Thoughts on Art and Other Things

One Hit Wonder

Have you ever found yourself trying to re-create something you did a long time ago? Something you didn’t think so much of back then but somehow seems so much better now? I ran across a few old drawings and was marveling at the fact that I never finished them. Why didn’t I keep going? This could have been good! It would be easy to redo it or even just continue it. But should I?

There’s something exciting (yes, really!) about doing the same thing over and over again. Every artist has a drive for perfection, and what better way to satisfy it than by continually working on the same technique or subject? There’s always just one more thing to try, one more way to look at it. Seriously, I could do cloud drawings for the rest of my life and never get bored. But another drive every artist has is the drive to grow, to expand her abilities, to accomplish something…different. Which means at some point you have to let go of perfectionism and go back to doing Really Bad Art in a new medium or technique.

Of course, it’s frustrating to start back at square one, especially when you know you still have so far to go on those cloud drawings! But there’s a fine line between perfection and stagnation. And when you do something new, even if it turns out badly, all the energy going into learning the technique spills over into areas that used to be well-established. So you find out what happens when you dump a bunch of graphite powder on that almost-finished cloud drawing and smoosh it around with a brush.

It makes a mess.

But it’s heading in a different direction—and that’s exciting!


Zen of Crosshatch

I’ve been doing this lately. A lot. I used to crosshatch all the time in the old days, when I had nothing but time on my hands. Not so much anymore. It’s hard to get enough hours in the day to fill a piece of paper with crosshatching.

But since I have an excuse (that would be The Sketchbook Project) I’m not only making the time, but remembering how much fun it is to make lines over and over and over…. No, really, it is fun. It completely numbs the mind from worrying about how the drawing is turning out and allows the hand to just go on without direction. I can actually read my accounting textbooks while crosshatching—I just have to look down now and then to make sure I’m still on the paper.

Of course, in spite of all this zen I need to send this book off in about a week, and I’ve still got the covers to do. So maybe it’s time for concentration!

Busy is No Excuse…

…but it’s all I have. At least it’s all paying projects. But I haven’t been a slacker on my side (non-paying) project:

I’ve been putting my waiting-room time to good use. I made a special page for my Sketchbook Project, so I can show the drawings at a larger size; check it out! As I finish more spreads, I’ll upload them.

I’d forgotten how much fun it is to just draw stuff without worrying about how “real” it looks or if someone is going to like it. I’m making an effort to just draw without looking at anything—just making it up as I go along, the way I used to do it when I was a kid. It’s amazing how many ideas come up when I know I’m not going to censor anything! My hand starts moving and stuff comes out on the page. Just like it should be!

It’s Here!

My sketchbook from The Sketchbook Project has arrived!

I’m so excited! I know it doesn’t look like much now, but once I get at the cover…well, it’ll be something. I don’t know what yet. My theme is “Why did the owl make everyone laugh?” so there will likely be owls involved. I like that it’s really simple—there’s nothing so intimidating as a really elaborate sketchbook. I always think the things that I draw in it won’t be worthy!

My goal here isn’t to make beautifully finished drawings; I want them to be messy and not always successful. People might be looking at this in an up-close-and-personal way and I want to show everything that goes into drawing, including all the erased lines and ink blots. I remember going to see Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings when they were showing in Detroit. You could get right up close to the paintings and see all the scrubbing and spatters. There were places where he’d torn the surface of the paper away to make a snow patch in the painted grass. It was the first time I realized that creating art involved real paint-slinging, ripping, tearing work. Art wasn’t about making a perfect mark every time you set pencil to paper; it was about the struggle to get the idea in your head out into the world, however hard that might turn out to be. That’s why I think this Sketchbook Project is a great idea. Looking at these books will show how art is built—blots and all!

Nothing to See Here

How do you draw wind? I had an assignment that involved making it look like the wind was blowing. So I started thinking, How exactly do I do that? I guess I could make the little dotted lines that swirl around…or maybe make everything lean in the same direction? But, really, how do you draw things that aren’t there? If you’re drawing a landscape and you know there’s wind, how can you convince anyone that it’s there in the drawing?

Now I’m going to be thinking about this for the rest of the weekend. There must be some elegant way of doing it. I’m going to do some research.

Meanwhile, here’s a drawing where things are moving. Are you convinced?

venus flytrap

Does Subject Matter?

Over at RedBubble and Zazzle, I’ve been seeing a lot of holiday-themed art. It’s one of those things I’ve never seemed to manage over the years: drawing something for a holiday and selling it. I mean, I do the Christmas cards, of course; but even those usually don’t get done until just before the 25th. If you want to get started selling holiday stuff, you need to have it done a few months before.

I guess I don’t think much about selling art. The stuff I make is stuff that I think is cool, like snake skins or skulls or dead animals. I draw it for the sake of drawing. Not surprisingly, nobody wants to buy it. I guess it doesn’t matter (except for that nagging feeling that I’m wasting my time) but I have to wonder: is it so hard to draw things that other people would buy? I don’t really have a thing about being true to myself as far as art subjects go, and I certainly don’t want to get into drawing the same things over and over again. So why not draw cats or wolves or beautiful mountain landscapes? Or Christmas scenes? Is it just lack of motivation? And why?

bird skull

At least it was fun to draw!

Thoughts About Rocks

I was out hiking today and took some pictures of rocks, with the thought of maybe drawing them someday. I don’t draw enough rocks. I know this because I have a lot of trouble with them. I either make them look too much like Styrofoam pieces or I get so caught up in the details that they end up looking like flat patterns on the paper. It’s hard to break them down into drawable things; they’re like little planets with all their canyons and plains and valleys.

rock from antarctica

Does this really say "rock?"

There are a lot of things I’m not good at drawing: rocks, bushes, dogs, cats, people…the list goes on. So do I practice drawing these things until I get good at all of them? Or am I missing some natural talent (like drawing people—I swear there’s a gene for that!) so that I will forever be substandard when it comes to drawing certain things? I wonder a lot about this. I mean, I was always good at writing English papers, but I was lousy at math. I knew people who were great at math, but couldn’t put a sentence together for anything. Is the brain really wired that way, so you’re good at some things, but not at others? Is it worthwhile, then, to try to get good at the things you’re bad at? Or are you just hopelessly fighting nature?

I need to go and draw some rocks.