Failure is a good start

Garbage: Tea Bag Envelope
If you think your drawing is a failure, this is a good beginning. You have taught yourself what it is you do not want to be doing. Keep drawing and that failed attempt goes away.

If, on the other hand, you dwell on the drawing you did not like and do not continue to draw, you are letting it eat you. You are giving failure all the power. Keep drawing and take back the power.

I think this plastic cup sketch, from and earlier post, is a failure because it is very boring. I wondered about it, now I realize, it is two separate drawings of one cup and nothing fun is happening. The cup is transparent but who would know.

That 2 cup drawing is a very poor composition. Uh-Oh, the 'C' word. Composition, one of the words that makes How-To-Draw books scary. Composition just means how you arrange things. A good composition attracts the viewer, the listener, the reader . . .
Transparent Cups #2
And, BTW, an uneven number of objects makes a better composition. I have to keep reminding myself.

Observing parrots at the hotel on Maui
The moving subject again. I hope you are practicing the moving subject. It helps you simplify your shapes.

We all have failures, no matter how advanced we are. This is how we learn. The seamstress cuts in the wrong place and ruins the expensive cloth. Whatever the practice, we stumble. 

Failing does not indicate you should terminate doing the things you love or need to do. It is your opportunity to start over and do it differently.

Draw something poorly, on purpose. Study it. Think of why it is awful then draw the thing again, and again.


Learn to Draw by drawing as if you are a young child

Squeezed out Tea Bag
Draw garbage cause it just doesn't matter.

I am hoping that you might know a young child and can watch him or her go at it with a crayon or marker with no inhibitions. Children draw things from images they have inside their head. Try to remember how that felt, when you were age 3-5, before your peers broke you down, before you cared what the world would think of the marks you made on paper and your simple efforts were praised.

For a warm up exercise, draw as if you are a very young child. Art is therapeutic. Drawing helps you meditate and think less of bothersome things. Warm up exercises help you relax so you are not intimidated by the objects you really want to draw.
Here is a drawing exercise that is about drawing something in motion. Say What!? Oh Yeah. You heard me. If you have cats, and I suspect you do. They wake up once in a while to eat and clean themselves, two very good actions to draw. The cat sits in one place to clean and eat, but yet is in motion. 

If you do not have pets, draw a person while he or she sits in one place to do a project.

This is gesture drawing at it's finest. Drawing is not so much about training your hand to do something. It is about teaching your eyes to observe better.

Why draw something in motion? Because it forces you to look harder and draw more quickly, look for the basic shape of the whole. It forces you to improve your drawing skill.

Why draw quickly? You will stop noodling with the details and simplify your lines. You will outline your entire object before it gets away from you. It alleviates the pressure of creating a masterpiece. Your drawings will look more alive with no time for erasing, you will have to restate your lines. Drawing quickly forces you to improve your drawing skill.

You don't have a live animal or person to draw? Draw from TV, or youtube. Draw Dianne Sawyer while she gives you the news or Steven Cobert or Regis and Kelly or John Stewart or . . .
Practicing drawing is not about the finished work. It is about the practice. It is always good to keep all your efforts in an unlined, spiral bound journal and look back at them later. It will prove to you how much you have improved. However, if your practice efforts are worrying you, maybe you need to work on scratch paper, put them in a wadded pile and burn them so you can let go. 

I always compare learning to draw to learning a musical instrument. You have to practice constantly to improve. Whether you are a child or an adult, you learn the same things, go through the same frustrations and enjoy the same reward from your efforts. The big difference is the sound of practicing a musical instrument is heard then gone. However, the practice drawing sits there looking back at you till you close your journal. Hide it or throw it away if you need to, just keep practicing.

Repeating something, over time, will give you power over that something. After a month of drawing practice, your brain will have changed. Just as a good exercise routine will change the shape of your body.


Draw Garbage means, "Draw anything, just draw!"

Empty Candy Box (Garbage)

The cliche', "Take time to smell the roses." Doesn't literally mean you have to smell roses to relax and enjoy your world. Likewise, my insistence to draw garbage does not mean you must draw actual garbage to learn to draw. Draw garbage is my way of saying, "Draw anything, just draw."

If you want to draw, you will stop making excuses and draw. The more you draw, the more able you will be to see the world as interesting shapes you can put on a 2 dimensional piece of paper. Most how-to books on the subject of drawing have lots of perfect logic, explaining how to draw in correct perspective. Logic is left brain thinking. The logical approach to drawing is intimidating, non-creative and frustrating. Start looking at the basic shape of your subject matter. Drawing well is about looking hard.

