Recently my art time has been devoted to drawing. I consider drawing a foundational skill for all other art. I’m sure that as my drawing ability improves, my oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels will get better, too.
And when I talk about spending time drawing each day, I’m talking about really spending time at it. Where I used to sit down and do a bit of drawing for 15 or 20 minutes each morning — as a warm-up — I’m now spending at least an hour, if not more, at my drawing table. I’ve worked a lot on graphite drawing, I’ve practiced shading methods and techniques, and I’ve done a lot of pen-and-ink drawings in anticipation of Inktober, which is right around the corner.
So, when I opened the mailbox this morning, found the latest issue of Artist magazine and saw DRAW NOW, Get Started, Keep Going, Get Better I smiled. It felt good to be ahead of the game for once.
The article gives good advice on how to make drawing a part of our daily routine, how to accurately measure our progress, how to learn from the drawings we make, and how to motivate ourselves to keep going. As the author, Danny Gregory, says, “…if you don’t want to practice, you won’t.”
I’m glad I enjoy my practice time. I look forward to it each morning, and whenever possible, I like to steal a few minutes away in the afternoon so I can return to my drawing table, if only to look back at my sketchbook and the exercises I’ve done.
The article includes a sidebar with a “Note To Self” and that note is too good not to share.
NOTE TO SELF
Write these three facts on the inside cover of your sketchbook. Now. I’m not kidding.
Never compare yourself to other artists. Don’t judge your first drawing by their reproductions in a coffee table blook. Let their progress inspire, but not intimidate you. Compare you to you. That’s all that counts.
You’re making more progress that you think. You may not see it, but it’s happening with every page. Guaranteed.
Everyone struggles at the beginning. Check out early van Gogh drawings. Awful. Struggle is normal, inevitable — and a positive sign that you’re working through things. Your early drawings are zero indication of what you’ll achieve in time. Zero.
From: Kick Off a Drawing Practice by Danny Gregory, November 2019 Artist magazine
To those three statements, I’d like to add a fourth: It’s all right to mess something up.
I did that this morning, you see. I had a drawing in my sketchbook that was coming along nicely, but maybe I needed to change this… just a little. I did, and it proved to be the wrong thing to do. It’s an ink drawing, so I can’t erase and do it over. All I could do was shrug and think, “Well, nope, that didn’t work.”
I’m learning a lot about things that don’t work as well as things that do work, and I’m understanding that it’s good to try different things during my practice time. That’s what the time is for. It’s not about creating perfect, finished drawings. It’s about using different techniques, figuring out what’s most comfortable for me, what feels most natural. My practice time is about making mistakes, drawing ugly pictures, and sometimes messing things up.
Since I’ve just started a new sketchbook, the timing of this note to self couldn’t be better. I’m making a copy of it, cutting it out, and pasting it in my new sketchbook, and I plan to read it each morning when I sit down to draw. I know it will be a helpful reminder.
I hope you find it helpful, too.
QUICK UPDATE: There… doesn’t this look nice!