I recently wrapped up my 10-week summer drawing course, and I’ll admit to cutting class on one day near the end. It was the day I did those summer landscape vignettes. I was enjoying my morning art time, until I turned the page and found myself looking at a few very detailed urban scenes. While I suppose that urban scenes or cityscapes as they’re sometimes called, are technically considered forms of landscape art, for me, they’re just not the sort of landscapes that I really want to do, especially not with graphite. So, I shrugged, decided I’d done enough for one morning, and put away my drawing supplies.
I felt a little guilty about it. After all, the whole point of this quick “drawing crash course” was to review a lot of techniques, revisit a lot of different types of drawing, and just do my best with what drawing skills I have. It was about letting go, having fun, and results be damned.
Even so, I just couldn’t bring myself to tackle those elaborate city scenes. A drawing like that deserves more than one of my quick 5-minutes sketches, but I wasn’t interested in spending more time on a scene I didn’t want to draw in the first place. I pushed my guilt aside. I would be more attentive the next day, I decided.
The final day of my course involved “Landscape Elements”, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Here, I was on familiar ground. I was comfortable. I felt much more at home as I sat down and began the first drawing of the day. I turned on Pandora to one of my “nature” stations, and simply settled in to my art time. I spent about fifteen minutes doing this sketch of a waterfall.
I was pleased with this. Despite still being a “quick study”, I captured the essential elements, I think, of what a waterfall is. Although the sky doesn’t show too clearly in this small image, I also created areas of light and dark to suggest a few clouds. I enjoyed “feeling my way” along as I created the rocky hillside, more or less trusting my intuition to tell me where lighter or darker areas might be, and occasionally changing the direction of my pencil strokes to give some illusion of texture.
Lesson learned today? Art can sometimes be challenging, especially when we’re working toward improving our techniques. Yet even while we practice, we can take steps to make our art time as enjoyable — and meaningful — as possible. Although it might help my skills if I were to push myself to do cityscapes and urban scenes or other subjects I don’t really like, I truly think I gain more benefit when I relax and turn my attention toward elements of art and genres that bring me a sense of comfort and well-being.
I am, first and foremost, a landscape artist. This is where I’m most at home. No matter how many times I wander off on other paths — still life drawing, portraits, figure drawing or other areas — I’ll always feel best when I can come home again to the landscapes I love. For me, this is how art should be.