Look at the object before you. Let your eyes relax, droop your eye lids half closed and look at the object out of focus. Trace the shapes with your eyes. Close one eye and point at the object with your index finger and trace the object using the air before you as the drawing paper. Imagine your finger is making a line, as a pencil. Watch for long and short lines. Watch for straight and curved lines. Practice tracing the object with your finger and imaginary lines several times. Touch the object with your forefinger, redrawing all the lines then actually draw the object in your drawing journal.

Stop thinking of the object you want to draw as 3 dimensional. Because when you make lines on your paper to represent that object, it is no longer 3 dimensional. If you haven't already, purchase a pad of tracing paper. Take photos of the objects you want to draw. Trace the photos from your computer screen or print them out to trace.

There is a new drawing tool on the market. Colored pencils for drawing on glass. Find them in the supermarket or drug store next to crayons. When you draw on your window you can trace objects you see on the other side. Look outside, through your windows, and trace your car, gardening tools, your neighbors house, or your walkway. Go outside the glass and trace shapes of things you see inside. Or tape photos on the opposite side of the glass to trace. It is fun drawing on glass.

If you are worried you will fill up your drawing journal, good. Always have more on hand. Do not draw in journals with lines for writing. Lines are interference and not condusive to creativity.

If you want to learn to draw well, you will practice often.


Draw fruit peelings from the garbage.

Mandarin Orange Peel
As I was saying in the last post, the topic of figure drawing has popped up. I know it is scary, but inevitable, because it is the most important practice to increase your drawing skills, ever. You may choose to avoid the human form, but I encourage you to try. "Creativity takes courage."

Here is another quote for your journal:
"Artists should remember that being able to draw the human form is the acid test of ones capabilities."

Makes it sound even more scary, huh? Just the opposite of all the things I have been telling you so far, "Draw garbage, things that don't matter." Don't let your mind set your limits too low.

Lets start with your own hands and feet. Your head is in a good place to view them, literally.
Your right hand might be too hard, if you are right handed because your right hand is in motion during your drawing exercise. Motion will be your next assignment.

 Get comfortable, have your favorite beverage at hand, relax your shoulders, breath deeply for a few seconds, clear your mind of busy junk, scribble around for a warm up exercise. Maybe do your garbage sketch first, something simple and fast. Start by putting your hand on the paper and tracing it, because you know that is what you want to do. Now turn the page and get real. Try many different poses.
Don't just draw your hands and feet one time and think you are done. You will need to draw them hundreds of times over the next few years.  Many cities have a group that meets once a week for figure drawing. Anyone can drop in, for a fee to pay a nude model, no instruction, bring art materials of your choice. You should eventually look for this and give it a try. In Sacramento, there is one at S12 Gallery.


Learn to Draw By Tracing

What is this item of garbage?
Leave a comment to make your guess.

Did you know that the reason it is harder to draw some things is because you know too much about them? You are letting your knowledge of the real world get in your way and scare you. When hearing that I am an artist, people ask me what things I draw and paint. I tell them everything. Everyone and everything inspires me. The whole world can be put down on a piece of paper in a series of shapes.

Get yourself some tracing paper and trace items from your photos, magazines and books. You will be surprised to see the simple shape of complicated things. Do some tracings where you only draw the outline of the object and no inner details. Get used to mapping out your drawings this way.

 All 2 dimensional art is abstract. You are not creating a human when you draw a person, you are making some shapes on a piece of paper that look like a human. Train your eye to see people as a series of shapes by tracing models from clothing mail order catalogs. And most importantly, do not forget the negative space, the area around the figure.

After you trace from photos, practice your real life drawing of garbage, things that just don't matter.

Yes, the dreaded topic of drawing "The Figure," the human, has arrived. Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, here is an interesting quote which I came across in one of my old drawing journals:
"At one time I thought that art was something of beauty. Over the years I've learned that it's really something that creates emotion, something you haven't seen or thought about before."



Ornamental Kale
The garnish from my plate. I saved it from going in the garbage at the restaurant.

If you can force yourself to ignore your eraser, you will learn to draw much faster. The eraser is confirming your suspicions that you might fail. It is very negative in the attempt to build your drawing skills. I thought I could draw well until I decided to only carry a pen with my journal. I was amazed at how much I improved.

