Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Demons Of Doubt

Self Portrait of My Inner Critic
Ink and Wash
It happens to all of us.

We get excited about a new adventure and out of no where, or so it seems, comes this voice to tell us how we're not good enough or smart enough.

It questions who we think we are to think that we could ever undertake such a feat, let alone be successful at it!

Self doubt creeps in and after a while that voice starts to say reasonable things like, "Why don't you wait until you know more, go back to school and get a degree, have more experience, let someone who is smarter than you handle it."

And we listen and we give up our adventure.

And so we stay stuck.

Not to mention frustrated.

Our inner critic has struck again.

Self doubt has killed more creative endeavors than failure ever will.

While the inner critic is simply doing its job, it gets a little overzealous sometimes. It reminds us of all the failures, mistakes, and embarrassments we have ever made in our lives.

If you're like me and my IC, then yours has plenty of ammo too.

And that's fine because that's my IC's job—to keep me safe by whatever means necessary and it has learned over time that I am not easily dissuaded from a course of action.

And it's taken a long time for me to learn how to work in tandem with my IC rather than fight with it or to just ignore it.

Most of the time, I've learned to listen when my IC starts up with its claims of imminent doom or complete mortification because on occasion, its right. My actions are about to lead me off the cliffs of stupidity.

But most of the time, my IC is just being its usual neurotic self and I go ahead with my adventure.

And gosh, what do you know? Everything turns out fine!

Inner Critics aren't the enemy unless they hold us and our endeavors hostage. Their primary tool is fear.

Learn to recognize it for what it is. It's fear that masquerades as reason, as logic, as common sense and when wielded by the ever present critic it is a killer of dreams, hopes, creative efforts and happiness.

Don't be a victim. Find neutral ground and then move forward.

Even should we fail, failure is seldom fatal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

That's How We Learn

Making Mistakes
Are you willing to fail in your art attempts?

Are you willing to make bad art* in order to learn to make better art with the hope of eventually making good, or even brilliant art?

*Definition of bad art - art that is filled with so-called mistakes or inaccuracies.

Most of us are scared to death someone is going to confront us for being frauds, for masquerading as an "ARTIST" (said with a French accent) when we know good and well we're not. Scary, huh?

And yet, I've never had it happen. Even when I'm making art that is less than stellar, I've only ever received neutral or nice comments.

The fear is persist and often paralyzing. It holds us hostage and we don't get any better because we're afraid to make mistakes.

And there's the irony...because making mistakes is how we learn to do better, to do differently. 
Draw during the performance, color and text added later
7 x 5.5 inch spread in no name watercolor journal
Drawing People
Artists want to draw people in their sketches, but their fear stops them. When they finally do add people and the figures "don't look right," the artist freaks out and vows to never, ever add people to a sketch again.

The next time they try, they've built their fear of people into a bigger fear in their minds and when they fail to meet their goals again, the fear increases. Eventually, the fear of drawing people grows until drawing people seems nearly impossible.

Sound familiar? Stop and consider two things…

Maybe, instead of trying to put figures into a sketch, you should consider drawing JUST people in a junk journal for a while until you get the hang of them. Second, make up your mind that you'll make mistakes, draw crooked lines, wobbly noses and too-small heads and that it's okay—you're learning. Be excited for the opportunity!

Learning To Draw People
So back to drawing people…there are three things I highly recommend you do when you want to learn or improve your people-drawing skills:

            1. Draw people you don't know. Seriously.
            2. Be prepared to make lots and lots and lots of mistakes.
            3. Make it fun!

1. If you start out trying to draw people you know, you're adding waaaaay more pressure than you need. Would it be wonderful to draw your BFF from your last camping trip? Absolutely, but if your BFF turns out looking like Godzilla drawn by a 4th grader, your BFF may be notifying the creativity police to revoke your license!**

**Just in case you didn't know, creative licenses are non-revokable!

If you don't know the person, then it no longer matters if it looks EXACTLY like them especially if they never see it. Yay! That drops the pressure. As long as it looks like a human body, you've scored a win!

Do you think those guys from the orchestra will ever see that page? It's doubtful, but if they do, I'm sure they'll understand the concept of practice, practice and more practice.

2…and 3. It's hard to separate points 2 and 3 because here's the bottom line—if it's not fun and I'm making a lot of mistakes, I'm gonna stop. Why torture myself that way even for the sake of learning? I figure you're probably the same way.

We learn more, we learn better and we learn faster when the learning is fun.

When I'm working on improving my skills in an area where I'm in need of significant improvement, I do my best to find a way to make it fun. In the very top sketch, I went to see the Sarasota Pops Orchestra perform the music of Billy Joel with my sister-in-law. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the seventh row and there was enough light (most of the time) to see my sketchbook.

It was a bit wild—music flowing, people clapping and singing along, performers on stage dancing and moving around, lights flashing different colors—and it was kinda overwhelming, but I figured what the hey, this was a chance that would never come again.

At times, I had to stop drawing a musician until he came back to a similar pose I had originally begun on my page. Other times, I was singing along or clapping to the beat rather than drawing. I was having fun and I didn't know any of those people! And bonus, it was dark enough that no one but my SIL and the guy next to me knew what I was about.
Mall Lunch Crowd
Drawn in Traveler's Notebook by Midori

On the mall sketches, I went to the food court at the large mall near me and picked the restaurant with the longest, slowest line, Chipotle's Mexican Grill. I positioned myself where I had a good view but not close enough to be noticeable.

