I am a little over halfway through my two week break from watercolor painting. I keep having to force myself to stay away.
I decided to use this time to work on my drawing. I haven’t focused on drawing much largely because I get frustrated by how bad I am. I want to draw from my mind – imagine something, and put it on paper, but I haven’t dedicated myself enough to drawing to improve very much. So I imagine something, and then it puddles into something else entirely when I put a pencil on paper. I know this is because I don’t draw enough.
So, I took these two weeks to sketch. Afterall, how can I paint if I can’t draw? Seems like I was putting the cart before the horse.
I grabbed a book on drawing the human body a while back, and I really like it.
It’s a really great pedagogy. Start with very simple, but hugely important drills such as “draw an ellipse over and over and over.” That seems like a pointless task, but ellipses are everywhere, and they are surprisingly hard to get right. So, practice them.
But this book also understands that students want to see the fruits of the lessons. So instead of just saying draw shapes, it explains how to take those simple shapes to start building the human body.
This book also recommends drilling on how to twist, scrunch, cut and merge shapes in order to learn how to draw shapes interacting with one another.
It feels a bit like “wax on… wax off” but it’s on the money. You can’t paint the human body until you can draw the human body. You can’t draw the human body until you can draw the human frame. You can’t draw the frame until you can draw shapes interacting with each other. You can’t do that until you can draw a shape. So, drill shapes. Then, draw them in three dimensional space. Shade them. Twist them, cut them, merge them. Then, see shapes in objects in the world, and draw the shapes – not the objects.
The best part about drawing is anyone can do it. If you want to do it well, then practice. Fortunately, drawing is cheap as hell. You just need a pencil and paper, and time, and dedication.
The other great thing is that it doesn’t come with the pressure that painting does. Whenever I paint, even if it’s just drills, it feels like I should be “making art.” This adds a pressure to painting that o don’t feel when I’m drawing. When I paint, I want the end result to be “good.” When I’m drawing, I know it’s just an exercise. I know it’ll never go on a wall, so it’s ok to screw it up. In fact, that’s the whole point. Screw it up, and identify what is screwed up about it. Then, just draw right on top to fix it. Who cares? It’s junk – just learn.
I should highlight once again that I’m not sharing these images because they are good. I’m sharing them because I want to show what you need to progress through in order to become a good artist. No one knows how to draw unless they practice. No one can paint without practice. If you want to be good-work at it. There’s no short cut. You’ll make stuff like this which isn’t going to be preserved for eternity – because it’s bad. That’s a good thing. Who cares? It sucks – move on. Get better. Anyone can become an artist – but you have to want to, and you have to practice.
I also watched some videos on the Reilly Method for drawing the head. The Reilly Method starts like Andrew Loomis’s method, but gives much more detail for figuring out where the planes of the head should be. Basically, you start with a circle, then divide it to landscape some anchor points. Then, draw arcs (called rhythms) between the anchor points. When you are done, you have a head with the major planes defined.
I like the Reilly Method because it seems very flexible. Often it’s tough to draw a face because it moves so much, but only parts of it. When you smile, the lips and cheeks move, but do the ears? Does the chin? With the Reilly Method, I get a bunch of anchor points (imagine pins in a styrofoam head). The planes of the head are defined by arcs connecting the pins. As the face moves, the pins might move, but they move in relation to each other, and the arcs just stretch. Forget smiling, I can drop an anvil on the Reilly head, and I just have to scrunch the anchor points to draw the planes correctly.
I need to practice this more, and develop a Reilly Method that works for me. I’ll post more on it later.
I also watched some Proko videos on drawing the face. I love Stan Porkopenko’s videos. They are approachable without being simple. Here’s one on the nose.
Another thing I tried was to practice drawing straight lines. This is not about talent or anything – it’s simple muscle memory. The more I draw a straight line, the more I build the micro muscles and stabilizers required to draw a straight line. Drawing well is maybe like working out in the gym, you have to train your muscles, and strengthen them in order to be able to do what you want with them.
I obviously need to practice drawing a lot more. I enjoy it a lot, but not as much as I enjoy painting. One thing I have learned, drawing is absolutely necessary if I want to paint well. After all, what is painting but drawing with color and a brush?
I’m pretty excited for next Thursday, when I can start painting again.