You will learn to draw when you,
  1. Draw Garbage, that is, things you aren't closely attached to. If your subject matter is not intimidating, it will be easier to draw.
  2. Carry a drawing journal with you everywhere and draw in it as much as possible.
  3. Relax before you draw. Get comfortable, do some deep breathing and a warm up scribble.
  4. Look at the object of the drawing more than you look at your paper.
  5. Pay attention to the negative shapes around your subject.
  6. Draw without erasing.
  7. Think of the blank, white page as an invitation to scribble.
  8. Practice, practice practice.
Scribble instead of erasing.
Make your first few lines on the paper very lightly. Don't get hung up on tiny details at first. Establish the entire outer shape before drawing interior shapes.

Look at the space surrounding the subject, the negative space. Do your drawing as if you are actually drawing the negative space. 

Look at your paper less and less. Look hard at the object as you draw carefree. Go back over your lines to make changes. Continue drawing without erasing.
If you find yourself making short scratchy lines as you draw the outer shape of the subject, challenge yourself to outline the entire thing without lifting the pencil or pen from the page. Smile. It is fun.



Paper Napkin
Sit in a comfortable chair, have your favorite beverage at hand, place your drawing journal on the table or desk before you and just scribble. Clear your mind while you scribble. Scribbling is a good warm up exercise, like stretching your muscles before a workout. Turn the page, then scribble with a plan. Try this warm up exercise:
Put your pencil on the paper and don't lift till you have made lines all over the paper, trying not to let your line cross over itself. Just play and watch the mark flow from end of your writing instrument. Don't think about chores, just enjoy your time with your journal. One continuous line.

Now draw your garbage picture for the day. Fill that journal, baby, fill those pages.


Twist Tie

The idea of drawing garbage came about to encourage people to draw without worrying about choosing the right subject. Don't waste your precious time. Also, drawing garbage is not as intimidating as drawing the things you think everyone else in the world expects you to draw. Don't let the opinion of anyone else scare you out of your daily drawing experience.

You say you can't draw, then you would be right.
You say you can draw, then you would be right.
People who say, "I can," and people who say, "I can't, have a lot in common, they are both right.

If you want to draw, you will. If you do not want to draw, then you are reading the wrong Blog.

Get in the habit of drawing every day. Create a positive addiction. If you are trying to get your mind off negative things that are not good for you, draw. It will help free your mind of annoying thoughts and cravings. I don't feel hungry when I am drawing. That is a very good thing.

Now take a deep breath, clear your mind and scribble like a very young child. Mess up some pages in your journal so you won't be so afraid of the pristine, white paper.
Scribbling is amazingly freeing. It is good for letting frustrations out, like physical exercise. Scribbling is good art therapy. Scribble without reason and with abandon. Relax and let loose. This is a very good warm up exercise. It helps you get into the right side of the brain.

Now do this exercise:
Draw an imaginary vase, filling the whole page. Begin with the left side then try to make the right side match. It is almost impossible. Who cares, you are just practicing making lines. It is only a piece of paper.

Draw another vase. This time make the vase look like two profiles of a face looking at each other.

Faces and Vases is a drawing exercise you will come across in other books. It is a good one.

You are ready to do your garbage drawing of the day. Nothing interesting in your garbage? Check the waste basket or recycle bin at work. Tell a friend to supply something interesting from his or her trash.

Drawing garbage doesn't necessarily mean you have to draw something from the trash basket every time. Go outside, it is autumn, the messiest time of year. Try drawing some leaves or the ugliest tool in the tool box, stuff from under the sink, items in your glove box, check the junk drawer . . . No pressure for perfection.


Draw Garbage at a Dinner Party

This is that piece of metal from the top of a wine bottle. My dinner host, Matt Jennings, chose this from the trash for the Drawing Garbage project.

Look at Garbage, Look at Garbage, Draw Garbage
Are you looking at the object you are trying to draw? If you are trying to draw something you found in the garbage, you might be forced to look at it harder then while drawing your favorite knick-knack or coffee cup or . . .

Are you REALLY looking at your subject matter? Look at it as if you just found such a thing for the first time in your life. Look at it as if you just came here from another planet where everything is 2 dimensional, where everyone and everything is like a piece a paper, no profile, turn sideways and disappear.

“Two Looks, One line.” This is a drawing technique that was passed along to me over 30 years ago. I went to an art show in Carson City, Nevada, and had a chance to chat with the artist. She was speaking of a teacher she studied with when she was young. He told her to look more at the subject and less at the drawing.

When I was in 5th grade, we were in the process of learning how each state had a state flower, state bird, etc. We were working in groups and had to draw all the things. I did the bird of Nebraska, the Western Meadowlark. I saw the bird in a book from the library. I was in grade school in Burns, Oregon, I don’t think any birds live there other than black birds and sparrows and I feel sorry for them.

