Playing to Get Work Done

sketchbook00001In my last post I discussed how Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge inspired me to stop the excuses and start working in my sketchbook again. This was kind of important to me in finally letting myself do some ugly drawings– which is a problem I’ve had since before art school.

In my mind, I want everything to be beautiful, and if it doesn’t meet a certain criteria in my head, I just stop working on the piece. Now while there is some kind of argument in being efficient and leaving a piece before working it into the ground attempting to get it to work, I have been so hesitant to make anything not “beautiful” that I’ve stayed in a very comfortable box of always using the same materials (which I am very familiar with) and using the same techniques over and over and over, and you can see why part of the reason I was having art block was that I was stuck very much in a rut. Juicy Ink’s videos showed me a way to get out of that by getting out of that comfort zone by trying to approach materials with a different perspective.

Before my art block hit me very hard, I was playing with toned paper, as I saw a slew of artists I admire starting to use it for sketches. I didn’t get very far experimenting with it then, but I liked the idea of toned paper– so I took that idea, drug out an ooooooooooold pack of Prismacolor markers (some of which were gelatinous, which was very gross), and made some toned paper of my own in my Moleskine sketchbook. The markers bled like crazy, but I didn’t care. I wanted to play, and if that meant I was going to make a mess, then so be it! And thus a punk Sailor Moon was born.

And the thing is, it didn’t matter to me that the anatomy was whacked as anything– or that I squished so many things onto the paper making everything even more wonky. I had fun. Not only did I have fun, I felt inspired. Which was not something I had felt in a long time.

 

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Taking that inspiration and rolling with it, the very next day I used the same technique on the very next page, this time in yellow marker (the only other marker that was working well), and basically drained it covering one and a half pages with it. And just started drawing. It takes me so long to just draw, I loved how quickly I could just leap into getting an idea down and putting it to paper. Normally, this is such a struggle for me, I will waste hours trying to think of how to pose something before I even touch the pencil to paper. This was game changing. I started playing more, experimenting with pencil and colored pencil to see what it would look like instead of inks– on the yellow it looked amazing— and then decided to see what would happen if I used my white gel pen, and boom! I got a great three tone technique that I could accent with colors.

 

I finally found the thing that clicked.

 

But, as I mentioned, the markers were solidifying, so continuing to make pictures like this using the Prismacolor markers wasn’t really an option. But really, those markers were almost 15 years old. I’m amazed they made it that long. Using my Copic were out, because coloring large swatches of color are very good ways of killing Copic Sketch markers in a hurry.

Enter Copic Wides.

 

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I love these markers so much. They are the perfect color palette for me, and they are so versatile in what they can do.

I’m not sure why I like this technique, but it gets me drawing without fussing. It might be the patterns that just emerge in the block of color? When I make a solid swatch of color, there just isn’t any of the blank page hesitation that I usually struggle with– and it might be something so simple as that, but it has really helped me. I’ve started to play with the shapes in the marks that are made and suddenly, I have an idea for a drawing. So instead of waiting days/weeks to open my sketchbook until I have a perfect idea to sketch, I’m opening my sketchbook daily and playing with colors and shapes until I have an idea. And really, I think some of this experimentation has lead to stronger work then I have done in recent months.

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I’m still trying to figure out how I can hone the technique into a finished piece, as the solid color swatches give the drawings a rough, unfinished, feel to them, but I love the raw energy that the marker strokes lend to anything I draw on top. I need to work with it more, push a little further, but I feel as if I have made a real breakthrough here. I might finally be finding my artist’s voice in all of this experimentation.

 

 

So many things.

So watching a blinking cursor doesn’t get a blog entry written. If it did, I would have so many missing blog entries written.

It’s been six months since my last blog entry, and so much has happened, and yet so little?

I’ve worked through a tremendous art block, worked on pages like a madwoman, gotten incredibly sick, re-injured myself, and I could go on and on. Like I said, a lot.

But instead of cramming everything into one blog entry, I’m going to try to spread things out a little bit so I have, you know, other blog entries to write in the next coming weeks.

 

So how did you break out of your art block?

In some ways, I’m still kind of in it if I’m going to be honest. But I stumbled upon Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge (which you can watch in all one convenient playlist here) just as she started it, and went through the journey with her, and realized 1) I too have not been giving my sketchbook the attention it needed, 2) I haven’t played with any new techniques in quite a while, 3) I was going a little crazy constantly working in black and white and I desperately needed to play with some color 4) If I didn’t start to try to break this block, I would be SOL when it came to summer convention time (which *cough cough* is coming up very quickly on my heels, compounding the pressure to produce things, making the block all the worse).

anatomy001Because I was struggling with some anatomy on the pages of TS, I decided to focus on that to begin with. Most mornings for the last two months, I’ve spent around half an hour doing anatomy studies ranging from one to five minute sketches. But not without guidance. I’ve been re-reading the Loomis books in my spare time and taking notes. This has resulted in a 100 page sketchbook almost being filled in this time– which is something I haven’t been able to do since SCAD.

The massive improvement under these few weeks of dedication cannot even be expressed. But the more important part is that it allowed me to make some ugly drawings, which is something that I don’t normally do. I usually will abandon a drawing if things look wonky the instant it does, but I forced myself to at least finish it, and then identify what went wrong.

Things I learned:

  1. I draw heads small to over compensate my tendency to draw heads big when I’m working without a reference. This is something that I will never understand why I do, but I’m getting better at keeping the head size consistent with the rest of the body.
  2. gesturestudies001I draw too fast sometimes. I start to rely on what I know, and not what I’m observing. I used to be much better about this, but I think it’s because I have such a limited amount of time to work on things now, so I don’t want to waste time observing (perish the thought!) and that’s a really bad habit to get into– thus I’ve spent most of this time trying to get myself OUT of that habit. Because of my short time allowance for art, I also start to get impatient with anatomy studies after about 30 minutes. It’s staggering to think I used to take a two and a half hour class on it twice a week in college, and now here I am struggling to make it half an hour. Is it my attention span? Is it because I want to work on other things? When did doing such basic studies become so hard to do?
  3. My anatomy skills are even rustier than I thought, and I need to keep this up.

 

But that was just the beginning. Next, it was time to mix it up a bit– which I’ll talk about in my next entry.