Then and Now

It’s always fun to time-hop a bit and look back at other times and places in our lives. For me, this is especially true when it comes to art. From the time I first began learning to draw — June 9, 2015 — through the present, I’ve made a habit of dating pages in my sketchbooks. Now, not every page has a date — sometimes I might work on more than a single page on a specific day — but as a rule, the first thing I do when I open my sketchbook is to write the date.

Yesterday I shared one of my very earliest drawings — a practice on learning to shade a sphere. It was fun to look back, and seeing that page in my sketchbook brought back a lot of memories. I can still tell you exactly when and where I made that drawing, I was sitting in the living room of our previous home. I’d just purchased the sketchbook earlier that morning, along with a cheap set of drawing pencils. The pencils had come with a little “how-to-draw” instruction book. That was where I saw the sphere and the guidelines for shading it. So, of course, I had to try it.

About 10 days later, I tried again, drawing not only a sphere, but several other basic shapes from that little instructional folder. The results weren’t good, really, but at the time I was quite pleased. I was proud that I was sticking with it, still doing a drawing lesson every day. I was surprised that I hadn’t given up.

As I look at my June 2015 practice now, I have to laugh a little. I have shadowed areas and reflected light in the wrong places, and if my shading techniques are bad now… well, just look at how awful they used to be!

On the left, are the three drawings I made yesterday as I finished up the “5 Tonal Studies” exercise. Yes, my cylinders are still leaning a bit, but I think my block turned out better than usual.

On the right, you can see my first attempt at drawing and shading various shapes, trying to turn them into three-dimensional forms. The little leaf/flower/clover — whatever it is — was just a doodle I added.

Two sketchbooks side-by-side. On the right is a page from June 2015. On the left is a page completed yesterday.

Yes, I still have a long way to go with shading techniques, but look at how far I’ve come already! I see a difference, don’t you? Best of all, I think, is that I’m starting to learn where the lights and shadows belong. I do know and understand those terms I shared yesterday. Maybe I can’t yet put all my knowledge to use, but just knowing the differences between general light and reflected light, as an example, is helping me improve not just my drawing ability but my overall understanding of how to create the illusions of form in my art.

I am making progress. On those days when I have my doubts, I can always grab an old sketchbook — I’ve saved them all — and look back at earlier drawings. Yes, I’ve come a long way. When I bought that first sketchbook, I truly expected to toss it aside after the first few days of drawing lessons. Now, here I am, more than six years later, still learning, and still loving my pursuit of art. There are frustrating days, to be sure, but I’m still proud of what I’ve done. I’ve accomplished far more than I ever expected. I plan to keep on going.


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