Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Drawing and sketchbooks

Started the New Year by being sick as a dog, but I am feeling better minute by minute. It is an odd feeling to find oneself spending an entire day in bed, as I did yesterday. I can't remember the last time I did that. Not, however, exactly a lounge-y, decadent day, more like just not having the will to move, except to thrash a bit, then run like a demon to the bathroom. It was a virus that has made the rounds of the entire family—except for Ray. He is doomed, I fear. Well, enough about that. I am on the mend.

I became intrigued by the Sketchbook Challenge and since more drawing is something I always try to find time to do, I decided to follow along. The first month's theme is "Highly Valued." Here is my first drawing of two of my favorite silver and turquoise bracelets. The large one was my grandmother's.

It's not good. I am rusty. I really need to do these drawing exercises. I used a fine felt tip marker. I like drawing with them, but they are unforgiving.  I felt I went a little astray by adding so much shading and detail. For the next one I decided to go very basic and do a simple contour drawing of a set of silver salt and pepper shakers that were my Mom's. Oy. Terrible.

But this is what I need to practice. With practice it will get better. Contour drawing means you just start drawing the outside edges of what you see. No measuring, no erasers, no do-overs. It is great training for really seeing the shape and contour of an object. You would be amazed at how revealing doing a contour sketch is. Using a pencil, or a graphite pencil, as I have in the sketch below, allows you to block things in, get the proportions right, figure out the relationships, but you don't learn as much, in my opinion.

I am a huge believer in learning to draw. I think I've said this before. It gives you so much more to work with as an artist, if you can draw what you want to represent. Seems obvious, but it isn't, and many artists fight it and claim they will "never" learn to draw. Pshaw. It can be done, but you need to keep it up to keep the skill viable.

So far, my take on the Sketchbook Challenge, after looking at the work that has been posted on the Flickr site is that there is a huge difference in concept of what a sketchbook is. For me I have always used sketchbooks for two purposes: 1. to work out ideas for larger work and 2. for drawing just to keep in practice. My sketchbooks are not lovely things and are not meant for anyone else's eyes. Other people, and I think this is very trendy, use the idea of a sketchbook to make an artist's journal to be shared. Some are wonderful, some are dreadful, frankly. This kind of sketchbook, however does not interest me. I am seeing many participants in this challenge using their responses to, what? Entertain? Silly little things and cartoony drawings, doodly stuff and lots of pasted paper and magazine clippings. Fine, I suppose, but I think I am a little disappointed to see less commitment to actual drawing and skill-building.

And now, this very evening, I impulsively signed up for an on-line class, the first I've ever taken, about "Silly Drawing."  Do you think I'm too serious for this? It will probably be good for me.

Here, by the way, is my basic drawing kit. Sketchbook (I have others—different sizes), pencils, pens, erasers, and bag to carry it in. No glitter. No glue. No cutesy ephemera. I may add my colored pencils and/or watercolors in due time.


  1. I must admit to being so bored by all the drawing that is going on and am glad I did not jump into it. I love making my little sketches for my ideas for my work and my quilting designs, but I have no desire to hone my drawing skills at this stage of my life.

    I love the Urban Sketchers. Much of that work makes me swoon. So, I am rushing through Google Reader to get past all of the sketching. Except for you, of course, because you do more than post a silly little drawing. I learned something from you tonight.

    OK, the curmudgeon will now shut up.

  2. Ta for giving me the confidence to go on! I did a quick sketch and hated it, so I thought I woud just not do the challenge!

    If yu can make a sketch you don't like I can too and learn from it!

    Thank you


  3. Anonymous4:31 AM

    I so agree with you. I thought it was just me who "didnt' get it" with all the stuff plastered on pages. Once in awhile, someone will capture an idea and it works but for the most part, give me a pen, a pencil, some watercolors, good paper and the simplicity works the best. Sue

  4. Ah...I feel the nudging of a challenge for myself. Thank you. I have always been one of those people who never considered myself an artist because I could not draw. Maybe 2011 will be the beginning of the doodle!

  5. Well, I suppose I'm one of those who evidently resorted to silly little things, cartoony drawings and doodly stuff. Truth be told, my life has been really crappy lately- serious family illnesses and other painful issues- so yeah, for my first sketch I intentionally kept things light and breezy. It helped me get through my day.

    Don't look for refined sketching from me in this sketchbook challenge, I can barely draw stick figures. So any work I get into my ratty sketchbooks is a bonus, in my mind.

    Sorry you've been disappointed. I've found that the best way to raise the bar in any situation is to join in and do it yourself, but I understand if you don't want to be involved.

    Happy new year.

