Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers and more shared drawings

"I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle. " ~Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing.

 My poppies started blooming this week and they are incredible! I am always surprised how much poppies of this kind actually look like they are made of paper. The petals have that crinkly paper look. I like drawing the complexity of flowers. Drawing them really challenges you to put aside your mental shortcut images of flowers and look carefully at the structure. This is a line drawing, without any shading. It is good practice for me at carefully observing the shapes and lines.

Karen Miller sent me some drawings and commented, "Hard edges are easier to draw than iris petals for example, because one can much more easily see the distortions there, so self correcting works better." Probably so, but I am happy to have the "fudge factor" that drawing a flower petal gives you. You can make a few mistakes in detail and proportion and nobody ever knows!

Karen drew her morning juice container from memory, then from life. I think her memory was quite good!

Kristin LaFlamme is in the process of packing  up her household for a cross country move. She said her still life was stuff left behind..

My sister-in-law, Jamie Grant, lives in Montana and is joining in with some drawings. She said she was "influenced" by the web site, Five Pencil Method.  You can take drawing lessons through the web site, but they also have some free tutorials that I plan to go back and look at. Thanks, Jamie. I will add it to the inspiration page.

Jamie drew her tea kettle from memory and then again from live observation.

Jamie's shoe. Lots of great detail.

Keep drawing!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Thanks for the interest that so many of you have shown in this blog! Someone asked if I minded if they posted my little square graphic and a link to this blog on their blog. I would love it if people want to do that! Here is the graphic.

 Please link it back to this blog:

I also wanted to point out the tabs at the top of this page. The one called "tools" has some suggestions for drawing supplies and the one called "inspiration" will take you to websites and blogs about drawing, as well as suggesting some books and other resources. If you have suggestions for resources to add to this I will post them. The more, the better!

And now, I have some shoe drawings to share.

Kristin LaFlamme sent her drawing of her Hawaiian shoes

Karen Miller shared her sneaker drawing

Click on over to Quilterin's blog to see her wonderful red sandal drawing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why draw?

I know artists who do not draw. They say they don't need to. They say that the advent of photography did away with the need for studying drawing. They say they work abstractly, so have no need to create recognizable images. They say they "can't" draw.  I respectfully disagree on all counts, but I will never convince them, I'm sure. I've tried!

Here are a few of the reasons I think drawing is beneficial.

1. It's fun. Just watch children draw. My five year old granddaughter can spend hours drawing the most magnificent, detailed drawings. She loves being in the flow of creativity and feels such joy and pride. Of course for adults who have attached feelings of inadequacy and expectation and stress to the process it isn't fun. —sigh— There must be a way to get rid of all that baggage and just enjoy the process again.

2. Communication. My Dad was a mechanical engineer, not an artist, but he communicated best with a pad and pencil. He could explain the most complicated machine by making a little drawing of it, but he extended it into explanations of everything. How I wish I had saved some of those little drawings of his.

Haven't we all had that experience of trying to describe some interesting thing we have seen, and when words fail, you grab a scrap of paper and just draw it?

3. Drawing is seeing! To me, this is the most wonderful, mind-expanding function of drawing. We all think we are observant. Some of us are, far more than others, but until you try to accurately draw an object, person, place, you have not fully observed it. Once you have drawn it you will never see it in the same way again.

Here's a little experiment to try:

Imagine some familiar object, that is not currently within your sight. Do you use a teapot or tea kettle? That's a good one. Think about it. DON'T GO LOOK AT IT! Now, try to draw it from memory. Put in as many details as you can. The drawing does not have to be beautiful or artful, just representative.

What are its proportions? Is it taller than it is wide or vice versa? Is there a handle? What is its shape? A lid? Does the lid have a knob? Does it have a spout that is somehow attached to the body? Where does it attach? At what angle does it stick out from the body of the pot? . . .

I drew my clear glass teapot from memory.

Then I went and got the real teapot to compare.

