Drawing - Remembering How to Do It

One of my earliest memories of drawing is also about experimenting and making new friends while creating art. I was in elementary school, and I remember sitting on the floor of the classroom with a bunch of other little kids around me and I was drawing horses. The typical profile drawing of a horse - with a thick neck, round cheek, a blaze or snip on the nose, and a flowing mane blowing in the wind. These kids were loving it - and I was taking their requests and drawing a slightly different version of that horse over and over again "I want a Palomino! Draw one with a red halter! Now one with a black mane!"

I love this memory, as it re-connects me with many other carefree and innocent experiences that followed later in my youth involving goofy little girlfriends, painting fences, shoveling manure, and riding horses in our underwear on a hot summer day through what would generously be described as a 'pond.'

It's these feelings that I'm trying to channel again as a creative and an artist - as an adult in general - that sense of fearlessness, without any judgement. When having fun and feeling good was how you spent your day and you didn't even wonder that there were other things to worry about.

I've studied art history, fashion design, and interior decorating. I've painted, sketched, sewed, and carved. I've designed print and pattern for surfaces and designed dining rooms and kitchens for restaurants. EVERY idea starts it's life as an image. First in your mind, and then on the page. For me anyway.

Drawing is the most primitive way to bring an idea to life.

Primitive in the most positive sense of the word - it's the origin - the earliest stage in the development of an idea, the point from where anything and everything else is possible. It's easier for some people to attach words to their idea, or make sentences. It's easier for some people to scribble or doodle. Drawing is always how I attempt to interpret, understand or communicate what I see in the world first.

Drawing tools:

  • pencil, HB, flea bitten, eraser chewed off, however you find it should work!
  • pen/ink - my favorite thing to draw/write with right now is a pure liquid ink Sign Pen by Pilot. But pencils and ink act very differently in your hand and on the page, so I would suggest starting with a pencil at first. (I actually HATED drawing with ink for a really long time. But I loved WRITING with ink in my journal. So then I learned to adapt, because I usually found myself WITHOUT a pencil handy when I felt the urge to draw.) 
  • paper - plain old copy/printer paper is just fine. Or the back side of anything thing that has recently been spit out of your printer (because reuse/recycle)
  • sketchbook - it is really nice to keep things in one place, sort of chronologically. I can find a basic studio sketchbook by Hilroy at my local Staples in two different sizes for $10 or $15. If you are using ink it is nice to have heavier weight sketchbook type paper so that you are not bleeding through pages. My second favorite thing to draw/scribble with is a Sharpie, or permanent marker - so heavier sketch paper is perfect in this case.

Drawing Tips:

  • Get to it! Put the pencil on the paper and draw what is directly in front of you. That might be a glass of water, your phone, a book, your wallet. Draw out the basic shape of that object and then start filling in a few of the details.
  • Take a deep breath. Did my suggestion to dive right in stress you out? Are you wondering what you'll do with the sketch afterwards? or who you will show it to? or if it will even be good enough to show to anybody?!?
  • Relax. That is totally not the point. The point, really, is to exercise your muscles. It's to make the connection between what your eye sees, how your mind interprets that, and how the muscles in your hand/body then translate that onto the page. It's kind of like training to run a race - first you walk then you jog then eventually you start running once you've built some strength and finesse.
  • HAVE FUN. Spend 10 minutes or an hour on the same object. Draw 10 different objects really quickly. Draw 10 stick people with different doodle-y hairdo's or the same kind of shoes. Draw the chair you are sitting in. Just make marks on the page with whatever is in your hand.

There really are no rules. And congratulate yourself when you're done! Be happy that you took some time out of your day to sit in one spot and really observe something, to focus on an activity that you enjoy, and don't worry so much about what you have to show for it in the end. What counts is that you took the first step towards developing a creative practice. The next step? Is to practice again tomorrow :)

Some beautiful marks made by my friend maya, age 4.

Some beautiful marks made by my friend maya, age 4.