This weekend I completed my Sketchbook in a Day project: a whole sketchbook completed in exactly the same surroundings that I had found so uninspiring at the start of the summer. Yet this time I had no trouble at all finding things I wanted to record; something had happened to shift my visual awareness and productivity up a notch.
Over the last couple of months I have been trying to work regularly. It’s not always easy; life often gets in the way. I’ve noticed one huge change – the more I do the easier it becomes. I don’t mean that it’s easier to create a work of genius (that’s going to take a lot more!) I mean it’s easier to begin.
If I work occasionally, maybe one or two drawings a week because time is precious then those drawings start to create an aura around themselves before they even exist. “This has to be good, this is your drawing time, it had better be a good one….” Sound familiar? Once you start making work (work? – sounds scary already) OK making drawings, making marks, making a record… once you start recording on a regular basis it loses the ability to scare you off. If today’s drawing is just one of 30 you will do this month, or today you keep going until you have done 3 drawings out of 10 you will accomplish this week then each individual drawing isn’t required to be so important.
More work = more work = more ideas = more work = more good work
It sounds obvious and yet this is something I see time and again – people hesitate through a fear of creating something not ‘up to standard’ when the only way through is just to create. The point at which it changes is the moment you decide to commit to making more. As George Bernard Shaw put it:
“When I was a young man I observed that nine out of every ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.”
If that thought sounds tiring, remember that creating art is what you WANT to be doing. I also hope that the failure rate would reduce as experience builds. Here are three points you could use to help increase your output.
Focus on the process
Don’t expect every drawing to be wonderful – it won’t be. Remind yourself that you’re not after perfect drawings as an end result. Focus instead on the process. Get lost in the moment, become absorbed and lose track of time. Or do it so fast you don’t have time to trip yourself up by thinking! Every single drawing you do will teach you something. Inch by inch you are building on your experience.
Think of simply recording or collecting ideas
A ‘drawing’ has all sorts of connotations that have built up over time. We have looked at the implicit skill in Old Master drawings and appreciated the simplicity of Matisse. That’s a lot to live up to! A detailed drawing of a scene will take a long time so instead I suggest you start by simply recording one element – the colour, patches of shadow, an outline. Make a record of whatever interests you most – it doesn’t have to say everything. Give yourself a time restraint if necessary.
Restrict your choices
The world is your oyster; wonderful and exciting but also overwhelming. Shall I try pen and ink? What about bringing in colour? If a trip to the art shop leaves you salivating and your cupboards are groaning with materials you want to try, then you need to take a step back and reduce your possibilities. Begin with one thing; whatever will be easiest for you to pick up. If that is a 2B and a 6B pencil then go with that. Keep going, when you get bored try to push it a little further – change the way you hold the pencil, alter the marks you make, change the speed. The idea is to keep within one set of limitations. By reducing your options and cutting down on the alternatives you make it easier to begin and in turn you will be forced to play and experiment a bit more… and perhaps surprise yourself!
Just a note – I’m not advocating that you never review your work and make critical decisions. Of course that is key part of any art practice; but for me that is a separate part of the process. If we bring too much judgement in at the start it’s too easy to become paralyzed with anticipation. There is no need to do that to yourself!
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a Sketchbook in a Day (and really it was quite exciting to start the day with nothing and finish with a complete book!) then let me know in the comments below, and follow the blog, or find me on Facebook because I will be talking more about how this can help you. For now, happy