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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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 ­čÖé 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.

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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Pink about it

Not many drawings to show from tonight’s Life Drawing session.

Arriving at the drawing session, I had on me my Kuretake No.8 brush, 2 Faber Castell Polychromos pencils and a pre-painted spread of a A5 sketchbook.

I’d decided to switch tools to give me that little nudge to move from the comfort zone again. Still, I allowed myself access to the coloured pencils which I am very comfortable with … so comfortable that I need to consider leaving them at home in future.

We had a few 10 minute poses, a “draw from memory pose” and ended with a “please exaggerate a part of the model” (let’s see if you can tell which one goes with that last pose call).

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Not a very exciting result tonight, but very relaxing and not in the least disappointing, if I say so myself.

Nude-less Nude Night (NlNN)

Just got back from … (you should know the rest by now) … Life Drawing Evening Class!

And … oh wonder of wonders … the model didn’t show up.
I mean … why go to Nude Classes and have no nude there?
I seriously considered taking my shirt off, but didn’t bother mentioning it.
(Thank the maker! I was embarassing enough tonight, without acting like the narcistic d**khead I obviously am.)

Still – even w/o me baring my chest – we had a very enjoyable evening drawing our mentor … who of course couldn’t come round and watch his fledglings’ attempts at sketching the human figure.

Three students were brave enough to climb the stage and stand their 15 minutes.

I had chosen the following weapons for tonight:

  • Lamy Safari “F” nib with Royal Blue ink
  • Seawhite of Brighton, A5 sketchbook (my “show-off” book)
  • preselection of Polychromos colour pencils (grey, 2 blues, red, magenta, green, flesh, pink)

And then the following pictures appeared one after another … any likeness with real living people is just coincidence.

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I had fun and I’m looking forward to this happening again soon … no nudes …

Loads of Life (LOL)

Well, just returned from Life Drawing Class. The semester has begun and new students have arrived … still, we are a bunch of oldies and outnumber the “noobs” 5 to 1.

I arrived back from Malaga (Southern Spain/Andalusia) last Tuesday and skipped Life Drawing … which was very painful for me, believe me. Because, this is the real deal, this act of drawing the nude figure in real life is just amazing. I’ve been making some really strange compositional life drawing attempts in the last few months and I’d like to share three of them here. (Tonight’s is last.)

If there’s anything I’d like to draw well, then it’s people and it feels like a task that will take a life time to master, if ever. May the path be full of plateaus and tedious hard work, but I must remind myself to stay on that path and be true to my intentions and passion.

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Addicted to Feedback

<pause>

I’m just pausing and reflecting on my behaviour with Internet driven art community networks.

Right at the top of my list of “ugly” behaviours was my obvious addiction to feedback. I was checking Facebook, Instagramm, Sktchy and my Sketchbookskool notifications in increasingly rapid intervals. There came a point where it just wasn’t fun any more, the first thing I’d do in the mornings would be to pick up my smartphone and check the number of “wow”s on Sktchy. That’s actually what made this behaviour so obvious to me and I’d ike to thank the Sktchy app for this precious lesson.

As a bit of input here, I’d read a bit of Danny Gregory’s “Shut your Monkey” and had already read half of George Leonard’s “Mastery” when I noticed the “feedback addiction”. So, I started wondering about what I was actually up to … with my drawing skills and my precious time. Is there really somebody out there I needed or wanted to impress? No.

So, for whom and what reason was I doing all this for?
Well … I had the reason right there … it had trickled into my head while reading Leonard’s book … “I needed no reason to increase my drawing skills, I should just do it, practice, practice, practice and have fun with it” … so, I can just enjoy the ride.
Again, to summarize: I was doing this for me and me only and I should enjoy the ride for the sake of the ride.

– Practice for the sake of practice
– commit to developing my skills
– be patient
– practice even if I see no obvious advance (and appreciate those plateaus)
– don’t mind looking foolish
– be in the moment

Leonard however does argument strongly for finding a very good teacher … I’m considering this … but haven’t taken the correct inital steps to ensure I find one.

Oh, well, but what would a blog post here be without a pic … so I’ve collected most of my Sktchy App pics and arranged them around the latest sketch I made on the back of a calendar (basically just scrap paper) … I must admit, I have also uploaded that pic to Sktchy because I’m hoping to win France’s book “Sketch!” …

[One of my next blog posts will be about gesture practice, I have collected a few thoughts on that.]

Some collected Sktchy App pics of mine
Some collected Sktchy App pics of mine

Beardless Comic Strips

Well, as mentioned, I’m on the next SBS Kourse: Polishing

The first week is “comic strips” with Danny Gregory.

Before the week began, I decided to shave off my beard and ‘stache. So you’ll see some newer self-portraits here.

I tried (and failed) to stay up all night to start Polishing as one of the first. So I started drawing my bedtime espresso and chocolate muffin. I also watched a video with Danny and drew him for about 30 minutes.

Most of these pics are in my A6 Hahnem├╝hle sketchbook with my Lamy Safari “F” nib and Lamy ink.

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late night espresso and muffin
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where’s my muffin?
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conversation comic strip
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My day as a comic
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Konrad-Adenauer-Br├╝cke
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ice cream truck (2 minutes)
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mirror image
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me, from photo
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view of Bonn’s skyline
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Danny Gregory

Complex Patterns

Week 6 of SBS Seeing Klass. Ended April 7th, 2016.

Actually, I believe — in retrospect — this may be where all the trouble began (I stopped my daily gesture drawing, I gave up drawing for hours a day, days passed without me drawing at all).

This Klass with Liz really shook me up … analyzing complex patterns seemed to be so tedious and basically impossible for me to manage.

We attempted to draw nicely patterned teacups (of which I have something ranging from zilch to “non at all”) with ink and then paint them with watercolour.

Additionally, we went out and drew some buildings.

I took on an extremely complex topic of drawing my rococo style mirror (I haven’t got many patterned things … or perhaps I’m not looking properly).

I also decided on filling my A6 Hahnem├╝hle sketchbook … taking watercolurs completely out of the equation (because of the paper in said book).

What I kept on noticing was that the non-analysis seemed to work better for me and I kept slipping into the well-known behaviour of just playing it by ear. My brain was refusing to compromise, denying myself to slow down, look, measure, compare. It was confusing and made me doubt myself.

But I have also been reading George Leonard’s book “Mastery”, where he describes that if you attempt to learn something new, you may perceive a drop in your skill level especially if you have been whiling away on a plateau for some time.

I’m slowing getting back into my daily gesture sketching, taking it in little steps. Perhaps only 20 minutes of 30 second gestures a day. I have also started drawing a slower sketch every day or two (I’ll drop a post here too with some of┬á those pictures soon).

So let’s not fret too much. This was the last week of Seeing and there was a lot to learn, so that I actually believe now that I should have taken a longer break before starting the next Klass … but I’m now on the Klass Polishing at SBS … some of that stuff coming up on a blog near you soon too.

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analysis of view from bedroom window
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View from bedroom window
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View from bedroom
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View from living room window, no analysis
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Patrick’s Duplo
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Cappuccino cup

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Teacup and mirror analysis
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Rococo mirror: analysis 1
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analysis 2
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after analysis
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Rococo mirror
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Mirror before any analysis
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Building opposite bakery
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Our house
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neighbour’s car