Learning to Draw pt. 2: Just Doodle It!

It’s been a month since the last update on my drawing education. Since I’m on the exciting, steep part of the learning curve, I’m well overdue for an update.

As you can see above, by early March my academic drawing had shown tremendous improvement. I attribute the progression to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and my own diligence. For a few weeks making things look “real” was terrifically exciting. I drew everything in my apartment, copied photos, and made some attempts at self-portraiture.

The rub is that making things look “real” is technically difficult and demanding. While my academic drawing skill has improved, the practice can be trying. Critical scrutiny is an essential part of academic drawing, and it isn’t always fun. In contrast, lack of critical scrutiny is the essence of “just doodling.”

I bought an artist’s mannequin to practice figures.

And so my drawing for the past few weeks has focused on a balance of academic drawing and “just doodling,” with a substantial bias toward the latter.

If you read my first post in this series, you’ll recall that “just doodle without judgement” was starting guidance from one of my drawing teachers. For the most part, that guidance hasn’t evolved, except with encouragement to play with different creative elements: different kinds of lines, shapes, shadings, etc. My teacher noted, for example, that I kept repeating the “vesica piscis” in my drawings. Rebellious as I am, I resolved to avoid it.

No vesica piscis here!

Which brings me to some recent tips I got from my other drawing teacher. (How nice it is to have not just one but two people who want to help me!) Here are the most recent pieces of guidance I have received:

1. “Your lines are short and quick. You’re drawing with your wrist and tight fingers. Experiment with long lines and loose fingers.”

2. “Try drawing four dots on a page and connecting them to make square. Or a circle. Rectangles… ellipses…”

Regarding the first point, I find it astounding how much my teachers can tell about me from a glance at my work: The age at which I gave up drawing as a child; the looseness of my fingers; the stiffness of my forearm… I’ve heard that master Chinese calligraphers can tell the mood a writer was in while writing by the look and flow of his characters. Dubious as it once sounded, I’m finding it more and more believable as my artistic education progresses.

Experimenting with longer lines.

The second point is less scrutable. I feel a bit Karate Kid-like as I’ve gone through the simple exercise of connecting four dots: Dots become lines which become squares which become ellipses which become heads which become abstractions. “Four dots” have an impressive number of potentialities.

I’ve been reminded of the Steve Jobs quote from his famous Stanford speech: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward.” How ironic it sounds to the creative in me. Isn’t connecting the dots looking forward precisely what Jobs built his career on? Isn’t connecting the dots looking forward the explicit function of the creative person?

One final drawing. This started as an ellipse, morphed into a set of elliptical blobs, congealed, and ultimately revealed itself as a kneeling woman. Poor thing seems to have lost her head.

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