Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks getting started in sketching. I did a bit of sketching and learned a bit about myself…mainly that I need to ignore my streak of perfectionism. It’s a lesson that I need reminding of every once in a while.
The first thing I did was go out for dinner with Martha (my stepmother and the artist that I mentioned in my last post) to get an idea of where to start learning. She explained that when drawing, I need to see things as they are and not draw what I know or think I know. She demonstrated what she meant by sketching the empty table next to us while explaining every step. It was a little square table but she said that I couldn’t just draw it as square with 90° angles and a leg in the middle. I had to look at it and draw the angles that I saw. Then she did this step by step and by the time she was done, I understood what she meant. There were no 90° angles in what I was seeing; they were only in my head. Later, I found Matt Fussell’s article, How to Draw – In a Nutshell, where he expands on this and states that “drawing is at least 50% observation.” Since then, I’ve been trying to spend some time every day looking at what’s in front of me as it actually appears, not as I think it should look.
After eating supper, Martha and I both got out our tablets and started finding websites I could use to help me learn to draw: www.lynda.com through the Regina Public Library, www.craftsy.com, Betty Edward’s website http://drawright.com/ and various YouTube videos. It was handy having an expert help me sort through what might be of use to me and what I don’t need at the moment and can learn about later, like shading.
Then it was time to get materials so I could start actually drawing. I started off by going online to check out what kind of sketching materials I should get. I read a few articles and got lost in the myriad of stuff. I found myself wanting to get the perfect tools to start off my journey, as if that would help me become perfect at drawing. Or maybe it was just procrastinating to put off the time that I would actually have to start drawing…and making mistakes. I find that hard to do. Oh, I know that people learn from mistakes and I work very hard to instill a culture of learning from mistakes in my classroom. After all, if you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t learning anything new. But it’s so hard to let go of aiming for perfection! Then I came across Karen Mead’s comments on this in her blog, Tiny Buddha, and I’ve decided that I need to aim for “the joy of just okay.” I love the freedom of that idea!
In the end, I took my stepmother’s advice and went to a store with limited art supplies for a sketchbook and plain HB pencils.
Even then, I got sidetracked by a sketching set but I managed to resist. I came home with just a basic sketching book and a set of HB pencils.
And it’s a good thing I got a set because it turned out I didn’t have a pencil sharpener in my home anymore! I hadn’t realized how little I use pencils now.
Then it was time to start drawing. Martha had given me a couple of drawing tasks from the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. They’re meant to get you using the visual, perceptual part of your brain instead of the verbal, analytical part. The first one is drawing Picasso’s Portrait of Igor Stravinsky. However, you aren’t supposed to copy the picture as you would normally look at it. The task is to turn the picture upside down and draw it as shapes and lines in spatial relation to each other, not thinking about hands or face or tie or chair.
The instructions say that it should take 40 minutes to an hour. It took me just under an hour and I was exhausted by the time I was done. Several times I just wanted to give up. Thinking about it later, I realized those were the times that I was thinking about the object I was drawing rather than the lines and shapes and that I was also thinking about how what I was drawing didn’t look the way it should. Looking at the picture after I was done, I could see that reflected back at me. When I was drawing the head, I was thinking about the lines and shapes and the spacing between them but when I was drawing the hands, I kept thinking that they didn’t look like hands rather than focusing on the lines and curves. And the head looks better than the hands. Interesting.
It was a good start but then I got sidetracked by life (and that mild but persistent perfectionist/defeatist streak) and only read and watched videos about drawing without actually doing any drawing. I’m about to try the second activity that Martha gave me and then move on to the items I found online. I’ve also decided to take the advice that I regularly give to my students – do a little bit every day, even 5 minutes. To that end I’m going to draw something every day with an average time limit of 5-15 minutes and share it with my students the next day. I’m hoping that this will help keep me motivated and on track. Wish me luck!!