Sunday, November 20, 2016

Back in the Saddle in a New Direction

My attempt at a lesson in Carla Sondheim's book, Drawing Lab.

Hello again! I must confess, it has been about 4 months since my last post, and I have no good excuse. I remember the usual oppressive heat of summer making me lazy and my health just being blahhhh. I took another downward turn with my Arthurs. They've been causing me a lot of grief ever since, in my hands, back, neck, shoulders. Then, during election season, I took a little longer break as it was so contentious (my Facebook timeline is just as bare) and I pretty much shut down as to sharing anything.

But I have not taken a break from art. My rheumatology physical therapist told me that I needed to work my fingers, especially my pincer grip. She knew I was a long time paper collage card maker and that I felt I could no longer make them (get the layers made and put on straight, etc.). She also knew my struggle with the deadlines. She also knew about how lost and melancholy it made me feel not to have an art niche anymore. I was gluebooking and So she suggested drawing, sketching, painting - just for fun. At first, I was like, no I can't draw, are you kidding me? I mean, I have drawn a few decent things in my life, but I always felt like I just got lucky with them. Then she said, LEARN.  Well, lol, I couldn't argue with that so I said okay and left, but wasn't convinced.

I looked into it and discovered for many artists it is simply PRACTICE. Over and over and over. At first, I spent several weeks sketching objects in my house, from photos, etc., always keeping it very simple. I didn't suck at it, and that made me feel better, but I realized that the sketch journal books I own seemed too advanced. I even considered taking an online class. Then I realized I did have one book that might help me: Carla Sondheim's Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun . All fun, no pressure. So, I've been working my way through it, and it does make drawing fun - ha! It's not a formal training by far, but as I took basic college art classes back in the day, what I learned formally I still remember for the most part, if rustily.

 I have also learned some important things through trial and error that have and do help me now that I've been drawing for a few months. I will share them in case they might work for others:

1. The biggest key to learning to draw is to BUILD CONFIDENCE that I can, in fact, draw, by choosing safe subjects ("I know I can draw this") and then throwing in at intervals some risk ("I don't think I can draw this"). Here's one of my safe ones, to which I did add some risk by using a pen - no safety net, but it was only because I was pretty sure I could do it, lol:

And here's one of my risks. You can see it is quite far from perfect (I have always been afraid of anything spherical), but I went with a loose, sloppy sketchery style and I like it a lot! I used a Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen - the very same pen as Jane Davenport's Epic pen. It really IS epic, just holding it loosens up your wrist. HIGHLY recommended.
Colored with J. Herbin fountain pen inks Gris Nuage and Café des Iles.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE and QUICK. Don't take on a subject that will take me days to draw (and I did just that a few times and learned it was wise advice). Choose to draw something every day that takes only 15-30 minutes. This helps build it into a habit (and builds confidence). What also helps is a smaller canvas for drawing -- I would be working against myself if I were trying to fill a 9x12" page every day, because that takes more time...and my finger joints dictate otherwise! My daily quick sketch journal is 4x5". I made it by cutting a 9x6" wire bound bought one in half and decorated the cover:

How I made my Quik Sketch Journal.

3. PRACTICE is the means and the end: Do not look at what you are drawing as a finished product in the making. I do scan and save every sketch. This actually helps, when the Finished Product Monster in my head rears it's ugly puss. I know I can always print out what I've sketched / drawn (I use these words interchangeably) on better paper for a finished product, just not right now. Or, I tell myself increasingly more, I can always re-draw it. More confidence builds more confidence.

An example of what not to do at first.  It took me a week to finish and messed up my daily simple and quick thing. Now that's it's done, I love it, but while it was ongoing I realized I had bit off more than I could chew.
Following these 3 rules, I have been able to succeed! Success is not measured by what my drawing looks like, day to day. It's measured by how, now, I'm jazzed to draw every day. I feel confident enough to do it...and to TAKE THE RISK, because there is no downside because I'm JUST PRACTICING. Is my goal to become a famous or well-regarded sketch artist? NO. My goal is to become better than I was, to get to DECENT. And to find pleasure in drawing instead of anxiety. That's it. I've always felt that I have some talent but that it wasn't quite enough to get to decent, and that's that. Now I know that my mistake was thinking you are either talented enough or not. No, if you practice, you get better. You develop the skills that make up the talent.

I will leave you with a never-before-shared card I made for a special loved one's birthday back in 2014. It's not a Thanksgiving Day card (I have not made one of those since 2011 and showed them already on the blog), but it does feature a cousin to a turkey:

Supplies: Clear Dollar stamp, Tim Holtz Rays stencil, distress inks, Pink Paislee Old School paper

Hope you have an Arty-Lectable Day!

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