And this is where I'm going to add Suggestion Number 4: Set clear goals!

Are you looking to sketch body/posture? Capture motion? Capture a likeness? Create a portrait? How much detail do you need? Are you focusing on clothing or draping or shape or texture or facial features or hair or little kids or women or men or teenagers or or or…

Know what you're going to practice BEFORE YOU START! By breaking it down to specific goals, you're more likely to feel successful about your attempts. If you're working on the bodies and their posture or movement, do you have the time to also focus on the facial features?  If you want to work on facial features, why are you drawing their whole bodies?

Back at the mall, I wanted to capture a general likeness with a focus on body shape and posture. As I observed my victims subjects, I made up stories in my head about where they worked or why they were at the mall. Some had badges on a lanyard. Obviously, they were on break for lunch, but where did they work, what type of work?

I worked in pencil and then went back and worked in pen on a couple before I decided it wasn't really necessary.

I then decided narrow my focus to just working on body types and to leave off the heads/facial details all together as I was spending way too much time trying to capture the details of their faces.

I found posture was hard to capture accurately as some folks lean or cock their hips and it became a challenge to recreate it on the page.

Something to practice, to observe well and to observe quickly. I often fell prey to drawing what I "thought" was there rather than what was really there. Hence, the guy's feet at bottom left look like the belong on an elf.

Practicing Anytime, Anywhere
We get caught up thinking we have to go somewhere special to draw, we need special tools, or a certain amount of free time to pursue our art goals to which I say, "Hog wash!"

That's excusing-making and procrastination talking. Sketch the guy on television, sketch your favorite comedian. Look at people in a magazine or online. The point is to keep at the goal until you develop the skills you want and need.

If you find yourself standing in line, waiting in the doctor's office, for the CPA or for your kids to get out of school, look around and see if there's anyone you can practice on.

When combine conscious thought, intention and practice, we have an unbeatable combination for learning. So what are you waiting for?! Start sketching!

The Bottom Line
If you truly want to draw people then draw people. Draw nothing but people. Make people your focus for however long it takes to begin to get comfortable with drawing them. Learn to observe. Then learn to observe quickly. After the skills of how to draw people have solidified into a decent skill base, go back to adding them into a sketch that provides them with an environment.

Have fun, play, experiment and keep filling the page!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Wanna Dog!! (And A Mini-Review)

But I won't be getting one any time soon. It seems that d-o-g has become the equivalent of a four-letter word in our household. The situation has become an absolute killjoy.

So instead of To help mitigate soon of my annoyance and aggravation about the situation, I decided that I would get a dog and it would be ALL mine without outside influence—or interference.

So I got an Imaginary Dog and I'd love for you to meet her!

Her name is Lovey. It was originally LuLu, but the term lovey was used to describe her and it just fit. I'd also considered Yip, but it just didn't work for her.
Ink and watercolor
Canson 180º Artbook Sketchbook
Lovey is part Border Collie and who knows what else. She probably won't get very big and by way of some genetic malfunction, she is nearly blind. It's possible that she sees some shadows, but that's it. BTW, Lovey is a real dog, but she'll never by my dog. She was in a shelter a few hours away from us when I first discovered her. 

I decided to create a journal about having a dog, the ups and the downs, the good, the bad, the goofiness, the messes, the fun and the unconditional love that only a dog has to give. When asked why I wanted a dog, I guess that would be my answer. For the unconditional love that only a dog can give. People simply don't know how to love unconditionally. 

I considered what my steps would be if I were really going to adopt Lovey and I figured the first thing I'd do is go shopping, right?! 

I found a sweet, pale-pink collar, a bright-pink plush toy in the shape of a bone and a bright-pink leash to match the toy. Then I found a couple of beds with polka-dot material and the sweetest little pink bow on the front (wonder how long it will last before she has it chewed off?). 

Knowing I had a two hour drive to go get her and bring her home, I figured I'd be nervous. After all, I wanted her to not just like me but love me! I got there early. Lovey and I played and walked and loved and petted while the woman at the shelter explained what to do when we got home…

  • Introduce Lovey to her environment by walking her around on the leash and letting her sniff and smell. 
  • Show her where her food and water bowls are as well as her beds. 
  • Let her wander around, but keep the leash on so that you can keep a gentle hold on her to keep her from walking into anything. 
  • Take her outside and let her sniff and smell around the yard. "Show" her to her potty spot.
  • Introduce her to the feline nation of 3 cats! 

I took it as a good sign that Lovey whined when I walked away to go do the paperwork. Once it was all completed, I gathered up my dog and set off for home.

Who knew 2 hours was a lifetime when you have a scared puppy in the truck?! But we made it home, safe and in one piece!

Next up, I'll be journaling about Lovey and meeting the cats.

Like most artists, I like to try new things. I recently picked up this Canson 180º ArtBook Sketchbook to try out. If I coulda tried before I bought it, I never woulda bought it!

If you look through the images above, you'll see lots of bleed through. 

If you look at the pages above, you'll see lots of smeared ink. Didn't matter if it was permanent or not. Didn't matter what brand…the ink took a long time to dry!

See that little black band? That's part of what attracted me to the journal in the first place. It closes the book with a magnet at the end of the band. Pain in the patooty! It's constantly in the way. 

Oddly enough, it does handle watercolor okay. There's a small amount of cockling, but it's not bad. The paper works well with light colored pencil too. 

Should you fall prey and buy one, just don't use ink and you'll be fine.