Hi friends, I still need to post up something about my recent Iceland trip (which I forgot to let you know about! I went to Iceland! The photo above is of Haystack, a little needle-felted friend who came with me for the journey) but since I got back there’s been a lot on my mind about art practice, and I’ve been trying to think of how we make and especially when you make art for a living there’s some weird things you have to navigate as you get deeper into it. Such as making work for yourself versus for a client and letting it not ‘be’ for anything but for making it, learning when and where you need to switch things up to keep it stimulating for yourself, how to go back and shake yourself out of the bad habits you’ve built up over years, how to keep patient when you just want to move onto the next thing, how to stoke excitement when art feels like work, and the like.
I’ve been doing some sleuthing online and a lot of the advice given is geared towards beginners and is a little more technically dry than I’d like. But I do think there’s some good things to mine from it; lately I’ve been trying to think of art practice like a sport or like exercise— you build up skills like muscles as you create work, but sometimes you let other muscles work to cover up weaknesses and get lazy. So drills and exercises (something I think we often think are boring/simple or for beginners) are useful to help break those habits and become a little more well rounded, as well as help you regain some excitement when things feel routine, or feel more patient when you’re hitting a wall.
I solicited responses on Twitter last night and got a good slew of ideas to practice no matter what stage you’re in! I wanted to share them with you (if you have others feel free to message me and I’ll add to this list!)
- completing a sketchbook where you work with ink or paint only- no pencil underdrawings!
- thumbnails of existing compositions/movie stills/etc to gain better color/tonal/composition sense.
- do warmup paintings in a found or altered book- working with type on a page gives you a compositional challenge, but is also less intimidating than a blank page.
- do morning warm up drawings, such as doing a small lettering warm-up.
- figure drawing sessions or drawing at a coffeeshop/public space.
- make a list of the things you get specific about and make them iconic and simpler. Make a list of things you use visual shorthand for (a t-shirt, car, bar of soap) and get specific.
- create a list of words/phrases and randomly pull from them, then illustrate something fusing those ideas. (magnetic poetry style!)
- do 100 20-minute sketches from life.
- draw with kids to find spontaneity and focus— learn from their fearlessness!
- also, have kids as art directors giving you assignments.
- take bad, rejected, or old sketches and spend time to fix them into a finished piece.
- take something you’ve made/designed and translate it into the spirit of another style/time period/art movement/voice. Or try and draw it from a different perspective or viewpoint, or try and draw what happened before or after it, or draw the opposite of it.
- give yourself an alter-ego with a totally different visual voice, and try and create work for them.
- create a project with parameters and a goal to explore, and a set end date and accomplish it.
- if you draw fast, try to redraw it really slower and slower, find places to add specificity. Or redraw with your eyes closed. If you draw really complicatedly and slowly, find ways to redraw quicker and simpler but still keeping the essence of the subject.
- blind contour drawings are really great to practice seeing without assuming. Drawing upside down, working with continuous line, or drawing negative spaces of things is also a good way to think differently.
- sitting with another person who draws, draw the same thing with your eyes closed.
- stream of consciousness drawing.
- change scale, draw standing up (or bonus, draw with your pencil on a dowel 3 feet away from the paper).
- draw something you feel very comfortable drawing. Then consider how an alien would consider that thing and what it wouldn’t know about it. Is there a way to convey more personality/information into that drawing?
- try and draw things without line.
- try and translate your drawing into a 3D medium and then redraw it after making it.
- the biggest thing is though: build time to practice, and DON’T TALK YOURSELF OUT OF DOING A DRILL. Think of it like a musician practicing their scales and don’t worry that it’s just for you. Sow those seeds and reap ‘em later!
Whew, I gotta stop writing books instead of blog posts, but hope you find it useful! I may need to compile a pdf sometime…