At first glance, I didn't do too badly, in my opinion. But look closer. Proportion is a little off. The real pot is taller than it is wide. The lid is close, but the little crescent cutout for the tea to pour out doesn't exist in the real thing. (This, by the way, is an example of how we draw things using assumptions to fill in the gaps in our memory. Sometimes those assumptions are more assertive than our actual memory) The shape of the pour spout is wrong. The reservoir inside, where you put loose tea is pretty wrong too. Most wrong of all is the handle. I can hardly believe I didn't remember that bold, distinctive handle. It is nearly a perfect half circle and connects rather cleverly to the metal band around the pot.

Try it. How did you do? Could you draw your car from memory? I couldn't. I think I can see it in my mind, but I couldn't begin to bring up details. I don't even know what the hubcaps look like. Does it even have hubcaps? I would know if I had drawn it.

Do you have other reasons for drawing? leave me a comment. Send me your drawing.  Help me out here!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Did you draw your shoe?

Did you know that Andy Warhol drew a whole series of shoe drawings? They are nothing like his soup cans!

vanGogh painted and drew many, many shoes.

I remember seeing this painting of his shoes in a museum in France and being very moved by it. Something about shoes. They take on the shape of the wearer's foot and are shaped by the wearer's gait and walking habits. More than other kinds of clothing, shoes conform to the wearer and become almost a part of you.

More vanGogh shoes:

These are the shoes I walked around Europe in back in 1972.

I drew them in a campground in Italy. I used a non-permanent Flair marker, then used a wet paintbrush to add a wash by picking up some of the ink from the drawing.

So, did you draw your shoe yet?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drawing a still life

When I was taking drawing classes in college we drew still lifes (or is it still lives? I've never known.) day after day. They would be a collection of objects set up on  a table with a light pointed at the assemblage. We would draw, then move and draw from a different angle. Drawing a still life is good practice at expressing shape and volume in a drawing. If you want to draw a still life, just set up a few items—three is good for a start—choosing items of differing sizes, shapes and values. It is good to have them overlapping.

Start by observing the basic shapes. See where the ovals are, the circles, the cylinders, cubes, pyramids, etc. Think of them in terms of three dimensional shapes, not just flat lines around the shape. Start by lightly drawing those shapes, paying attention to where they overlap, what the proportion of each shape is. I like to draw a full oval, for example at the base of the pieces. You get a nice feel for how it sits on the surface when you do that. Imagine more than what you see from your perspective. Imagine the back and the bottom and where the lines go as they disappear around the curve.

Once you are satisfied that everything is where it should be, the curves are right, the objects feel like they have some depth, then use a darker drawing pencil to begin to outline each shape. You can erase most of those preliminary lines once the outlines are in place. No need to get too obsessive about erasing. Just clean it up a bit.
Now start looking at how the value changes in each item, according to the lighting and the shape and start working in some soft shading with the side of the pencil. You can blend the pencil with a fingertip or a bit of wadded up tissue if you like.

Reflective surfaces always have highlights that look white. You can use a corner of your eraser to pick out those highlights, then clean up around the edges of things with your eraser and use your pencil to sharpen edges where they have gotten smudged or blended into the adjoining shapes.

I chose not to deal with the background for this drawing, but I added the shadows under each object. The shadows ground the objects and establish the idea that they are sitting on a solid surface rather than floating in air!

I can see some problems with this drawing. The white bowl isn't quite right and the base of it, especially, doesn't seem centered, but I am finished with this drawing. I will know a bit more about what to work on and observe more carefully when I do another.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Do you want to draw better? I do. I know that the only thing that makes one better at drawing is to draw, but it is hard to find the time. It really shouldn't be. It takes only 20 or 30 minutes a day to make a drawing, but it seems I rarely make that little space of drawing time. So I decided to start a drawing blog! My hope is that some of you will join with me and we will draw together.

I pondered how to start—there are so many ways to draw, so many books to study, so many kinds of drawing media. In the end I think the best place to start is to just draw. So, if you want to follow along, take off your shoe and draw it. Use any kind of pen or pencil you like. Look carefully at your shoe. Notice the details. Notice the proportions. Draw it carefully. Erase if you need to. Toss it away and start over if you need to, but don't spend more than 30 minutes on it. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. This is your starting point. Write the date on it. Put it away and save it. You will enjoy looking at it later to see how much your drawing has improved!

Who's with me?