I get a lot of questions about how to make best progress in drawing and painting.
I think the best way is to “play” and experiment regularly in a sketchbook!
A sketchbook will give your inner artist some space to grow and will help you to find your own style, and here’s why:
Like said Margaret Atwood: “There’s nothing like drawing a thing to make you really see it.”
And already in the 14th century the Italian artist Cennino Cennini wrote: “Don’t fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a world of good.”
Just a little drawing every day is enough. It doesn’t have to be a big piece of Art: it can be a drawing of your art supplies, a tree, your cup of coffee….
1. Your world will look richer, full of details you never noticed
When chasing for subjects to draw, you’ll start looking differently at your neighbourhood and the objects around you.
And when you stop somewhere to draw something, you’ll finally take time to really look at the subject in detail: you’ll suddenly notice things that you never saw before: the beautiful wobbly profile of an old tree, the rich texture of an old stone in a building, the beautiful face of that old woman in front of you in the subway, a blossom in early bloom….
You’ll also make new friends: the world is full of urbansketchers who are doing the same thing. “People like us, do things like this…”
2. You won’t be able to be a perfectionist
When drawing in a sketchbook, I tend to feel more relaxed then on a big sheet. I tend to feel I don’t have to make a work of Art with a big A and it allows some experiment. It can take away FEAR : fear of making a bad drawing, fear of judgment of others, fear of not being able to draw this or that, fear of missing out the important details, fear of making a fool of myself…
Life’s too short to count windows, like Ian Fennelly said….
How do you look at the building you want to draw? How do you look at the Musée du Louvre to draw it? If you look at it as the Musée du Louvre with the impressive perspective and sculptures, cold sweat and fear will take over. If you look at it simply as a bunch of lines that you want to suggest on the paper (and so it doesn’t matter really if some of them will be missing), then it starts to be fun. So don’t see the building as a building, and don’t try to draw everything. And also: it doesn’t matter if you drawing isn’t “correct” ! Who cares? If we want to see all the lines and all the sculptures it’s better to take a photograph, isn’t it?
3. You’ll find another way of relaxation
You’ll find a new way of mindfulness: of being present in the moment and you’ll experience that drawing is some kind of meditation. When you concentrate to make your drawing, if you want to succeed, even a small sketch, you mustn’t be sloppy: you’ll have to concentrate and watch carefully what you draw.
To do that, you have to forget about all the bills that need to be paid, the washing machine to empty, the washing that needs to be done… forget your worries for 15 minutes/ 30 minutes, and concentrate on that line and watch carefully that tree you want to draw… Also: A February 2015 study in which researchers from UC Berkeley determined that experiencing wonder during activities like viewing powerful art may lower the levels of certain chemicals, particularly those that cause inflammation and can eventually lead to diabetes, heart attacks, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s.
Relax, just draw it…. Drawing is about learning how to look at things and find beauty everywhere. As you look to an object when you draw, try to take note of what the mental state of drawing feels like: the loss of sense of time and the sense of amazement at the beauty of what you see.
4. You’ll physically observe your own personal style develop.
By drawing regularly, you can find “Your Line”. It will not be perfect. (But you don’t want it to be perfect: Perfection is boring! Perfection has no personality) No, Your Line will show your truth and your personality. Did I find my line? I think so, but there are different kinds of lines, depending on my mood and because I am like that: I like to try many different things… Be who You are: it’s about Your truth. Do you like big contrasts: draw with big contrasts and dark shadows. Do you like everything full of colours: make it very colourful…. Do you like it abstract? Go for that.
It’s great to do workshops and imitate artists you love, to learn new techniques, but eventually you’ll start drawing following you own style and emotions. Regular drawing and painting in a sketchbook will help you with that: to let go of the influencesn ideas and choices of someone else. Of course some influence of artists you love will stay visible and you can credit them for that, but you’ll mix it up with your own style, you’ll change your habits and lines and colours and contrasts!
And especially don’t forget: PLAY!
And with time, by drawing more and more, your style will change, adapt itself to your new skills or new experiments and new needs.
Your sketchbooks will allow you to look back at it later.
5. you’ll have a space to experiment new creations
Like said Pablo Picasso: “good artists copy, great artists steal” So, go ahead, copy, steal ! This is a great way to experiment new stuff. Go and sketch with the urbansketchers and see what the others are doing and try new techniques.
In short: you’ll let go, and let the lines “go for a walk” in your sketchbook : because a drawing is simply a line going for a walk” (Paul Klee)