Subtract the thoughts about it being too late for you now; rather ask yourself what you can do to keep your spark of interest aflame and boost it.
Add all the motivational quotes you’ve ever heard about drawing with the spontaneity of a child. It boils down to eliminating all the second-guessing, erasing and redoing. You start and keep going. You care more about the doing than the outcome.
Take a look at A Year of Drawing by the younger of Austin Kleon’s children, and note his words in the last paragraph: “…at this point … drawing for him still has nothing to do with the results. He does not care what you do with his drawings after he’s done making them.”
(Edited to add: oops, make this a Sunday Motivator as I set it to publish a day early!)
“…the secret of green is orange and the friend of green is violet. Natural light represents all color, so a little orange introduced into green (which is a combination of yellow and blue) subtly introduces the color family of red and completes the color wheel spectrum.”
“Innovation makes its mark in the world only at the cost of endless effort, groping, and guesswork.
“Manipulating both form and substance, a painter stumbles across what will one day be [their] future path without knowing exactly that it lies in that particular direction…” — “Monet Water Lilies: The Complete Series” by Jean Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart, page 75
You’ll know how to get there once you’re there, but until you’re there you won’t know how to get there. And then “there” moves, and the artistic journey starts anew.
“If it is untrue to call [Monet] self-taught exactly, he nevertheless took little heed of the usual stages in an artist’s training … absorbing only what was to his purpose and fed into his research.” — “Monet Water Lilies: The Complete Series” by Jean Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart, page 74
I’m a great one for giving something a try because it’s sometimes the unexpected things that we end up enjoying the most rather than the eagerly anticipated ones. But also for not spending time being bored with something simply because that’s the way one ‘ought’ to do it, tradition for tradition’s sake. One size doesn’t fit all. There are many paths to the same point.
“A photograph of the site of a well-known painting arouses our curiosity right away: it breaks open the sealed world of the landscape canvas, situated the artist in a place and a moment, and reminds us that an artist searches, gazes, at times disassembles, and recombines.”
Pavel Machotka, “Cézanne. Landscape into Art”, p ix
Cézanne is an artist I have grown to like more and more, yet has never moved much on my “learn more about to understand better” list. But finding the book today’s quote comes from in a second-hand bookshop in York felt like it might be just what I need. Photos of Cézanne’s paintings juxtaposed with photos of the locations, enabling you to see what he decided to include, emphasise, omit. I haven’t read much of it yet, just gazed at the pictures, but it feels like a big step closer.
Who’s on your list? Post a comment on my blog and let me know…
“Tone speaks directly to the emotions. Line speaks to the mind. Or, rather, it speaks to the emotions through the mind by distilling the idea of the thing.
“Lacking the mimetic immediacy of tone, which is a closer approximation of the actual way that we perceive the world, the abstractness of a line drawing can never look like its subject in any literal sense. It can only look like itself, however much it may remind us of things seen.” — Frank Hobbs, Line Drawings
A line is the simplest of marks, one we know so well yet never in all its possibilities.
In a line drawing, aim for the lines to be having a ceilidh not a committee meeting.
“Intuition is subjective and depends on … what you go after. Much of intuition is also related to memory and perception.” Albert Handell, Intuitive Composition, page 22
Instinctively knowing how an ink might behave, what adding that colour will do to the others … these individual snippets of knowledge are the building blocks, the muscle memory of intuition. Practising art techniques can improve your artistic intuition.
“When you paint things exactly as they are, you don’t show people anything they couldn’t see for themselves — you’re telling them what they already know.” Paul Strisk, The Art of Landscape Painting, page 34
It’s a game to play with a friend, to be somewhere, anywhere, and ask not “what do you see” but “tell me three things you see”. In a group, write it down, then share. Play it with yourself by closing your eyes, counting to ten and then seeing what pops up in your visual memory.
Some people look at things close by, others in the distance; how good your eyesight is and whether you wear glasses being factors too, of course. Some focus on details, some on colour. Sometimes a favourite thing will hold our attention, such as when I see foxgloves or daisies growing on a verge.
“But by correcting every flaw, you might lose the sparkle and vitality of the painting. In some indefinable way, the strangeness of the picture can often be a essential part of its charm.” Paul Strisk, The Art of Landscape Painting, page 71
Resist wiping up drips, covering every sliver of underpainting showing through, straightening a freehand horizon with a ruler … I’m sure you can think of other fixes that tidy things up but simultaneously add blandness rather than character to a painting.
Start by saving the ‘fixing’ until tomorrow, telling yourself you’re only leaving it for now not forever. Then look at it with fresh eyes and ask yourself not if it’s right or wrong but if it detracts or enhances. Call it quirkiness rather than flawed.
“I like to think of painting as a form of drawing. And drawing is a form of guessing followed by correction.” — James Gurney
Quit telling yourself a line has to be correct the first time, that you only get one go at it. You are allowed to change your mind, and probably should expect to. Treat it as you would seasoning in food, a starting point to be adjusted as ingredients are added and things develop.