January 1, 2016 I had a bunch of resolutions. I think we all start the new year with such hope, but often our goals are too many/much or too vague (lose weight, be more thankful, fundamentally change all things about the self, etc.). Of my many goals for 2016 I most wanted to improve my ability to draw portraits, it had long been a weakness of mine and while I could draw a pretty decent person there was no consistency and some would be great while others were soooo embarrassing! My goal was straightforward, to sketch every single day. Sure I wanted to work on portraiture, but I left it open to simply drawing each day. Honestly I didn't know if I would or could do it! Until this point my sketching situation could be measured in my wake of incomplete sketchbooks.
My first portrait was fine for someone starting out.
I knew the rules, but I didn't know what I was doing or how to employ those rules.
My early sketches were truly just sketches too. I hadn't yet found a way to prioritize my time to make room for drawing and so many of my drawings for the first four months were done in 15 minutes or less. One day, maybe a month or two in, I got into bed and just as I was drifting off I remembered that I had not sketched that day. I got out of bed and made a two minute sketch. The sketch was garbage, but the point to myself was clear. I just had to do it!
Somewhere around May I turned a corner. Interestingly inspiration came from the line drawings of tattoo artists, by studying their confident line work I started to do the same.
I struggled, and to some degree still do, with symmetry. I would get lost in the photos I was studying because faces are not symmetrical, but in drawings it can come across as a mistake. For instance if a person has slightly different shaped nostrils it makes sense in a photo, but in a drawing it looks accidental. So I had to figure out how to reconcile those factors. I also learned that I work best drawing from photos. I can do life drawing, but I don't love it. I would prefer to take a photo and then work in my own time. I accept that this is simply how I work best.
Somewhere in June it all began to make sense. I became less overwhelmed by the details of a face and began to find my way.
Then I began to loosen up and play around with line and texture.
In August I became much more confident in my ability to capture likenesses and I began to build upon that. I was also spending more time drawing.
Fifteen minutes of sketching became an hour or two of drawing. I scattered my drawing time over the course of a day. I started to wake up early, ready to draw.
Of course there was and is still a lot of room for growth, but I had started to understand things in a new way.
I started to have loads of fun with drawing and really embrace each new challenge. And trust me, every single drawing I do has a new challenge.
Now I can spend several hours on a single drawing, but it is a joy and now part of my routine.
Of course the days we were at home and in our normal daily life routine it was easy, but some days we were traveling or just really busy. I would plan ahead to ensure that I had some time to work each and every day.
As the months have worn on it is startling to look back and see how far I have come in a year.
And as I was flipping through my 12(!!!) completed sketchbooks I came across the same person. Strangely enough I drew Rasputin twice. I did a 20 minute sketch of him in May and then an hour or two last month. I want to show you the difference that time, both in months and the time I took to make the sketches, can make!
So I guess the long story short is that I have learned the power of taking my time. Taking time to grow and taking time to work on each project.
I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent drawing this year. Easily a thousand.
Oh and I must note my silent partner in this process, Eric. He has sat across from me at the table on countless nights, chatting while I drew. Then he has helped a great deal in these last few months to help me find any weaknesses and inconsistencies by critiquing my drawings. While I invite these criticisms it is difficult at times to hear that i need to do more or undo something or that all of it is trash...not that he ever called a drawing trash. He has been so patient and generous with his time.
I recently completed a group portrait drawing of 6 people. This drawing was easily the most challenging drawing I have ever done. I drew it so many times and what I had thought would take a few hours ballooned into probably 30-40 hours over a month or two. Eric was there to help me identify areas of difficulty or oddness. I truly could not have done it without his help. He has an amazing eye! If you are looking to improve I cannot recommend enough that you find someone who can give it to you straight. Then you need to develop thick skin, because sometimes it sucks to hear the truth!
Oh! And I have a daily sketch group on What's App. Each day we share our work. It has been a real treat to see the work of friends in Turkey, America, China and Scotland.
Anyway, my daily drawing did not end on the 31st. I appreciate the ways I have grown, but just when I think I have it figured out I realize that I have only just scratched the surface.