You’ve been avoiding something. What is it

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The big mistake that led to all my other mistakes

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On the one hand you fight a global pandemic, save the world, save lives, and at the same time, work on your drawing skills and become the artist that you always wanted to be. That’s what we’re gonna figure out how to do today, and it starts with a question, what is the skillset that you’ve been avoiding working on for a while?

Originally, I was going to make an article about relaxed drawing, no goal, no aim, just relaxed stress-free drawing where you’re not really pushing yourself. But when I try to do that relaxed stress-free drawing practice, because it was kind of aimless and not that challenging, my mind would wander. And at the moment, if my mind wanders it wanders straight to some quite stressful topics. So I realised that I need a drawing practice that would be, you know, would consume my whole mind, that would be challenging and pull me out of my comfort zone, so I really get into the session.

And I think that what we could do then is take this lockdown as an opportunity to work on the skillset that we know we need to work on but we’ve been avoiding, and it’s different for each person. But I’m gonna give you some examples and maybe you can figure out what what the skillset you’ve been avoiding is and I’ll tell you what mine is later.

So for example, are you most comfortable when you have a good amount of time to draw the figure because you can correct stuff and analyse it and also you can build up extra layers of detail, and maybe the detail kinda masks some of the more underlying fundamental things in the drawing. So in other words, are you avoiding working on your gesture drawing? Are you a gesture avoider?

For a very long time, I would say things like, why does, you know, I’m not really good at those quick drawings or, ah, gestures, I’ll work on it later when I’ve worked on other stuff and, but maybe you’re ready to work on your gestural skills but kind of nervous about it. Because there’s these short timeframes and normal gesture drawing, and with gesture drawing you have to let loose and be bold. And you can’t really correct things and be really, really analytical about it, you gotta go for it, right? And it’s quite a learning process.

So it’s totally normal to avoid that or to think that’s not for me, but it’s so rewarding if you do work on it. So if that’s you, why not take this lockdown to be an opportunity to really nail your gesture skills if that’s the thing that you need to work on next and you’ve been avoiding.

Okay, another type of avoider, anatomy avoider. So this is a good test for whether you’ve been avoiding working on your anatomy, and it’s normal to want to avoid working on anatomy ’cause it’s kind of is intimidating, and it kind of sometimes feels like you’re studying biology with all the Latin names, not drawing and expressing yourself, right?

So here’s a test, when you see a pose which is basically just someone’s back, are you wondering or what do I draw here? This is just like a flat plain, there’s not much going on, or are you seeing all these interesting things that you can pick out about what’s happening in that back? Because the interesting thing about the back is we’re not really familiar with all the stuff that’s going on there. We’re familiar with the stuff on the front with the pectoral muscles and the abs and all of that kind of stuff, and when you’ve been studying anatomy a little bit, the back is like a new world that’s revealed to you. You can start to see and pull out all these things about the muscles of the back that you wouldn’t have picked up on before.

So when you see a pose like this, are you thinking, what do I draw here or are you thinking, oh, there’s a nice terus major for me to draw? So maybe this is a nice opportunity to really get stuck into some of your anatomy study.

Okay, some other ones, is there a material that you love the look of, but you’ve never really tried it, or you tried it once and it was super awkward and difficult and you thought that’s not for me, I’ll leave that to that other artists that I love? Well, the thing about all materials and all these different skill sets is, it is for you if you like it. But you’ve got to put in that hard practice to get over the really difficult initial hurdles with it. So whether that’s, you know, painting or digital or charcoal or whatever it is, is there a material that you wanna get, come out of this lockdown feeling confident with that you don’t feel confident about right now?

So last month before the world turned upside down, I went to a life drawing session and I’d forgotten my pencil box. So I had my iPad with me though and that’s all I had to draw with. And I started to use some color, and I haven’t used color for maybe six months or a year maybe, not properly. So I’ve just been working on drawing. And it was so fun. I love color and I used to use it all the time.

And I realised it’s because in order to take things to the next level with colour, I was gonna have to do so much practice because, you know, there’s stuff like colour theory and these things that you can study and learn, but everyone who I talk to who’s really good with colour, a big part of it is just the intuition. And they built it up through practice and experimentation, it’s the same with any drawing skillset really, but it was just a lot of trial and error with different colours and maybe, you know, you have some theory and understanding of color in your mind, but ultimately, you need to put in those hours with it to really get that intuitive sense.

And so I realised I’ve been avoiding doing that work, but now I’m gonna get deep into colour. That’s what is gonna be my aim for this lockdown is to emerge with colourful figure drawings all the time.

So that’s my one, and whatever the skill is that you know you need to work on for this lockdown, let’s talk about how to learn a new skill.

When you’re working on a new skill especially a skill that you’ve been avoiding, there’s a lot of things to do, and here’s three of them.

So the first thing is you gotta expect confusion. It starts off slow, it starts off difficult and it takes time to get going. And then, you know, things start clicking into place once you get through those initial hurdles. So that’s the first thing, is to give yourself time and expect those initial confusing sessions.

The second thing is to study your favourite artists. If they’ve taped themselves doing a demo, that’s perfect ’cause what you do is you take that video of them demoing whatever it that you wanna learn and you just pause it at different places in the video and you just try and recreate what they’re doing using that same process. It’s not because you have to become just like them, but you’re trying to absorb their powers. And you can do that by studying network. Just take that image and you try and recreate it. Studying people’s artwork, your favorite artists artwork, the people who are good at that skill that you’re trying to work on, is one of the most powerful ways to build up your skills.

And then the third thing is restrictive exercises. So what I mean by that is some kind of exercise which limits what you can do, that’s often a great way to learn something. So for example, for gestural drawing and a quick drawing, we have an exercise that we’ve done before called the 12 line exercise. You have to capture the whole figure, but it’s restricted, you’re only allowed to use 12 lines. And it teaches you to find big curves and big lines. You’re only allowed to use C, S and I type lines and you have to find big curves and straight lines and stuff that capture the whole pose. It’s a good exercise.

Or if you’re learning color, it might be using a limited palette.

To summarize, let’s emerge from this lockdown confident with that skill that you have been avoiding that you’re not confident about now, and know that during this process, you’re gonna have some confusing, difficult sessions with it, especially at first, and then have faith that things are gonna click into place later on, study your favorite artists who do that thing well and find some exercises that really push you on that particular skill.

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Get the free guide - 'Life Drawing Success'

The big mistake that led to all my other mistakes

Get it now

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