What to Draw: Lesson 2: Set your intention

To those who are practicing their loop-de-loops, bravo! I love you! To those who are not practicing loop-de-loops but are still reading this, I love you too, and will play Words With Friends with you later.

Putting marks down on a piece of clean white paper can be a scary thing at first, so you might pick a piece of lined notebook paper, or a piece of a brown paper bag, or a napkin with coffee rings on it, to start. It can be like finding your way blindfolded through a maze – exhilarating for some; inhibiting, frustrating and even frightening for others. So let me suggest some guidelines:

More warmup exercises

When you really get into a drawing, your breathing deepens, and you feel enclosed in a safe, warm bubble, no matter where you are. Yes, go ahead and say it, mindfulness. Yep. Whatever.

Some suggestions once you’ve warmed up with a few loop-de-loops:

  • Let your hand move like the divining piece on an Ouija board, allowing the pencil or pen to move where it may.
  • Trace a photo. (Check into copyright restrictions if you want to publish your drawing, but it’s okay for practice).
  • Do a contour drawing. Don’t take your eyes off the model while your pencil moves along the outlines. Look down only when you are finished and see a fabulously distorted picture!
  • Experiment with pressure – draw fat and thin lines.
  • Smudge pencil lines with your finger.
  • Tear up your drawing, then use glue stick to paste down the pieces in different ways on another piece of paper.
  • Try something else that you think of.

Set your intention

Let me just say that it is perfectly okay to continue to draw the way you draw right now. What makes you unhappy about the way you draw? Plenty of artists who draw people with large heads and small bodies are quite successful. Do you wish your drawing was more representational, or do you wish to tell a story with your drawings? Do you want to please people with drawings that are framed gifts? Important to identify your intentions, but also know that you can enjoy drawing for the meditative act itself, and that it need not represent (be a symbol for) anything at all. Try setting your intention to “discovery”, and see where it takes you.

Next installment of these lessons will be “What to Draw: Lesson 3: Body and Soul”.

What to draw: Lesson 1: Loop-de-loops

spring loops.jpeg

Often upon finding out that I am an artist, someone will say to me in an ingratiating tone, “I wish I knew how to draw”. This always has had a kind of false ring to me, because if they wanted to draw, why aren’t they drawing, or at least compulsively doodling? Drawing requires doing, and really, it’s not doing much compared to other forms of artistic exertion. All one needs is a pencil and the back of an envelope to get started. So what prevents people from drawing?

Here are my guesses as to why people don’t draw:

  • They think they have to make a masterwork the first time they draw.
  • They are afraid people will laugh at them.
  • They have to clean the house first.
  • They are busy making piles of money doing something else.
  • They really DON’T wish they knew how to draw.
  • They don’t know WHAT to draw.

Why drawing is good for you. Drawing connects your brain to your body. It’s a way of making your own personal discoveries about your world, and every time you make one of those discoveries, your brain gives your body permission to feel good.

The biggest problem I’ve seen beginning artists struggle with is not HOW to draw, as WHAT to draw. They will pick something unbelievably complicated, like a lawnmower, and can’t get past the oil cap, or try to draw a face without first imagining the feeling behind the skin and bone, or draw a cat and try to keep everything perfectly symmetrical. And this causes people to throw up their hands when they are about a minute into it and exclaim, “I can’t draw!”

loopy Ls.jpeg

Start by drawing loop-de-loops. I hear that cursive handwriting is no longer taught in schools. This is a shame, because the fundamentals of handwriting can be applied to drawing. When I learned how to make cursive letters, I was first taught just to practice loop-de-loops. This is a VERY GOOD THING, loop-de-loops, and everyone who aspires to draw should practice them. Big loops, little loops. This liberating exercise is very helpful in relaxing tension and connecting your hand with your brain.

Please tell me – what are YOUR excuses for not drawing?

Next installment of this thread will be “What to draw: Lesson 2: Set your intention”.