A Few New Do’s and Don’t’s

How, precisely, does one spell “don’t’s”? I don’t know, but I’m not going to worry about it. See? My new attitude is kicking in, and if I make a few mistakes here and there, the world isn’t going to come crashing down.

As I went back to my drawing board and easel yesterday, I did so with a new mindset. It’s all about IMAGINATION this year, and that means freedom, adventure, and lots of fun. It means forgetting about limits and boundaries, breaking rules, and … well, let’s back up just a minute here.

For artists like me who are still learning the basics and still trying to figure out the process of creating art, rules aren’t really such a bad thing to have. Especially when we see them as guidelines.  I need guidelines. I need some sense of boundaries, some awareness of how far I really can go before I’ve gone way too far off the deep end.

While I was painting yesterday, you see, I suddenly realized how easily my new attitude could be exploited and how dangerous it might be for me to go running amok with a paintbrush in my hand. Giving myself creative freedom doesn’t absolve me from all responsibilities where learning art is concerned. It doesn’t excuse me from putting in the work required to improve my skills and abilities. It doesn’t mean that I can just do whatever I want and call it art. Oh, I could do that, all right, but would it really be art? Probably not.

I had to stop, take a few steps back from my easel, and think a bit about what having a creative, playful, and imaginative attitude really means.

First, there are a lot of things on the “Don’t Do” list:

  • I don’t want to get careless about my art supplies. I need to be conscientious about cleaning my brushes, keeping my palette clean, and doing my best to stay organized.
  • I don’t want to ever “give up” on a drawing or painting assignment. Being playful and having fun doesn’t allow me to put forth minimal effort and expect good results. Although there may be times when I have to take a playful, ridiculous approach in order to push myself through a challenging assignment, I can’t simply give up without at least trying.
  • I don’t want to apologize for my art. A lot of what I draw and paint this year will not be good, and that’s all right.
  • I don’t want to get stuck in one genre or one medium. Even though I’ll probably do a lot of landscape painting — my first love — I’m going to be brave and bold in trying still life painting and portraits. I’m going to spend more time playing around with watercolors, colored pencils, and pastels.

What about the “Do” list?

  • I want to let go of negative attitudes and just jump right in to new projects. That doesn’t mean being deliberately careless or not taking a learning assignment seriously, but it does mean not letting myself be held back by doubts, fears, and uncertainties.
  • I want to accept my mistakes and use them as learning experiences. When I see what I’m doing wrong, I can look for ways to do that thing better.
  • I want to try a lot of new techniques. I’m horrible painting with a palette knife, and the reason I know that is because I tried it. I won’t be good at everything I try, and I won’t always like the results I come away with, but who knows! Maybe I’ll discover some little tips, tricks, and techniques that I actually am good at. If not, I’ll at least know what not to do next time.
  • I want to focus on being who I am and doing what I can do. We all know it’s unwise to compare ourselves to others, and I want to embrace that concept fully this year. I’m going to create my art in my way, and once in a while maybe I’ll come up with something I really like.

After doing a bit of painting, I grabbed a sheet of drawing paper and prepared for a little “assignment”. I recently read an article about doing still life drawings and paintings, and one of the most important suggestions was to spend more time practicing without reference photos. In other words, spend that time drawing from life instead.

I shudder at the thought. I’m not good at drawing from life. But, in keeping with my new “Do it but have fun doing it” approach, I shrugged and said “OK.” But what could I draw? I was getting ready to fix dinner, so I grabbed the fresh tomato I had sitting out for our salad.

I put it on the table then looked around for my drawing pencils. Oh, why bother? The idea is to just have a little fun learning to look at objects. A pen was within reach, so I picked it up, and I took a look at that tomato.

It’s not about making a perfect drawing of the tomato, I reminded myself. It’s about looking at it and seeing what I can see. So, I looked, and I drew. The idea was simply to quickly capture the basic idea of a tomato.

Basic Tomato (2)
Just your basic tomato.

In the past, I would have fretted about this. I would have tried to get everything right, and I would have grown quite frustrated with it.

Instead, I focused on the purpose instead of the results. The purpose in doing this little drawing practice was, again, to learn to look at what I’m drawing, to notice things like little places where the light was reflected, places where the color was deeper, the general shape and form of the object.

You can’t really tell from the photo of the drawing, but I left a few little places where there were highlights, and I used a few more lines in places that weren’t getting quite so much light. And I had fun doing this.

I learned a lot from this 2-minute drawing of a tomato. I learned that I can pick up a pencil or pen and quickly capture the basic form of an object. I learned that I can see highlights and shadows and that I can think about ways to show those things in my drawing.

It’s just a tomato. But I sure learned a lot from it. And, yes, it was quite tasty.



  1. You are right. While your drawing did not resemble the actual image you were working on, the purpose of your study is more important, and as you said, it was about practicing your eye to pick up details like light and shadow and general shapes, which would be very helpful once you get to actually working on a piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really learning to see in new ways, and sometimes I actually talk out loud to myself (or take notes) describing the lights and shadows I see. It really helps me. It makes me focus more on what I’m seeing.

      Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s