I’m not much of a planner, especially where art is concerned. I’m more of an impromptu, spur-of-the moment sort of artist, and I love the crazy challenges I can come up with by randomly choosing what to draw — and how to draw it.
For a while, “What shall I draw today” was an easy question. I was drawing apples. Every day. I quipped that “An apple a day” might not keep the doctor away but would definitely help me improve my drawing techniques. At least, as far as drawing apples.
This reminds me of one of my favorite comic book clips featuring the character “Tubby”. Can you believe we actually had “politically and socially incorrect” comics like this back in the 1950s? It’s a wonder my generation wasn’t emotionally scarred forever. Note: Please hear the facetiousness in my voice as you read this.
I loved Little Lulu and Tubby. As you can see, Tubby played the violin. Very badly, if we believe his weary violin teacher.
In one of my favorite stories, he visited the long-suffering teacher for his weekly lesson. After listening to Tubby for a moment, the music instructor grabbed a pillow, tore it open, and goose feathers flew everywhere.
Getting down on his knees, he instructed Tubby to do the same.
“Picking up feathers, one by one, is excellent exercise for strengthening the fingers,” he explained.
“Oh, I get it.” Tubby smiled. “For playing the violin.”
“No, no!” the instructor quickly replied. “For picking up feathers, one by one.”
It’s said that the best way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. It’s also said that “practice makes perfect”. Whoever said that wasn’t speaking of me and art. I’ll never achieve perfection, will never master any medium, and will never win any awards for my work. But practice does make me better.
At first, I practiced a lot of apples. I moved on and began drawing pears, too. I’m pretty good at them, actually, although this watercolor — the very first I ever did — doesn’t truly reflect my pear-drawing abilities.
Of course, there’s more to art than “still life” — a broad category that covers all my fruits. Over the last eight months, I’ve been introduced to portrait drawing, landscapes, and sketching animals, as well. I’ve recently started working on improving my ability to draw clothing, curtains, and folds in fabric, and while shopping at Barnes & Noble one afternoon, I found a wonderful book on drawing birds.
Instead of simply picking up feathers, uh, that is, drawing apples over and over, I challenged myself to keep practicing and improving my drawing skills with all the different subjects I’d tried. I made a little list:
- Apples and other “still life” settings
- Barns, bridges, and other buildings
- Clothing, curtains, drapery, and fabrics
- Landscape settings
Just for fun, I also made a list of the media I’ve learned to use.
- Pen and ink
- Colored pencils
- Oil Pastels
- Watercolor with colored pencils
For yet more fun, I listed the twelve colors of the traditional color wheel, and then I made a separate list of “color schemes” I’d like to try.
I arranged all of these random possibilities on a spreadsheet and called it “Random Art Assignments”. In addition to the online lessons I view each day at The Virtual Instructor, I like to tackle these “extra” projects as time allows. I don’t necessarily do one project a day, but as I complete one, I move on to the next.
What’s on the list for my newest art project? Don’t laugh, but it happens to be apples again, or at least some sort of still life. I’ll be doing it with a combination of colored pencils and watercolor — a mixed media technique I’ve enjoyed working with — and I’ll be using three colors in an analogous color scheme. Those colors will be yellow, yellow green, and green. Of course, I’ll be using a few neutrals as well. This randomly-chosen color scheme certainly would lend itself to a drawing of apples or maybe I’ll try bananas. Yes, that sounds fun. So be on the look-out for a banana colored pencil drawing to appear very soon.
It’s fun to look over my list and start daydreaming about the glorious works of art I’ll create. In my mind, they’re always glorious before I begin. In upcoming weeks, I’ll be trying my hand at an old barn done in graphite, a bird drawn with a set of tinted charcoal pencils, and then, using my gel pens, I’ll go all out with a clothed figure. Now, that’s going to be quite a challenge.
With my handy little list, I never have to wake up and wonder “What shall I draw today?” I know, though, that for more accomplished artists, that is sometimes a burning question. More experienced artists probably tire of doing the same subjects over and over and are probably looking for a more varied list of ideas.
Matt Fussell, my “virtual instructor” has just what you need. 101 Sketchbook Ideas. Or, you can check out 149 Sketchbook Ideas from the art department at Niskayuna School in New York. Another way to give yourself a daily dose of inspiration is with one of the many “sketchbook idea” books available.
Just as writers occasionally need a little “prompt” to kick their muse into action, so, too, can artists employ the same principle with one of these lists or books.
Now…off to my little studio to think about my next project. Luckily we do have a few bananas in the fruit bowl. If all goes well, you’ll be seeing them soon. Wish me luck.