Back On Track

What happened?

After nearly OD-ing on my regular diet of FB, I’ve now managed 12 days without Facebook and Instagram.

The first few days:

itching to look at FB, IG or even twitter … even considered reinstalling the Sktchy app.

To be honest with you and especially myself, I wasn’t actually missing other people’s posts, but I did get the urge to bring my USk books back up from where I banned them: the cellar. But I didn’t succumb to it.

To feed the “gobble gobble urge”, the first few days I watched a lot of videos by Michael Matessi and a few youtube videos on keeping a sketchbook. Ninja Sketchbooking. Or something like that. Not too much information there, actually. Certainly time consuming and certainly nothing to get addicted to.

I’ve been preparing this blog post now for days by taking notes on my phone, which – after about a week –  actually seemed to help quit the online habit. Just chatting with myself instead of putting “my shit” out there. (Which I am actually still doing by posting this, but there’s just you and me reading this.)

I considered starting some more obsessive drawing habits (additionally to my daily gesture drawing obsession):

  • Self portraits, daily
  • Drawing every day objects

I started with the self portraits but I actually ran out of motivation and enjoyed a few days watching Chinese films and reading Elmore Leonard novels.

On the weekend I treated myself to a “handmade” fountain pen (handle is turned from two different types of African wood and the nib is German made: Bock). I also bought a handmade sketch/notebook with Italian paper and used it all tonight at this weeks first life drawing event.

Loosing The Net

OK, I’m going to start an experiment.

I’m leaving The Net, well actually just the social network part of it. I’m going to count the days I don’t log in to my FB account, until I stop even thinking about it. The same goes for Instagram, I won’t be posting or looking at IG. (I already left Sktchy about a month ago and I made a few final tweets yesterday.)

I’m just drawing from real life currently, I want to be more productive and concentrate on my line making and watercolour skill set, do it for the sake of improving and do it for myself.

Here’s an example of one of todays 10 minute real life drawings. Hopefully this guy’ll get happier and happier and more and more productive day by day.

I guess I’ll be posting here about the experiences I make with this long term experiment.

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The Sweet Spot

There was a time when I drew once a week. I’d come back from my weekly Life Drawing Session, rush to my scanner and upload everything to my blog.

Since being the owner of a sexy smartphone with permanent access to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, and basically drawing daily, the blog posts have become less and less.

However, I’ve been down in the dumps lately. I’ve been dependent on too many outside influences and have been negligent of my own feelings and goals. On top of that, I’ve lately spent a few hours raiding the last remnants of my previous 3 years of drawing and painting. I’ve done away with about 80% of that stuff now, but it left me feeling like the past three years hadn’t made much of a difference.

This feeling of frustration had been growing in me for some time and may have helped me to move to a different style which seems to be keeping me from being too tidy but also from being too sloppy. I actually think I may have reached a temporary sweet spot. I’m not sure if I want to stay in this very spot, but it’s allowing me to break out of my usual line making activity and I’m additionally no longer afraid of painting before drawing.

I look, I paint and then I hold a coloured pencil pretty firmly and draw very focused but fiercely, making unforgivable lines and curves.

I used it just now at Life Drawing and this is what came out.

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Days of Doubt

I’ve just finished a 30 day challenge of drawing at least one portrait per day and now that the emails are no longer arriving, I’m feeling a bit lost. Additionally, I’ve had one or many bad head colds the last 4 weeks.

Whatever, I’d started to doubt myself the last 24 hours, asking whether I actually know where I’m going with this and if there is any progress I have achieved (“What?” Yeah, that’s doubt for you).

Anyhow, I was on a business trip yesterday, spent hours at airports and in planes and in retrospect, the time seemingly flashed by  in minutes because I was sketching people most of the time. Just sketching, nothing rendered in great detail. And I find myself asking myself where all that time had gone (I was on a 15 hour trip). And, “was it used sensibly?” I can’t find a simple answer to that question yet.

I’m quite sure I should be doing more to increase my skill set, because it seems like I’m using  a lot of my precious time, just sketching and not drawing or painting. I still haven’t sat down to practice any anatomy, although I have started collecting female body builder pictures on pinterest, because that’s something I picked up somewhere on the net, I think while reading up how to study with George Bridgman’s study notes. Which is also something I never considered looking into. I just found the link again, after searching for “bridgman alcoholic stick” (would you believe it?). You could also try “Studying Bridgman properly”.

There is a three step study recommendation:

  1. understand the text as well as possible
  2. make a tonal study of Bridgman’s sketch
  3. find a photo reference covering the studied area of the body and copy from the reference using your newly learnt knowledge (the recommendation is to use female body builders because they are lean and the muscles stand out)

Just need to do it …

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contour lines, paint, then crosshatching
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crosshatching then paint
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Flight home
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30 second gestures

The Art of Practice

I had an interesting conversation a short time ago while I was in Barcelona on an Urban Sketching workshop. I’d asked my host if anything had surprised her about me, because we had only met and chatted for 5 minutes in December the previous year.