Anyway, I digress. My bird drawing showed the state bird perched on a branch with some leaves. One day, after school, the teacher from the next room came in to speak to my teacher. I was cleaning up my desk and getting ready to go home, the other teacher stopped to admire all the pictures on the bulletin board. She asked who did the bird and my teacher pointed to me. The other teacher complimented my drawing and asked how to draw the branch on a tree to make it look like it is pointing toward the viewer. The first thing out of my mouth was, “You just have to look at the branch.”

For years, I thought I gave that teacher a very stupid answer, but later realized it was the very best answer. Look before you draw.

I used to wonder why kids get anxious with their drawing skills around the age of 9. Have you ever watched a child draw? It is mostly from their imagination. Rarely do children look at an object to draw it. About the age of 9-11 children feel a need for their drawings to look realistic and they either figure out that they have to study the object or they give up. Most give up, sadly. The key remained a secret. The parents and teachers didn’t know the key to drawing success to help the child.

Put an object on the table.
Set your drawing journal in your lap.
Scoot up to the table, with the journal in your lap. Scoot so close that you cannot see your journal. Draw the object that is sitting on the table before you without looking at your journal

Tape Dispenser

I know you are going to peek. Every time you peek, you are robbing yourself of a valuable experience. Try this exercise many times. Remember, “Creativity takes courage.” Soon you will get the hang of it and not peek. You will produce drawings that will surprise yourself.
Egg Beater
I did not dream up this exercise. I first heard of it when my daughter, Dr. Brandi Myers, was in grade school. Her class had a visiting artist that had the class do this for practice.
Mortar & Pestle


The Talent To Draw Garbage

This is that thing that comes wrapped around the Asian pears

What is Talent? I tell my students that talent is 50% interest and 50% practice. I like to pretend that I know what I am talking about. Occasionally there is the contradiction from someone who  believes talent is something your are born with. 

Here is my way of thinking on the talent issue:
If you are interested in something, you will do it. If you practice it often, you will get better at it.

Another quote to write in your journal:
"We do best what we do most often."

Back to that article in AARP magazine, about the brain learning new things:

". . . Nor are we genetically hardwired with artistic gifts--or a lack of them. Environmental foctors and will power are just as important. "'Genes impact our lives,'" says David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, "'but our lives also impact our genes--the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has . . .The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.'"
(Since Blog posts are in ascending order, see the post under this about the first part of the article in AARP, September/October 2010.)

Start changing the shape of your brain by developing your drawing talent. Practice, practice, practice.

Not To Old To Draw

Plastic Cup
I was asked if my art instruction is for children or adults. I replied, "Yes."

I have never used different methods for teaching children and adults. If you were learning a musical instrument as a child or an adult, you would be learning the same way. So it is with drawing. With musical instruments, you are training your ears and your hands. Learning drawing, you are training your eyes and your hands.

I was reading an article in AARP magazine (Yes, I am old.) about people developing artistic skills, both musical or visual arts. I would like to quote it here:

"Studies of brain plasticity--the life-long ability of our gray matter to adapt to changing demands-- are proving that our creative horizons need not narrow with age. "'We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older,"" says Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging. "'In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.'"

Great news!  No matter what your age, if you want to learn to draw, it is never too late.

Did you draw yesterday? Don't miss out on a day to strengthen your hand-eye skills. Draw something, quickly, right now!


Draw Garbage

Used Tea Bag
Are you taking the time for yourself every day? Don't expect to draw well in your first attempts. Don't show your drawings to anyone unless you want to. After practicing every day for only a week, not only will your skill improve, but your confidence to continue will be bolstered. Just think how well you will be drawing in a month. We are the best at what we do most often.

Adults often feel intimidated when it comes to their drawing skills. Attending school every day, when you were growing up, you had to practice reading, writing and math. Did you have an art text book? Did you have drawing homework every school day? You were drawing until you were about 9 then you began to realize you were not as good at it as you thought you should be, so you did not continue. Now you are drawing like a 9 year old. That is to be expected. If you quit reading when you were 9, you might be reading like a 9 year old and it would be even harder to learn to read as an adult.
Do you have a fun sketch book?

 Make sure you have an extra drawing journal for backup when you fill the one you are working in. Invest in good ones or cheap ones, just make sure you have them on hand. Keep one at work, keep one in the car . . . Draw as often as you can. But be sure to practice every day. Don't draw on lined paper.

