My Sketchtember plans — a graphite drawing each day — have changed a little bit. My first plan was to follow along with a list of things-to-draw from The Virtual Instructor website. The second plan was to focus more on graphite landscapes, but I got side-tracked from that when I tried inking over the first one with those dip pens! Silly me. What was I thinking?
Now, my plan is to just sit down at my drawing table — which happens to be the same thing as our kitchen table, by the way — and spend at least thirty minutes learning and practicing my pencil skills each morning.
So, I turned on my Kindle, went back to Catherine V. Holmes and Drawing Dimensions: Shading Techniques. For the last few days I’ve worked on this drawing:
I call this my “75-Minute Eye” because that’s how long it took me to complete it. In a sense, though, it’s not truly complete; it’s simply finished. It’s not complete because according to Catherine Holmes, a drawing is only complete when the artist is happy with it. I’m not completely happy with it, but I am finished working on it. At this point I don’t think I would gain much by continuing with the drawing.
I probably should be very happy with this, as I think it’s the best — and most realistic-looking — human eye I’ve ever drawn, in graphite or any other medium. For comparison, here’s one of my early eyes. It was good for me at the time, but I can see that I’ve made a lot of progress since.
One thing hasn’t changed, though. I couldn’t do the lashes back then, and I still can’t do them today.
Why are eyelashes so difficult to draw? If you have an answer, please share! And if you have any tips on how to draw lashes better, please share those.
What I learned from this lesson, however, goes far beyond the shading techniques required for drawing a realistic-looking human eye. It was that very important lesson about slowing down and taking my time. I realized I had a lot of misconceptions about art, that I somehow believed that a real artist simply sat down with pencil and paper and created a detailed drawing in a matter of minutes.
So, maybe I’ve seen too many of those speed-drawing videos people love to post on YouTube. I know no one draws that fast, and there have been times when I’ve done drawings and have realized how enjoyable it is to get into that blissful, meditative state of mind while creating art. For me, though, that always seemed a bit like an exception rather than the rule. It’s always felt good when I’ve gotten into that state, but somehow I never fully understood how essential it is to good drawing.
Here are a few notes I made from the lesson:
- Creation of any detailed object takes time.
- There is no instant gratification, no quick completion.
- The process is a time-consuming one.
- The likeness develops over time.
- Detailed drawing requires layers of shading and keen observation.
I suppose those simple truths about graphite drawing should be obvious, and maybe they are — for most people. For someone like me, for whom drawing is a skill I’ve acquired only through long hours of practice, obvious truths aren’t always so obvious.
Thankfully, this lesson really helped me understand more of what good drawing involves and also helped me see how skewed my expectations have been. Drawing is a process. It does involve time.
Of course, yes, there are still times for drawing fast. Gesture drawings and quick sketches have a place in art, and certainly we’re not intended to spend hours on every drawing we make. But slowing down, taking time, and using the techniques we’ve learned will make us stronger artists and improve the drawings we make.
Except for eyelashes, maybe. Slowing down hasn’t seemed to help me there. So, I guess I’ll just have to do my best and keep practicing.