Ask any grown-up and they have often decided that they are either creative or not. Sometimes this happens even younger; from childhood we start to build our own self-image. I wonder what it would take to change that perception?

Guests to our house over the summer have been drawn (no pun intended) to my sketchbooks as they lie scattered on the table. What is it about sketchbooks that is so tempting? Like a sweetshop full of unexpected gems… Conversation tends to follow a set pattern:

“Oh! Have you been drawing much?”

“Can I have a look?”
Always appreciated when someone asks this – sketchbooks can be quite private places – then usually followed by:

“How lovely, I wish I could draw!”

This is usually followed by excited encouragement from me as I truly believe there is no such thing as “not being able to draw”,  But it made me consider what people actually mean when they say they can’t draw. Because we can all draw. Even playing the board game Cranium there are rounds where you have to draw blindfolded and people manage to draw fully understandable drawings!

Of course we all draw differently. The way your hand moves across the page, applies pressure and changes direction is part of this. Often what people mean is that they can’t draw a visually accurate impression. Fair enough, this can be tricky – it certainly takes practice and time to develop the skill. But it is a skill, like learning to drive or touch type. If you want to do it, you can. You just need to want to do it enough to develop the practice.

There’s more to it than that though. Often when I draw I’m not looking to create an accurate representation – sometimes precisely the opposite. If I want accuracy I can take a photograph as a record, but when I draw I’m looking for some personal interpretation. Gerhard Richter is a German artist often credited with re-injected new life into painting when it was considered ‘tired’ but his enigmatic drawings also show how he challenges the preconception of what drawing is. This is a large drawing at 40 x 60 inches, some of the marks are evident but you can also see where he has taken away as well as added, building and removing in layers. What is it of? Does it matter? It seems an honest and refreshing way to draw.

Gerhard Richter Drawing II 2005

Gerhard Richter Drawing II 2005

I looked up the definition of ‘draw’ and was surprised at the results. Drawing in the artistic sense was waaaay down the list at number 22 of possible meanings. Instead I found this:

“to move or pull so as to cover or uncover something” draw the curtains

“to suck or take in” for example draw in air, inhale

“to extract or take for one’s own use” draw strength from one’s friends

“to bring about deliberately, to provoke” draw enemy fire

“to evoke as a response; elicit” performance that drew cheers from the crowd

 

What fabulous definitions!! If we think of drawing in the light of these we can begin to see how drawing can be so much more.

We draw to uncover our understanding – to push and pull our own reaction to what we see to discover the truth of what we are looking at.

Suck it up, take it in: we draw to absorb information.
Artists soak up like a sponge, it’s part of the creative process – to collect and gather.

Drawing is for your own use. Extract from it whatever you wish.

Widen your parameters and squash your preconceptions. Drawing can be bold and energetic like this gesture drawing by Clive Powsey. Or slow and studied like the work of Euan Uglow who famously uses compasses to measure his models exactly. Nothing is left to chance in this scientific approach and the measure marks become part of the drawing or painting.

quick gesture drawing showing movement and balance

quick gesture drawing showing movement and balance

every detail is noted in this measured drawing

every detail is noted in this measured drawing

Take a moment to to consider why you are making the drawing.

Drawing is a deliberate action; you can listen to music in the background, you can drive while having a conversation but drawing tends to absorb you. You have to make decision to find a drawing tool and surface and yet sometimes we don’t stop first to think about what we are doing – is it to create an accurate impression, to remember a moment or simply to generate a balance of textures on a page?

Evoke a response.. hmm I would forget the part about drawing cheers from a crowd – that’s bound to tie you in knots! Remember that drawing is for YOU but evoking some sort of emotional response is worth bearing in mind: excitement, calm, studied, delicate, energetic. Start to notice drawings you like and think about why – perhaps because they draw a reponse in you.

In its simplest form drawing is merely marks on a page. And a toddler can do that. Take the judgement out and you may find that you can indeed draw. And what a joy it can be!

One of my hesitations about creating art is that it can feel a rather solitary pursuit. You have to be your own rocket fuel, judge, teacher, whip-cracker and cheerleader. (Insert slightly dodgy stock-library photography of your own choosing here …)

If this is a feeling you recognise then you are most definitely not alone! The art college crit system provides you with a chance for discussion and debate about your own work; having the chance to push and pull ideas around with others can be extremely helpful in making progress. But unless you are a member of a painting group or class it’s hard to create this yourself and it’s tempting to look online for the answers.

