Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Sketch Book: Your Key to Sanity

I can quibble about the title of this panel for a wasteful amount of time.  Let's not.

Alexander Adams, John R. Gray III and I met again after our success with the kids drawing panel.  I don't remember the other pros listed for the panel showing, but by this time I'm was pretty groggy and I don't think I would have remembered my head if it wasn't attached to my neck.

I like to draw (heh) a lot of parallels between writing and painting.  Today's no different.  If you can't see the use of turning yourself loose on writing exercises, think revision isn't necessary, and don't believe that practice will improve you then by all means go on without a sketch book too.

The thing about art, like writing, is that you can turn something vivid and alive into something wooden and dead by overworking it.  But your first pass will suck (most likely, anyway.)  In comes the sketch book to the rescue.  Sketch what you want to draw, fast and furious with lots of flow and passion.  Scribble, make fast circles and oblongs, totally go for it.  From this point you can proceed in two ways.  Look at it, think eh, and turn the page.  Or, you can discover that there's something or a lot of things you like.  Then you rub graphite all over the back of the page, smooth it down over the next page and use a pen or sharp pencil to outline your favorite part.  When you turn to the next page your favorite part will be there.  You can also take a very scribbly, messy sketch that has lots of vibrancy and refine it (don't bother erasing your extra lines) until you've got something acceptable within the scribbles.  By the same method you can transfer it onto the next page.

This eliminates tons of erasing on paper and canvas and therefore a lot of heartache as you work on an imperfect drawing and try to beat it into some sort of shape while you paint or draw your final image.  Perfecting the image in a sketch book first is so much easier.

Then there's the image capture thing.  Just like I recommend going away from your office to write, you've got to go away from your usual digs to draw and/or paint.  Working in a sketch book with graphite or on a watercolor pad with two or three colors is much easier than hauling out all your stuff, not to mention it takes away the ridiculous, unnecessary pressure to spend your time painting 'something really good.'  Forget it.  Unless you plan on searching for a subject, marking your spot, sketching it, developing it, etc. all right there (which kinda kills the mood unless this is a painting vacation where you can spend hours or days in a given area) let go of the art thing and doodle around.  If by chance something really exceptional takes hold on the page it's not going to go away just because you were goofing off at the time.  You can work with it right there (if you have the rest of your stuff in the trunk of your car) or later and take it as far as you want to go.

Sketch books are also a low-commitment way to try something new.  If you normally work on one area (people often pick the most difficult area, like a person's face, and then do the rest of the body only if they like the outcome) you can run your pencil all over the page instead, developing as evenly as you can, and see what happens.  Or you can start in a corner and spread out, or draw an eye in the middle of the page and then build a skull with no real animal in mind, and stuff like that.  Recently I wrote a swoopy letter R and then started fiddling with it.  Why R?  Dunno.  Doesn't matter.  If I hadn't an interest in trying new things I'd still be drawing horses and cats and owls in crayon.  I don't try to foresee what I'll like, either, beyond the 'it would be kewl to do something like that' feeling.  I just give it a whirl.  That's how I found watercolor, and yupo, and that's how I'll find the next fun thing to learn about.  All these skills (like tools in writing) can go in a toolbox and inform whatever your main art form may be.  They're seldom a waste of time.

Questions came up about how to deal with various issues in drawing, like difficulties with people.  The answer is always to jump outside your comfort zone.  The easiest way to do that is to be a student, since students are allowed to suck and learn.  Take classes, study, research, practice.  If you can't bring yourself to do that, well, a sketchbook won't help you much anyway.

That concluded the paneling portion of Radcon.  Next time, something completely different.

No comments: