Feeling the Energy

In several previous posts I’ve mentioned Creative Bug, one of those arts and crafts websites featuring classes from different teachers. This is a subscription site, and I’m currently taking advantage of a two-month free trial. At the start, I didn’t think I’d find much of value at Creative Bug. It is definitely more geared toward “crafts” as opposed to “arts”, and as you well know, I am not a crafty person.

As it’s turned out, though, I am thoroughly enjoying my time at Creative Bug. Or maybe it’s just that I’m thoroughly enjoying my time with teacher Joy Ting. She has only one class at Creative Bug. It is a “Daily Practice” class using colored pencils and oil pastels. You’ve seen many of the pastel paintings I’ve done during this daily practice time, and you’ll be seeing more in upcoming posts. The class is called “Color Play” and that’s exactly what it’s all about.

NOTE: Joy Ting has now added a second “Color Play” class at Creative Bug. In this “daily practice” course, she uses watercolor and watercolor pencils.

Each morning soon after I’ve come to the studio, I get online for my daily practice. The class began with floral studies and then moved on to plants. Later we began doing landscapes, and I’m now working — no, playing — my way through a series of still life practices. Here’s a pair of drawings I made yesterday morning. On the left is a “mostly” blind contour drawing, and on the right is a contour drawing done while looking at my reference.

As you can see, these “daily practice” pieces are very simple, and therein lies the pleasure — and the beauty — of it, I think. No matter how many things I might have planned for my day, I can always find 5 minutes to sit down with my oil pastels and colored pencils to do my daily practice.

As simple as this all is, I feel that I’ve learned a lot from it. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that ideas in art don’t have to be fully-developed, that’s it’s all right to make quick little contour drawings like this, that sometimes all we need to do is get down the most basic elements of a plant, a flower, a mountain scene, or a still life.

Joy talks about “feeling the energy” as we’re drawing or painting. She often says to “be like a bug” crawling over the contours of a flower as we draw, and that’s a fun way to look at the drawing process. At first her advice about “feeling the energy” seemed to go right past me, but as I’ve continued with this daily practice I’ve come to understand what she’s talking about.

A lot of art isn’t about what we see. It’s about what we feel, and what we feel is a unique sort of energy that describes our relationship with our subject. We express that energy through the lines we make — sometimes thick, sometimes thin — through the colors we choose, through the way we suggest lights and shadows.

But none of it has to be detailed. Nothing has to be exact.

Through Joy’s daily practice class, I’ve learned that I don’t have to do everything! She demonstrated this idea during Sketchbook Revival 2022 when she showed us an elaborate bouquet of flowers and then suggested we “cut it down” into quarters. It was so much easier to draw a small portion of the bouquet than to focus on the overwhelming number of blooms in the entire vase.

In the same way, she encourages artists to cut landscape scenes down to size. Find what we love most about the scene and focus on that. She also advocates making changes, moving elements around, re-arranging rocks, trees, or anything else in the scene if that’s what we want to do. Don’t like that mountain back there? Fine. Don’t draw it.

During the first few days of this daily practice, I was definitely¬†trying too hard. I was thinking I was supposed to walk away with a completed drawing, something to show for my time. And then, I realized how little time I actually needed to spend on these lessons. Each video is short and sweet, most of them no more than seven or eight minutes long. That’s just time enough to get excited, to feel the energy, and then to quickly put that energy on the page.

So, right now, I’m sitting here eagerly anticipating my morning session with Joy Ting. I don’t know exactly what we’ll be drawing, but I do know that it will be fun.

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