Sunday, May 20, 2012

How I Started Drawing Again

So, the other day I was talking about drawing with my friend Craig and I wondered if I still had any talent for doing so.

When I was a kid, I actually drew a lot. My favorite things to draw were ships. I’d draw them tiny but make absolutely sure to get all the details the same. I also remember loving to draw (of all things) an old barn. I drew that barn so many times as a child that I can close my eyes now and see it still.

But over the years, I drew less and less. Then I just quit. I may have been paralyzed by praise, but more likely than not I saw what they were doing in art class and wanted no part of that kind of thing.

Anyway, over the years, I’d get “the bug” for a while, draw for a week or two straight, and then give it up. More than a decade passed since that happened, however, and I would have thought it was out of my system if I thought of the subject at all.

Then The Objective Standard started its interview series with artists.

This series has so far interviewed the sculptor Sandra Shaw; a still-life artist, Linda Mann; and (just recently, to be published in the upcoming issue) a painter, Bryan Larsen.

Given my work for TOS, I was lucky enough to get paid for listening to and transcribing the taped interviews. In any case, however, in doing this I felt my old desire building up again.

This brings me back to the conversation with Craig that I mentioned at the start. 

After that ended, I had an old envelope in front of me, and a pen nearby.

So I started to draw.

It was nothing big really, just a picture of an author I like (called Ayn Rand). And I wasn’t expecting much either--which was good, because those expectations were realized. I got “a likeness” of her, but nothing much more.

The thing is, though, it felt pretty good.

So I continued.

I looked up a picture of one Sandra Shaw’s sculptures, called “Tranquility,” and I drew that quickly. It came out looking horrible! In fact, I have a name for this one, it’s called “Frumpy” and I don’t know if even that isn’t being generous.

But, again, actually creating this was good fun.

And I felt even more respect for what Shaw does.

Those lines are smooth, and sensuous, I thought, comparing them with my own. The next day, I drew the same thing again. And the day after that, I drew the same thing again. 

Professional golf players get better by repeatedly taking shots from the same places, I reasoned; it’d probably work for me, too. I’m certainly no professional, but after a few days I got to a decent “likeness” of it.

In between the above takes, I attempted to sketch “Vitality,” again by Shaw...

and then, after the Shaw copies, I tried to draw a study by Larsen:

It was in drawing the copy of Larsen’s study that I realized I didn’t know hardly anything about shading aside from just naturally making my lines look close enough like theirs to be happy.

It was in drawing the copy of Larsen’s study that I realized something else, too: You (or I) can only do so much when drawing with a pen!

Like any budding genius then I did the natural thing: I bought, wait for it, a pencil.

I figured I might as well start, as before, by drawing an author I liked—so I drew Nevil Shute.

Again, I think his face didn’t come out as long as it actually was, and it could have come out much better. But it wasn’t terribly bad--especially given the time I spent on it--and I felt that the shading was pretty good for a beginner.

Next up, I drew a painting by Leighton that I like. And, although I drew all the other ones pretty fast, I took my time on this one.

That was partly because I wanted to make good use of the pencils (now plural) that I bought and partly because I really like this painting. 

I should mention that the way I drew the old man’s face here is not as intense as Leighton has it—and that’s important. The Leighton painting is so vastly superior in a number of ways I could write a whole post just listing the differences.

While critical of my drawing, however, I didn’t have anywhere near that same rage I have when I see (a lot of) other artworks. You know, the kind where you want to scream “This is art” and kick the artist in the stomach, sending him flying backward into a deep pit, Sparta style.

I just saw that there was a lot of room for improvement.

And also that doing all this on better paper might help.

Oh, and that reading a few articles on how to draw might help.

You can guess what I did next.

In any case, I’ll be posting the results of what happened soon.


There are four posts on this same topic now. If you're interested in reading them all, check out the following links.

1. How I Started Drawing Again
2. How That Drawing Thing is Going
3. I'm Starting to Like the Smell of Graphite in the Morning
4. 50 Shades of Graphite

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