She said, yes, there had been one thing: I’d mentioned to her during our online chats that I get up at 6am and practice gesture drawing for 30 minutes, make breakfast, and then continue the practice for a further 20 minutes. But what surprised her was that I really do what I say.

I guess we’ve all been there at one time or another, telling ourselves we practice or sketch regularly, but are we being honest to ourselves, are we really keeping to our planned routine? I noticed, half a year ago that I was giving myself a lot of slack, not keeping to my envisioned schedules, so I changed my routine and my setup at home to make it as easy and comfortable as possible to just get up and practice, and it seems to be working (even worked for a week in Barcelona).

However, the invested time and regularity of practice is just part of my way to achieving my goals.

Mindfulness is a further important part. I have to be completely present in that very moment. I have to understand or try my hardest to understand what I am doing then and there.

Gesture drawing is about a few lines and shapes that must tell a clean story. What story is the pose telling me? Which lines and shapes can be used? Where is the rhythm? How can the rhythm be tamed, accentuated, put to work for telling the story?

I have the first volume of Walt Stanfield’s Drawn To Life, which is a collection of evening session life drawing handouts and quite hard to read actually. Anyhow, I’ve been chewing myself through it and what I’ve taken out of it is a nagging, self-criticizing voice which keeps asking me what Walt would do with this pose and whether my result would please him or not. I have decided to tell myself, my gesture drawings would not please Walt, but if I put some more effort into them, they may do one day.

I believe this to be a good approach, giving in to the idea that I can’t please the teacher, but I can work harder at improving.

That has helped me understand one of the psychologies behind me posting on Facebook, Instagram and Sktchy: I’m fishing for compliments because it helps me become complacent and feel comfortable at my current skill set. Ok, I don’t want to be too hard on myself, but I think I’m going to have to consider posting on FB and IG (and perhaps even Sktchy) only when I believe I have met a milestone in my progress and even ask explicitly for feedback.

This is also coming from an experience I made on Sktchy a week or two back. I asked for critique and got some. I took it to heart and I believe it moved me on another few inches on this never ending path to mastery.

For more information on the path to mastery, take a look at George Leonard’s book “Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment”. I believe it is legally available online in digital form.

A Sketcher’s Traveling Kit

I left for a short (4 day) trip to India 2 weeks ago and got back last Friday.

As usual, it wasn’t easy deciding what to take with me. The correct number of shirts, pairs of pants, socks, toothbrush and co. were obviously not the issue. The real pain points were of course: which art supplies shall I take with me?

It will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I packed too much. Yes, too much, as most of us probably do. But I think some art friends will be surprised in a moment how little I took and still see me planning to reduce it on future trips.

I’ll start out with what I took along, I’ll add a photo of it later. Then I’ll let you know what I’ll take along in future.

  • Lamy Safari fountain pen (F nib) prefilled with De Atramentis black ink
  • empty Lamy Safari (M-nib), with one unopened purple ink cartridge
  • Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard nib)
  • a Kolinsky paintbrush, size 8
  • two containers for water
  • a nib and nib holder
  • a pot of India ink
  • reduced set of 6 coloured pencils (Polychromos)
  • one unused(!) water colour sketchbook (heavy paper)
  • one Moleskine A5 diary (half full)
  • pencil, kneadable eraser, pencil sharpener, pen knife
  • Schmincke watercolour tin for 12 pans (filled with 10)
  • a small Koi waterbrush
  • a sleeve ripped off an old t-shirt
  • a book with reference photos of figures, to practice drawing at night

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So, what will I take along in future, based on what I used of the above?

  • a Moleskine diary
  • the magical Tombow Calligraphy pen (hard)
  • the small Koi waterbrush
  • ripped off sleeve of a t-shirt (wraps wonderfully around thumb and wrist)
  • tin of 10-12 watercolours
  • pencil (optional), kneadable eraser (doubly optional)

Wow, that’s pretty simple. That’s basically nothing.
But those were the tools I pulled out all the time.

  • while waiting for the planes arrival at departure
  • while on the flight to India
  • while waiting in the hotel’s lobby
  • while at the breakfast table
  • while watching my colleagues play cricket
  • while practicing poses in the hotel room
  • while practicing drawing lines when the colleagues were bowling

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And what did I sketch while I was on my trip?

Ok, there’s one in there with coloured pencils, perhaps I’ll slip the reduced coloured pencils set in too. The pencil case is soooo sweet 🙂 But that’s it! … I promise … I feel myself wanting to add a real paintbrush and a container for water. But if I want to whip the tools out in seconds, and also pack them away as quickly as possible … then they can’t come on the trip with me.

5 hours a day

Wow, what a Sunday!

Before breakfast, I was already on quickposes.com and practicing “30 second feet” and faces.

Directly after breakfast, I broke out the Sktchy.com iOS app and ran a few quick portraits on a paper bag from the bakery. Copic pens got a short act in there too.

