Do You Mind?

Watercolour studies

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

With a newfound confidence I don’t recognise in myself, I’m thrilled to be a beginner again.  Impatient as I am, I think I should dive deeper into the dark and dirty world of charcoal, although I have the taste for colour.  I want to explore ideas, practice techniques and push boundaries before my developing knowledge, skills and mind-set prevent me from doing so.  Just as I did in these early watercolour studies before I knew any better.

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Dusted and Done

…and with a few waves of the hand the offending sketch had gone.  Magic!

Charcoal is a wonderful medium for learning to draw: it’s relatively inexpensive; you don’t have to start with a blank white page; you can draw with both charcoal and erasers; and willow charcoal can be easily wiped away.  You and your work area will get dusty, but that’s half the fun.  I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to appreciate it.

If you’re beyond outlines and ready to tackle light and shadow I can recommend Clara Lieu’s YouTube series on drawing a charcoal portrait to get you started, no matter your subject; read my review here.

If my internet connection hadn’t failed on both the evening I finished and the following morning, I would have left my own charcoal still-life alone.  The unusual disruption gave me pause to crit (and continue) my drawing for the Art Prof’s October Art Dare: Superstition, by adding my hand.

 

I love the tradition of superstitions, and “touch wood” is one my family often uses to repel fate or bad luck.  There are a couple of clues to this hidden in my composition; can you spot them?  Answers on a postcard…

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Daring Myself

Touch Wood 1

Four things I’ve learned this week:

  • Tweaking your still life is a form of procrastination, or a sign that something isn’t quite right.
  • Willow charcoal is very forgiving; you can dust away an hour’s worth of drawing as if it never happened.
  • When lightbulbs fail to make the right impression, natural light can be your (and your still-life’s) saviour.
  • Charcoal pencils and eraser pencils are great neighbours, and fantastic for capturing counterchange*.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started (and erased) my still-life drawing for the Art Prof October Art Dare: Superstition.  With the arrangement I’d set-up, I decided charcoal was probably the worst medium I could have chosen, and was so fed up with it I started to dismantle simplify it yesterday.  But I’d already wasted spent enough time tweaking my still life and wasn’t prepared to give in.

With a simpler set-up, and the afternoon daylight settling over my still-life (and no specs to blur things a little), today I made progress that’s worth celebrating!

*counterchange  (noun),  patterning in which a dark motif on a light ground alternates with the same motif light on a dark ground

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The Daily Sketch (3)

Developing a regular drawing habit has taught me a few things.  For one, I was under the illusion that my drawing ability was more advanced than it actually is.  Not particularly surprising as, over the years, I’ve practiced drawing sporadically.  I’ve also become so comfortable with life-drawing I find other subjects difficult.  Until recently, I didn’t even know how to begin a drawing.  There was no set process, I just played about making the odd mark, then I was on my way.  Each drawing just seemed to evolve.

As I’m now re-learning to draw, I’m also learning to accept I won’t always like what appears on the page in front of me.  If you’ve noticed a gap between where you currently are, and where you think you should be, here are some suggestions to reframe your view…

Focus on the tactile quality of your drawing medium.  If you’re feeling apprehensive about the outcome of a sketch, concentrate on what it feels like to handle your choice of medium, or make marks on your paper, instead.

Don’t judge your drawings; look at them with an objective eye.  Muse over what you’re learning (from the medium, your technique, the subject…) and decide how you want to approach your next drawing.  What would you repeat or do differently?

If you’re anxious about drawing, either complete it as early as you can, or promise yourself a treat when you’re done.

Add a smiley face to your calendar after every drawing session.  You turned up to the page, and that’s just as important as the accuracy of the lines you just drew.  There are many ways to record your progress; I chose smiley faces, and they’ve helped me draw daily for a whole month!

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The Daily Sketch (2)

Regardless of your drawing experience or ability, daily drawing is an undemanding way to build creative confidence and develop muscle memory.  Last week I shared three tips that helped me to begin drawing daily.  If the blank white page leaves you with stage fright, try a different approach with these three suggestions:

Decide what you want to achieve with each drawing.  Trying to capture everything in one drawing might leave you feeling overwhelmed.  So focus on one aspect of your subject, or just use it as a means to explore your media.

Plan your drawing before you begin.  Are you going to do a detailed study of a small area or attempt the full caboodle?  The negative space around or between objects can be just as interesting as the subject itself.  And, if your drawing is quite detailed you may prefer to…

Complete your drawings over several sessions.  Don’t feel you have to attempt a new one every day.  Even simple sketches can be built up over several sessions.  Giving yourself and your drawings breathing space lets you reflect on your progress, and helps you minimise overwork.

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