Pull out a piece of paper and do a drawing of someone sitting and reading out of your head. What details did you add? Are they in a setting, or just floating in space? “I wouldn’t have put this detail in here if I was drawing this out of my head”, is one of the things that I think about while working on these drawings from life this month.
I’m in the Saint Charles Community College catalog this spring, teaching three classes: Beginning/Intermediate Drawing, Beginning/Intermediate Watercolor, and Sketchbook Fundamentals. Basically, it’s an intro to different types of working sketchbooks, and sketch journaling. As I work on my own projects and sketches, I often think about strategies I wish I’d learned and practiced as a student. I also think about exercises and assignments that can help push a class towards learning to practice those strategies.
A Sketchbook Exercise
- Draw a real object or scene from your imagination. For some reason, I always think about a pumpkin when considering the subject for this exercise. It’s pretty easy, and readily recognizable by most people.
- Find a photo of a pumpkin and draw it again from reference.
- If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can try drawing it from several different angles using only the one bit of reference.
- Find a real pumpkin and draw it from several different angles, from life.
- Draw it one more time from memory. How does it compare to the original one you drew from imagination?
Each drawing should be different, but how are they different? Our skills and visual vocabularies are built up like legos. When we first begin to draw something, it’s like building with Duplo blocks. Kind of big and clunky, all the parts are there, but there isn’t any fine detail or individuality. Ultimately, it’s kind of a symbol of the real thing. As we learn about what’s really there, and what makes each individual unique, our skill improves and we start building with regular, and then technic legos. Each step adds more detail, and makes the experience richer for both the builder and the viewer.
Life drawing is an important component of sketchbook practice, but it isn’t without it’s special challenges. I did today’s drawing at the library while the kid’s read and played in the children’s area. Right after we got there, mom came in with her little boy and sat down to read while he played, so I started drawing her. If you’re drawing a cute, single mom at the library and you’re six-year-old drawing is close by, there’s a better than average chance that she’s going to ask loudly if that’s what you’re doing. I don’t know if it’s more embarrassing getting noticed drawing someone, or getting called out doing it. Hahahaha!