Undoubtably YouTube can be an inspirational artists resource but as you have to spend time watching each clip, it can also be a tremendous time sink. There was a period I lost whole mornings to the overwhelm of watching other people create when what I really wanted was to get back to my own work. It can be quite hypnotising but leave you at the end of the day with a rather empty feeling and nothing to show for it. What would you rather do: watch others or make your own art?

One of the reasons I set up this site was to connect with others about the journey we all take creatively – to celebrate the ups and the downs. I’m quite an extrovert but after 6 weeks of children’s summer holidays I am craving some time on my own so possibly today is not the day to be writing about inviting more people in! But I believe we can all benefit from the interaction that sharing can bring, wherever we are on our creative journey.

A week or so ago I discovered
#DrawingAugust on Twitter: simply a way to show and share drawings created during the month (rather late I know!). I’m new to Twitter so I’m probably creating all sorts of twit-ups with what I’m sharing and liking but it’s fun. Some days I’ve been happy with what I’ve done and others not so much…

Inspired by David Parfitt’s sketchbook posting I tried painting clouds in watercolour for the first time.
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Not a huge success, but it inspired me to go off and see how Turner tackled the same problem and I’ve since been experimenting using watercolours in my sketchbook much more.

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I’ve watched with enjoyment as others post their images and joined by sharing my own. What has made it fun is the interaction: a question about technique, the shared frustration with moving subjects who won’t sit still, and of course it’s always nice to have a ‘favourite’ or a ‘retweet’. That old school gold star reward is hard to shift!

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We all have a fear of putting yourself ‘out there’ especially treading carefully in the online world. But think what you have to gain. This week an old friend of mine contacted me to say he had been inspired to get his sketchbook out again after seeing what I was doing. He was happy to let me share it and it’s over on the Facebook page, he said a “rusty but fun!” drawing fitted into his lunch hour.

TIP: when looking at artwork online, don’t get sucked in! Know the reason for looking: if you are looking for inspiration remind yourself to stop as soon as you find that spark – make a note of whatever idea was triggered so when you next have the time you know what you want to begin with.

If you enjoyed this, why not share with others you know and help build a supportive network – come over to the Facebook page and say hello and let us know what you are working on, or what your biggest challenge is right now.

We all have our own personal way of drawing. I may admire other people’s work and even aspire to it. But when I draw it always comes out looking like ‘mine’, like handwriting.

This can be reassuring as you build your personal approach and portfolio. But it can have its frustrations. My drawings tend to be linear; it’s quicker to get down an outline form if you are drawing on location or in your sketchbook. There are other ways you can use line; to define tonal areas, follow contours or build a pattern of small marks. Varying your line can be the simplest way to add interest to your drawings.

I’m currently trying to use more colour in preparation for a new series of paintings. Changing your pen can affect your handwriting, so changing materials is an obvious starting point if I want to change my usual approach. I often use colour pencil in sketches and in paintings, but in the past I have struggled to find a way to add large areas of colour. A small watercolour set is useful to carry but it’s difficult to overlay colours due to the transparency. You have to plan a bit too much and work from the lightest tone to darkest and that doesn’t suit me so well; I prefer to adjust and respond as I’m going.

Recently I bought a set of Caran D’ache NeoColour II which are water soluble wax crayons. Almost like a concentrated stick of pigment you can draw with them and then add water to create a more intense paint effect. Here is my first attempt at using them:20140806-085917-32357467.jpg
I also used some oil pastel first so this would act as a resist to the following water based pigment. Overall it’s a bit of a mess: too in distinct perhaps but there are some interesting marks made by drawing the bright green colour pencil through the damp NeoColour.

Using a new material served it’s purpose and got me started on some colour studies and more importantly playing with how I translated what I could see to what I was putting on paper.

Here are the other images I added to my sketchbook in the same session. I did use watercolour from my tin as once I got started I found it quicker to add larger patches, but the ability to make a line with the NeoColour and then blend it with water is a useful addition to an image.

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I can bet that you have a tin or box of materials tucked away that you were tempted to buy in an art shop browse… Why not get them out today and have a play?