Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DISCUSS: How to draw with confidence?

Sketch of The Cafe Lotus, Ubud, Bali
If you'd like to know what happened that made a big difference to my confidence in my drawing, read the story about a trip to a lotus pond in Bali in this blog post from February 2006 - When I turned the corner............. which starts...
When people ask me about my current style of drawing, I often joke with them about how it took me nearly 10 years (as in YEARS!) to learn how to scribble.
This is a DISCUSSION post - please leave a comment about:
  1. What needs to happen - in the future - to make YOU feel more confident about drawing?
  2. What happened - in the past - that made YOUR confidence in drawing grow?
  3. In general, what do you think most people need to be able to do in order to draw with confidence?


  1. In the past couple of years, I moved from doing textile-based art (basketry, embroidery, rug-making) to drawing and painting. It was a long journey that began when I was basically shamed out of art school in the 1970s ("What? Representational art? That's so dead. So up-tight. All your stuff is just decorative.") and saw me scribbling clumsy countour drawings secretly at home 30 years later. Because at the end of it all, I still longed to be able to translate what I saw in the 3D world onto 2D surfaces. Don't ask me why. Dont really understand it even now.

    The past couple of years, I enrolled in classes at a good local art college, and found teachers who love and practice representational art techniques. Working with them, I have learned just how very far I still have to go, but I also learned not to be ashamed of what I do now. It is the work of an earnest student, and in each drawing I can see points of growth (tiny, but incremental). When I realized I now look forward to weekly critiques, rather than dread them, I realized I had come to a new stage in my growth as an artist, and had left behind the stinging shame I'd lived with for 30 years after college. I willingly pull out my sketchbook if someone asks about my work, and don't mind that many pages are full of lopsided, unfinished drawings. It's all part of the process, and I am thankful I have come so far.

  2. What a lovely story! Sounds as if never give up on what you really want to do is one of the qualities needed by those who want to draw well

    I always think it's that ability to recognise the small steps of incremental progress which is so important - it keeps you going - and then one day they start turning into rather bigger steps!

  3. I have been drawing for some years, both for drawing itself and to support printmaking as. Well as teaching children to draw and make art. In August 2012 I began a personal challenge to make a drawing every day for a year leading to my 50th birthday. It took about 4 months for this to become a habit rather than something I had to remember to do and over the first 6 months is began to find it easier to find things to draw whereas before I would search for or wait to find something worthy of drawing. I now see things to draw everywhere - the vegetable peelings, a remembered view from driving home, and trees, trees, trees! In August 2013 I joined #drawingaugust on Twitter and this took me beyond a year so that now I'm a aiming for 1000 days of continuous drawing. I post my drawings on a blog and the unexpected audience of people is motivating as is the community of people who draw and follow the monthly art hashtags. I suppose they key thing I've learned from this the more you draw the more you can draw.

  4. Gosh! Another wonderful story - well done!

  5. I went and looked for your blog - I think this must be the one http://jeandrawingaday.wordpress.com

  6. Drawing has the power to transform an individual into an artist, and the method of learning to draw will determine the outcome for the student.

    I learnt to draw with Ken Howard and Margaret Priest, beginning as a young and impressionable art student in the 1970’s.

    Initially, we drew the human figure from observation, using a dip pen and Indian ink, on white cartridge paper. When we perceived an error, we painted over a line with white gouache. Once the gouache had dried, we continued drawing with the pen and ink.

    The results were encrusted papers of lines and corrections that became a process of intense focus and experimentation.

    Drawing in this way allowed me to bypass appearances and focus on the act of drawing. The work was free from glamour.

    Ken and Margaret gave no demonstrations, which was entirely correct. We were given a short talk each morning and then thrown in at the deep end on a practical level. The obvious happened, which was that each student hit the ground running and came face to face with their own demons. The tutors were there to talk each individual through personal issues as they came up.

    I witnessed very sensitive fearful young students become strong individuals through this process of engaging with drawing. We learnt by trusting the process, by not comparing ourselves negatively with other students, and by facing the emotional problems that come up moment by moment. This kind of training made even the most sensitive and fragile person into a capable artist. Each student became focused internally from the beginning, because the atmosphere we worked in was non-judgemental in the positive sense, and it was accompanied only by constructive criticism.

    Whatever personal issues we have, drawing is sure to bring these to the surface, which is why drawing is difficult and feels neurotic at times. But drawing also has the power to transform us, through a strange osmosis, into something more than we thought we could ever be.

  7. Thank you Coral for a thoughtful and very stimulating account of your own experience and views.

    I must write - lots of quotable quotes in there!

  8. Seeing incremental improvements is important, yes. And it's rather ironic, but I've found that the better my eye becomes at perceiving things like foreshortening, value patterns, hard and soft edges, the more forgiving I am of my own shortcomings. It's like I see the path ahead now, and I know where I need to keep improving. In years past, when images didn't work, I didn't really know why, nor how to fix them. It was terribly discouraging. Now, I can see that I've skewed the eyes on a portrait, but I can also see that, for example, I really nailed that curve of the cheek. There's so much joy in seeing real growth.

  9. I LOVED reading about the Bali trip. I used to try and make my sketches perfect and that is frustrating and not productive or fun. I joined Urban Sketchers and in my mind, that sort of gave me permission to randomly sketch freely and for fun again. I realized how much I missed drawing because for years I was involved in the commercial art world and painting with oils. I now never want to return to that world and am enjoying this freedom and if it's not perfect it's ok. The sketchbooks are enjoyable to look back on and mean much more than photos.

  10. I keep sketchbooks scattered about the house, in my handbag and sometimes in a pocket. There are many starts and stops on the pages. Not a lot gets finished, but I don't mind that. At art school in the 70's we were told drawing was just for information. You had to get the information down at all costs even at the expense of your actual drawing. That stayed with me for a long time in that I saw drawing as a step towards a painting, or as practice, hand, eye co-ordination, seeing tonal values, compositional lines. I like and appreciate drawing but I still have the feeling at the back of my mind it's not the real deal. I think I draw with confidence but that is possibly because I feel it's not the end product. I think I need to be converted!

  11. I was told at 13 that I wasn't good enough to take Art O-level. That failure stayed with me until I was in my 50's when my husband "challenged" me to a 4 day drawing course for absolute beginners on the basis of put up or shut up- I had whinged and said I wanted to learn every since that destructive comment. That was the turning point for me - a sensitive supportive teacher that showed us all sorts of ways of drawing, loads of examples, materials and compassion. I discovered pstels and charcoal for the first time, realised my endless dooodling and copying had given me a basic level of competence in handling pens and pencis as tools and have gone on from there. The most important thing is that I realised I had been drawing all my life - I called it doodling - but it feels as necessary to me as breathing. Now at 65 I am a printmaker and draw most days. Doodling, sketching, life drawing what ever, I love it and it feeds into a never ending source of ideas and I thank my husband for the challenge

  12. Yes, that's my blog! Strangely, someone left a comment about how she felt my drawings lack spontaneity and are too neat! It really put me off and I didn't draw with the same enthusiasm today - an illustration of how a comment can have an effect...

  13. There's so much concern in art education about how we can give children confidence through our teaching - recent project called TEA and associated resources is focused on this http://t2.nadfas.net


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