  6. Anonymous6:47 AM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts honestly. They are ones that I've been having myself and it is nice to know that I'm not the only one who does not "get" the art journal. I signed up for the "Silly Drawing" class last week because I want to get back to a daily drawing practice. After looking at today's worksheet and rolling my eyes a bit, I realized that I can analyze it to death or I can just have fun. Fun wins. I hope you can enjoy it too.

  7. Glad you are feeling better, Terry!

    The breadth of how people use their sketchbooks/journals is both amazing and intimidating to me. I like the IDEA of creating beautiful journals as works of art themselves, but in reality I don't want to use my creative energy that way. Linda and Laura Kemshall's journals are ones that I love looking at and wish I could create -- but I've realized that for me, the journal is not the end in itself. So lately I've given myself permission to use my sketchbooks in a way that works for me. And practicing a bit of drawing along the way helps give me confidence.

    I do think the current trend of washing paint over a page, slapping bits down in a book and calling it "art" is tiresome, but that's how I react to people slapping hunks of fabric together, adding handstitching and a few beads and calling that fiber art. But then I remind myself that the creative process is always good, regardless of the product, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating the process.

    The silly drawing thing looks fun. You can't have too much silly in your life, if you ask me!

  8. Anonymous10:42 AM

    I'm also participating in the "Silly" online class. I haven't looked at the first lesson, but will do shortly. I'm hoping to just learn to relax and learn to draw by putting down on to paper what is there for me to see.

    As Kramer said, "Serenity now."

  9. Thanks for sharing! I've recently started drawing again and have always liked working with pen and ink. I have always felt that I wasn't very good with paints and color so for Christmas my husband surprised me with a few books on watercolors and ink....hopefully between my gifts and your blog I'll learn something!

  10. Yes, this has focussed much of what I feel as well. I also feel that the end result is, in a sense,less important than the process of drawing. Must admit to having reservations about both beautiful, highly polished sketchbooks (which really ought to have another name) and the "let's try sticking these things on" school of doing things - but I might just be showing my age.

  11. I find that it is always the case, no matter what group of people, no matter what project, that I love what some people are doing, and ... I don't love what other people are doing.

    That would be my expectation for this project, too -- some people will do work that blows me away, and others will ... not.




    I mean to work on drawing, but other people want to do other things ... it's the way of the world, I think.


  12. Hi Terry.
    I'm so glad you are feeling better. I agree with you: drawing is a great habit to ingrain into your artist's life, as I think it informs most everything else.
    I was interested in your comments about the Sketchbook Challenge. I am one of the invited artists who will be regularly contributing to the blog. I think your points are well-taken, and it has been a discussion the participating artists have had. We realize there are many types of sketchbooks to be used for at least as many purposes as one can dream up. The project hopes to inform many different areas that could encompass the concept of a sketchbook. Not all of them will be art journal pages. Many will, and I hope my books amongst them, show how the working artist uses a sketchbook. I have travel ones, life-drawing ones, doodle-for-fun ones, and the list goes on.
    I encourage all your readers to stop by the blog and the flickr site, if for nothing else than for inspiration and ideas.
    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  13. Anonymous7:30 AM

    Am I the only one who is more than a little upset at the comment of "slapping a few pieces of fabric together, handstitiching and adding a few beads and calling it fabric art"

    Exactly which kind of fabric art would Picasso or De Kooning be making? Mine or yours?

  14. Since I don't like to draw any more than I like to do puzzles, play games, or do math, I have neither looked at nor participated in the Sketchbook challenge. No time or interest. I drew back in 2006 when Everyday Matters was going full steam and frankly, might go back to it later in the month just for the helluvit. Right now, too many things on my plate to worry about it.

    Glad you said what you thought - people get insulted too easily and should get over it. Cheesh! What's a blog for if not to express one's honest opinon? Good for you, Terry.

    I also like your first sketches of the salt & pepper shakers much better than the studied, and to me, bland with no sense of you, shaded drawing. Have fun with the silly drawing class!

  15. Lurking? Lurking. I guess I saw that challenge in a different light-more of a let's-hop-on-the bandwagon-kind of a light. Also, finding something I like to look at becomes a needle in the haystack deal and I don't have a ton of time for that.

    I think the hurt feelings have more to do with feeling somehow left out. If you are in any way insecure about what you are doing (drawing, etc.) not being validated by someone who does know what they are doing can be tough. Self validation (and confidence) are always the best place to start but the Internet makes your world a lot bigger so outside validation can really come in to play. Being part of that group (of which I am not-I am my own group! ha ha!)can help to make a person feel validated. That is what I think that group is about.

    Lastly, I draw so that I can learn about it. I keep a sketchbook (or whatever) so I can record my day, work out ideas, and learn. I once read something by Alex Anderson where she said that stitching in the ditch was just a means to get the quilter's hands moving. I look at drawing/sketching in the same way-as long as there is learning and growth behind it.

    As always Terry, a thoughtful post.