1 pm took us into town, where we visited a vernissage of Kurdish women in Bonn’s Frauenmuseum (http://www.frauenmuseum.de/). Once there, I was excited to find that it was quite easy for me to just reach for my fountain pen, small A6 Moleskine journal and 4 colour pencils to indulge myself in a selfish act of drawing. Later I had small chats with some of the Kurdish ladies and their children.

Once home and after some tea, knowing that my wife would be out for a night of dancing (Tango Argentino), I started working through my Sktchy app photo queue. Still working with the 4 colour pencils, Lamy and A6 Moleskine cahier journal.

All told, I believe I clocked 5 hours of drawing today. Something I haven’t done for a long time, but I believe I covered some important areas: practice, fun and project. Hopefully to be repeated fairly soon.

Here is most of what I drew today.

I Love to Draw

I hope you can tell that I love to draw.

Nevertheless, somethings haven’t been going well lately. The gesture practice is feeling like a chore. I’ve been experiencing a lot of laggardness, something has been dragging me down. But I haven’t given in completely to this wintery feeling.

I’ve added bananas and scratched alcohol from my diet (I wonder how long that will last). Things are looking rosy again … and so we come to the main object of this post …

Just returned from Life Drawing Evening Class. It’s so nice to go out of the house with an absolute minimum of tools on you, giving yourself the exercise to just “do with what you have on you”. Tonight those were:

  • my white Lamy Safari (F nib) fully loaded with black deAtramentis ink
  • an A5 Sillman&Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook (still not full)
  • a Tombow Fundenosuke twin tip pen (black tip empty)
  • a pink Faber Castell Polychromos

We had some lovely 5, 10 and 15 minute poses and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, getting lost in that drawing zone I cherish so much.

I tried that out last night too (i.e. finding the zone) (unsuccessfully, I must admit) and re-installed the sktchy app on my phone for the umpteenth time. This time, I concentrated on some of my favourite artists’ portraits and sketched on anything I could find, ranging from paper plates to paper bags.

(Before I leave you with the pictures of the last two nights, please note that you can leave a comment in this wordpress theme (Sketch) if you click the title of the post you’d like to comment on and scroll to the bottom of that post. You probably don’t want to, but just in case. Perhaps you have a tip or a question.)

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Coping with Copics

Just returned from Life Drawing.

Tonight, I took along the few Copics I have. I am sometimes ready to accept the challenge of a new medium. I have two pink, one black and a grey Copic. These are alcohol based Japanese Manga pens with a dual chisel and brush tip. They are probably best on a nice smooth surface — of which I have none. There weren’t many poses tonight, we got a lengthy lecture on portrait drawing and it was freezing cold, so the poses were pretty short (10 minutes) and the breaks long. I was surprised to see how the Copics mix and smudge and my fellow Life Drawing students were quite intrigued about the effect and the pens as such. I think I’m going to give them another try when I go out drawing tomorrow night.

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Been doing a lot of inking lately …

Before I start, first things first … a warm welcome to you, my treasured follower!

I started this blog 2 years ago and uploaded every single picture, sketch, watercolour and gesture drawing I made. There weren’t many, I wasn’t drawing every day and I wasn’t drawing up to 4 hours a day back then. Nowadays, I try not to draw for 4 hours a day, but I must admit, this Sunday is coming close to 4. Although, I can strongly recommend putting in that much time if you are really serious about improving your skill set, you still must be warned that it should not all be practice. The practice needs to be counter-balanced with project, fun and study work.

I’m saying this because I’ve been on a downer lately and I believe it to be because I have not been balancing out my practice with some nice and easy fun assignments. I think I may have managed to maneuver my way out of it, but there still seems to be one ingredient missing … project work.

So, what have I been doing for practice? Basically, gesture drawing (here is something I wrote about it: https://wordslye.com/2016/07/18/gesture-drawing-and-opinion/)

I am adding a picture or two for each “stream”, down below.

What have I been doing for fun? I’ve been out on Wednesday evenings with a group of like-minded sketchers, visiting museums and I’ve been to see Roman art on Sundays, sometimes on my own, sometimes accompanied by a sketcher or two.

What’s been study work? Well, I’ve been reading up on things (Walt Stanchfield’s “Drawn to Life, vol.1” and Robert Beverly Hale’s “Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters”). I must admit, I could be doing more there. And, of course I go to Life Drawing evenings every Tuesday, I guess I classify that as fun, but it “should” be study.

The missing ingredient project is actually possibly about to take off, because I’ve got interested in the competition that quickposes[dot]com is staging. It means, I will have to make up a nice scene from childhood with figures, story, action and whatnot. I’ve got a number of thumbnails on the go.

In summary, don’t just practice, and likewise don’t just try to have fun, find a good balance between fun, practice, study and project work (perhaps even take your sister up on that request to draw her dog or cat).

To finish off, here a selection of my Oktober[sic.] inks.

Fun:

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Project?

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Study:

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Practice:

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