So here in England, we're in a 2nd lockdown which of course means everyone is mostly working from home or at least experiencing a limited life as most businesses are closed again which is frustrating but necessary if we want the virus to ease off.
Maybe you're a student and you're at school but the things you wanted to do this year are cancelled because of the coronavirus or maybe you're like me and you're trying to make a living working from home because you have no other way to make a living because of the pandemic. Or maybe you're feeling stuck or bored in your situation and just need to try something different and get your creative juices flowing......whatever situation you are in, I hope this helps you in some way in your life.
I know how very challenging it is trying to find inspiration and motivation at the best of times and how it's even more challenging trying to get going during pandemic times so I want to try to help if I can. Anyone can do this.....you don't need to already be an artist or art student. This is for everyone.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post, that anyone can learn to draw, and I meant it because it's true and I'm going to start you off, but you need to follow these instructions first:
- Turn your inner critic off (no negativity is allowed)
- Have you got a pencil or a pen?
- Any paper will do
- Remove yourself from others who may try to criticize you in this process
- Find a photograph you like that has you or someone you like in it
- Make sure your photograph has space around the subject
- Be open to meditation and mindfulness exercises
- Allow yourself time (you can't rush this)
#1 Now that you are ready, I want you to learn to "see".....because in order to draw you must learn to first really see what you are looking at. This is a mindfulness exercise and will take a few moments to understand so please don't rush this step. Learning to "see" should be a slow process and can't be done if you are impatient. Really look at your photo, look at who is in it and what surrounds your subject. Notice every single tiny detail and texture and shadow and light and colour.
*Note: "Seeing" is not "knowing".....when you look at a person's face, for instance, you know what a nose looks like because you've seen noses and have known about noses all your life so when asked to say "see" a nose, your brain will say, "not a problem, I know noses!".....but this is where I say, turn off your "knowing" mindset that's quick to identify and turn on your eyes and as if your eyes are lasers that can zoom in and really see every crease, every line, every shadow, every detail....this is what I mean by "seeing".
#2 So now, on your paper, draw out (maybe using a ruler) the rough size of your photo. You could even trace around a printed photo if you like.
So for instance, I've chosen a photo of myself walking in the countryside here in Hertfordshire - I've drawn onto a piece of paper the size I think my photo is (I guessed and didn't measure it - just eyeballing it is okay). I used a ruler to keep my lines straight though. Now that I've done this, I have a rectangle on my paper that represents my photo.
#3 So now I want to draw my photo but I want to make it really easy so I'm going to help myself out by folding my photo (I printed it on printer paper) in half so that I now have a vertical fold in the middle of my photo.
So I'm going to place my printed photo into my drawn rectangle and fold it in half, as I did before, so that I can draw the exact place in my rectangle where I made the fold. Because I want to make it super easy for myself, I'm also going to fold my photo from top to bottom so that now there's a horizontal line running from left to right which I'm also going to put in my rectangle on my paper. Now these folds and my drawn lines are a sort of scaffolding to help me put everything in the photo where it needs to be in my drawing.
*Note: the biggest struggle people have when drawing from a photo is that they rarely take time to really look at their subject before even starting a drawing and they don't consider creating a scaffolding to help them perfectly and accurately place their subject onto their paper so that it reflects what they took time to "see". This is what I'm hoping to show you here.
#4 Once you've got your scaffolding up, now you can put the elements of your drawing together, one portion at a time.....first by understanding and putting in your negative space, which is for me, the space all around my body in the photo. This includes the sky, and the land around me. I'm going to do this by segmenting the negative space so that I measure with my eyes the distances between the corners of my rectangle, where each element in the photo should go.
If you're like me and have put your vertical and horizontal lines straight through your subject, then mapping out the surrounding area (negative space) is very easy.
#5 Once you feel like you've put down as much as you can from your negative space then it's time to focus on your positive space, which is going to be your subject. When I was putting down all my negative space, I helpfully was able to draw the area which my body occupies in my image so now all I have to do is use the vertical line and the horizontal line to map out my body in the photo. I like to use the intersection of these two lines as a guide that I can measure from and to while paying close attention to the information in the negative space around my subject (positive space) and comparing it to the photograph.
If I ever feel that I've gotten lost in my drawing, I like to go back to the intersection to retrace my steps which often helps me learn how to correctly draw what I "see" rather than what I "know".
Though it sounds crazy, I try not to use my eraser in this process, because I can draw over any mistakes and those mistakes add to the texture of my drawing which is really nice at the end.
*Note: Sometimes when you get to this point in the drawing process, you discover that something isn't right in your drawing and this is often when people either give up because its not looking they way they wanted it to or they're frustrated and can't work out how to fix a problem or their inner critic comes in and says negative things that puts them off trying to fix the problem.
If any of these things happen to you, then I'd really encourage you to try something unusual and that is to turn your photo upside down, as well as your drawing.
What this does is that it throws your brain off because the drawing and what you're drawing from is not in a recognisable position and suddenly shows you shapes that are the wrong way or in the wrong place which you can then correct and redraw. Keep your drawing and photo upside down to do this. Try not to turn it around and trust that you're "seeing" correctly.
The idea here is to get you back to "seeing" instead of "knowing" and to break the drawing down to simple shapes so you can again understand where the negative space and the positive space is. Sometimes it's helpful to step back and take a few moments to practice the mindfulness "seeing" exercise from the beginning and even bring in a helpful friend or family member to ask their opinion of what they see.
It's vital that you stay positive and if possible, identify the areas of the drawing that you really like, that work for you as this will keep you motivated to continue.
The most important thing to remember in this process is:
Your ability is not found in your drawing or in your hand or your pencil but it's in you!
If you make a mistake, just correct it and move on....you will succeed, I promise!
Have faith in yourself and never give up!
Something lots of people don't realise is that drawing takes a lot of observational ability and focus if you want to draw accurately from life. So if you've come this far then be proud of yourself because you are doing amazingly well and it does get easier - with practice!
#6 So well done for getting this far! Yay!
If you're like me and wanted to see if you could correct a few things with your drawing upside down then this is where it can get interesting as it's fun to see how sharp you can make your observational skills in this drawing process. All you need to do is keep turning your drawing and photo each time you feel like you've accurately captured everything. Every time you turn your photo and your drawing, it alters how you perceive elements in your drawing and this is a great way to sharpen not only your observational ability but it also sharpens your drawing skills and you'll notice that you're able to switch between looking at negative space and positive space with ease each time you rotate your drawing.
You should by now have a successful drawing which you can frame and put on the wall, gift to a friend or family member or even push the image further and perhaps plan a painting from it using the same techniques you used to draw it or you could create a collage from it by photographing it and cutting it up to create another image......there are literally endless creative possibilities.
If you've never drawn before and you found this fun or inspiring and you'd like to keep your motivation going and meet others who share your passion for the arts then I run a weekly Friday evening drawing class via my Meetup group, London Art Museum Creatives, called "Traditional Drawing".
Each week we reference artwork from a female artist from history and use these same techniques to create our own studies and improve drawing skills while also enjoying a fun social event!
You can join from anywhere in the world as I teach this class via Zoom and you will enjoy the wonderful company of some very lovely inspiring and creative people!
I say this often to all my students - making art is about the journey....the techniques you discover, the artists you learn about, the successes, the failures, the people you meet along the way - this journey is the most valuable part of learning any creative practice that you engage with.....so don't worry about it if your drawing looks like your subject or not.....
I hope you can join us and if you have any questions then please feel free to get in touch. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org