being willing to try and acknowledging that I was gonna look bad some of the time. I had to keep putting marks on the paper. It took willing to do a really lousy job. Again and again until I finally got to something I liked. Did that mean it was perfect? Nope! Far from it. It just meant I could live with it.
Working in a junk journal** took all the pressure off from me. Since the paper was lousy, I wasn't expecting a masterpiece before I ever put pen to paper. Using pen made me look more closely at what I was drawing because I only had one shot at getting it down accurately.
I'm often asked "how do I learn?" or "where should I start?" and here is my very best advice:
Grab a junk journal and a pen. Doesn't matter what kind of pen or what color. Sit down anywhere and begin to draw what is in front of you. Doesn't matter what it is. Draw. Draw badly. Draw for 15 minutes. It is your choice whether you stop for the day or if you go for another 15 minutes. Come back the next day and do it again. And again. And again. Once you start getting the hang of your chosen scene, move to a new one.These drawings are not for creating finished art though there may be some good candidates. They're to help you learn to see, to help you develop eye/hand coordination and to help you demystify drawing.
Start with a cup, a box, a glass, a vase or some other simple structure. Draw it for 15 minutes every day. Change your perspective by looking up to the item, down into the item and then turn it on its side or at an angle. Once you've mastered that item, add another. Play with lighting to give you shadows. Draw. Every day. Draw, draw, draw.
We're talking 15 minutes a day here. Surely, you have 15 minutes a day?
Classes help, but you don't have to wait to start with a class. Start where you are, use what you have.
Agree to do it badly so that you can improve. Be honest, but not brutal, when you look at your work. This is right, this is not. Done. Turn the page and do it again.
Look through some drawing books at your local library. Look at children's color books and draw what the artist has drawn. Not to steal their idea, but to learn how they created the image using just lines.
There is no magic pen, pencil, brush nor paper that I know of to make us morph instantly into the artist we all want to be. Just some practice learning the basics.
Now, how often do you draw?
*When we use a pen, we eliminate the possibility of erasing/correcting and so therefore we learn faster because we observe more closely. Without that eraser, we give up our safety nets. Our observation skills improve much faster.
**A junk journal is a cheap journal/sketchbook of blank pages. The paper is cheap junk. It's not good for much more than pen and ink. It may bleed through to the other side. It doesn't matter. It doesn't take color, washes or anything else. That's okay. It's simply a tool for learning. Once you're skills start improving, using the "good stuff" (read that the "expensive stuff") won't be nearly so intimidating.