Personalize your journal, tape your business card on the cover, put a favorite photo in the pages, a picture of your pet, add quotes from famous people. Here is one to start you off:
"Creativity takes courage."
If you do not know this artist, Google him. Give yourself some art history knowledge.

When you try to take a photo of your sketch books, does your cat come and sit on them?
Did you practice the negative exercise from yesterday? If yes, do it again. You might need to make your drawing a little larger than the picture from the catalog. Make sure it is the same proportion.
Click on any photo for a larger view.
Keep drawing, Practice, practice.
Eat your broccoli, do your exercise and draw every day.
You deserve it.


Why Draw Garbage?

A plastic bottle, drawn very quickly and carelessly with Faber-Castell PITT artist pens. They are felt tip markers with a brush tip, lightfast, waterproof, fun.

If you want to draw, you might be letting the search for the perfect subject interfere with your practice. Draw things that do not matter and get going.

Negative Space
Here is assignment #2, #1 was to Draw Garbage.
Grab a mail order catalog of clothing and choose a picture of a figure. If it is not cropped like the one in the sample, get your sciccors and trim it. Clothing catalogs have well cropped photos, as they are trying to make you focus on one garment, mostly. Now shade in, with a Sharpie, or something similar, everything that is not the subject. I used magenta to emphasize all the area that is not the subject, artistically known as "Negative Space."

Get comfortable, relax your shoulders, calm the part of your mind that is trying to think about a hectic day. Think only about your paper and pencil. Try not to think about erasing. Your eraser tells you you aren't doing it right.

 Draw the scene, exactly the same size, while only drawing the highlighted, negative spaces around the figure. You may have to try this several times before getting the hang of it. And it is good practice to do it often. 

Be sure to click on the image to see the actual size. You will see my scribbley lines that I traced over with pen to make it show up better for you. I am using all my drawings actual size. (I don't think scribbley is a word.)

Don't wait for the perfect subject.
Don't wait for the perfect day.
Draw now so you will have had one day of practice by tomorrow.
Don't wait!


Draw Garbage

Ticket Stub
Drawing of a ticket stub, done while sitting in the doctor's waiting room. My goal for Drawing Garbage is to encourage others to draw things that have no value. Why? So that wanna-bee artists can let go of their love of the subject matter and not be intimidated by the drawing process. Not that anyone must draw actual garbage every time. I pulled this ticket stub off the top of the trash basket this morning. It was the first thing I saw. Part of the goal of Drawing Garbage is to not take long to decide on a subject. Don't over think it.

Do not let the negative mind make you hold out for the perfect thing, then wait for the, "Not Worthy" feelings to set in. "Oh, it is my great grandmother's perfect bud vase, I have to draw it perfectly, I won't do it right, I might as well not try."

Turns out my little piece of trash has some sentimental value. It was from the last show my husband, Sven, and I saw before the theater closed when the economy went bad. Sven found the double stub in the pocket of a coat he hadn't worn for a while. My intentions to Draw Garbage were sincere and now that I have this drawing in my journal, I can throw the actual stub in the garbage.


South Africa

Impressions of African animals, masks and designs.
8"X8" acrylic on canvas.

Blyde Canyon, South Africa


"Oh can't you see, there's a bird on me."


Nannis, the zebra, lost her mom when she was very small. The workers at the hunting lodge, where we were staying, fed her and she became a pet. Nannis likes hanging out with the horses and follows the people that feed them. We were able to pet her.


Water buck
Ground Hornbill


Wart Hog
While visiting one of the reserves in South Africa, a tame wart hog wandered among us while we were afoot. She rolled over for us to rub her tummy. She reminded us of Pumbaa, from Disney's Lion King.

All South Africa paintings are acrylic, 8"X8"
Koedoe, pronounced Ku-Du, AKA The Grey Ghost cause the hunters have a hard time spotting them if they do not move. They are that well camouflaged. And they taste pretty darn good.
We saw these elephants crossing down river while standing on the bridge. Probably the only animal we saw more of than elephants was impala or Rooibok , the Afrikaans name. Our guide said they also refer to them as "Again bok," cause in the attempt to find animals for a photo safari, Impala are spotted again, and again, and again . . . sometimes in numbers up to 2,000,000. Oh my! Hard to believe. We never saw more than about 30 at one time.
There is nothing wrong with your monitor. There really is a rainbow across the Rhino faces. If your are curious, Email me and ask.
Cheeky monkeys everywhere. We saw a lot of monkeys but didn't touch any.