A quick flip through my old sketchbooks shows that often quite some time passes between me being exposed to a new idea or technique before I start using it. Some excuses reasons include:
1. Real life. I have a full time job that doesn’t like to remain constrained between 9am and 6pm. While I may try to keep in the art habit by doodling something during a meeting or while mulling over a challenge at my desk, it’s unlikely that I’m never going to whip out a sketchbook and a bunch of materials and get creating during the day.
2. Running. Drawing is one thing that makes me happy, but I also love running half marathons. That mileage takes a good chunk of free time to prepare for and nope, you just can’t run and draw. It’s not really lost time though, and I believe both hobbies feed off of one another. Drawing makes me more observant; running gives me time to think and dream. I like to think those daydreams inspire new approaches in later drawings.
3. Reading. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about good novel. I read all sorts of non-fiction practically all day long, and that’s important to me too, but there has to be a novel in there somewhere or I just get grumpy. I’m not precisely sure why, but I think it is the way reading lets you fall into another world and another mind and gain a new perspective on the world, while also shutting out the noise of this world for a while. Regardless of the reason, I’m sure you agree that drawing and reading cannot happen at the same time.
4. Perfectionism. I don’t think of myself as that big of a perfectionist. I’ve never been that great with the details and I’m a big believer in That’s Close Enough. And yet, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I’d better not start something new or challenging until I have enough time to dedicate to it. This line of thinking is a big surprise because I tend to be so open-ended about projects that other people create. In fact I used to drive my fellow librarians crazy with my kids’ craft programs: “How will they know what their *alien mask / pig / space ship / diorama* is supposed to look like if you don’t show them how to make it?!” “They’ll know because it will be like what they had in their own heads.” I have no idea why I struggle to apply this philosophy to my own work.
4. Not-ready-yet. This is my favorite reason. The objective of SBS is not to be a formal drawing course – IT IS NOT! Instead, it uses other artists techniques to give you a jolt out of any ruts you might be in. For a complete novice, this is invaluable because it is very easy to get caught up in trying to precisely recreate what you see. I agree there is a value in that level of technical skill, but it is discouraging and, frankly, boring for me. Nevertheless, most lessons use a technique that seems so unfamiliar that I can’t figure out how I’d ever incorporate into my drawing – it is so much simpler to just carry on with the familiar. However, across the past two years of SBS courses, I’ve noticed that eventually there will come a day when inspiration strikes and I’ll be consumed by needing to try something I learned about months ago. I do believe that learning takes time and true learning requires assimilation into what is already second nature. Maybe more importantly, though, I think the time that passes decreases the sense that I need to recreate the exact lesson. Instead the technique becomes more an organic part of what I was already doing.
Here are some new techniques that I’ve noticed popping up in my sketchbook recently:
4. Captioned portraits
5. And still my favorite – Big Heads