Category Archives: Art Habit

Making Shitty Drawings

Occasionally I hit rough patches with my drawing. It’s not a block or a rut, because the desire to draw is still there, but nothing good will emerge from my pen or pencil. As I’m making these rough drawings I hear my inner critic shouting at me that my work sucks, my drawings are no good, and that I should just pack it all up and never draw again. That’s how the critic works. The asshole* in my head waits until my defenses are down and then starts to wail on my already frayed nerves. It’s not so much that I give up, rather I keep plugging away, filling up page after page with shitty drawings.

IMAG1662And that is what I’ve been doing. Over the last few weeks I’ve had a load of crap on my shoulders, real worry inducing crap. The kinda crap I can’t just take my mind off. It’s always there and pervasive. This is when I’ve found my pen starts to create shit on the page. Noses off, eyeballs in the wrong direction, proportions that would make Picasso proud.

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The thing is, that this shit, is gold where art journaling is concerned. Shitty drawings give me a window into my head in a way good drawings don’t. I can see the weight of everything that is on my mind in my bad drawings. I’ve regressed 2 years back in my drawing habit. This has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the art (the art itself is just fine) it has to do with what I personally see in the art. Yes, there are specific things like proportion, perspective, and other REAL problems in the art, but that makes the drawing neither bad nor good, it simply IS.IMAG1660

A art therapy guy named Shawn McNiff ** writes about having a dialog with your art. That you should have a conversation with your piece, and listen to what it tells you. While I find that idea a tad whooo whooo frou frou for my tastes, I do listen to my art, I look at it and gain perspective on what is going on in my life. Like reading your own tea leaves or tarot cards, listening to your art is focus driven and largely a meditative process.

 

I’ll get more into how I personally reflect on my pages in a future post.

 

It was good to identify why my drawings were turning out “shitty.” Being able to look through my book*** and see on this day my drawings were really off, and on this day this happened, it was really weighing on my mind= invaluable lessons. Once I identified what was weighing on my mind I was able to break through the barricade in my head and the drawings started to flow from my pen and onto the page in my usual style.

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Make Art with Anything

I've ranted and raved about commercialism in art journaling before. (been under a rock or just discovering me now? Click here.) And I keep ranting about it. I've been gathering videos for technique today over the last few days. (It gives me a nice 20 minute or so break from reading heavy stuff.) It's becoming increasingly difficult to find videos with good solid art technique, if I stick to videos related to art journaling. I'm not usually too shy about looking at stuff that is art andnot art journaling related. But as I viewed video after video, it really hit me.

It's hard to find a video about art journaling that isn't a blatant ad for a product or process or linked to classes. All of it is trying to get us to part with our money. I'm wary of technique videos that read like a who's who of products. Tim Holtz this. Glimmer Mist that. Hellmuth's paints. Grunge Board. Glossy Accents. Spray inks. The videos don't teach us a technique but to be reliant on these products. They don't teach us how to make these product (though there are some old vids that do) they teach us to buy more.

Here's the deal, the secret, all you need to art journal is a pen and a journal. Call me a minimalist but my every day art journal carry (EDAJC) has been the following for the last 2 weeks: A Field Notes notebook, a BanditApple Carnet PeeWee, in a leather cover I made myself and a shitty ballpoint pen*. If I were to extend out my EDAJC I'd add a tin of watercolors in limited colors, a waterbrush, a camera**, a pencil and eraser.

I'm not making "great" art but I am making meaningful art. The art I'm making is helping me to remember the look of the sky as I waited when I picked up my partner. Or the jerking of the train as it rounded corners. Or calmed me after a busy class. This, to me, is what making and creating a journal is all about. It's not about the products I'm buying andusing. It's about the memories I'm creating. It's about my life.

It's real.

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Technique Today: Midori or Fauxdori

If you've been reading my blog for any peruiod of time you know I love me some fauxdori Midori traveler's notebook covers. I find them ingenious, easy to use, and encourage journaling every day and every where. I've added some of my videos on the fauxdori as well as some great instructions from others about things you can make and add to your own notebook covers.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

 

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Pocket Journals

In my classes and here on my blog I've talked and written about the importance of a pocket notebook or journal, repeatedly and often. Jane and I explored this with our "Field Experiments" posts. I find that when I carry a sketchbook/journal with me ALL the time I use it more often. Even if all i'm doing is writing down which train I need to take and when, I'm using it. Having it on me all the time lets me use it for sketching and journaling whenever I want or need.

I've taken to carrying Field Notes and a BanditApple Carnet peewee in my pocket along with a mechanical pencil and a black ink pen in my coat pocket. It's a barebones journaling set up. No color just graphite and ink. IMAG1422
Because I've been keeping my journal in my inside coat pocket the point of my pencil has been pocking through. I jabbed my hand with it but I was more afraid I'd break a point off or jab someone else on the train. I made myself a little pen sheath that fits over the top of my flap cover.

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Tips for Drawing Portraits

Pretty frequently people ask me about drawing portraits. How do you draw a "good" portrait.

Here are 4 tips:

#1. Don't draw from fashion photos. Use well lit images of real people from Flickr or anywhere else you can find them. Fashion magazines and their photography involve a great deal of softening the image to remove the kind of lighting you need to make a good drawing. They also remove every last wrinkle and bump in the face, the stuff you really need to navigate the contours of the face with your pen/pencil.

#2. Don't be so hard on yourself. If you spend 90% of your drawing time worryingabout how much your drawing sucks you'll never get down to the business of enjoying the process. First concentrate on the process of making your image. Enjoy the feeling of the pen or pencil on the paper. Enjoy hte moment of creation. After you are done with the image, then critique it. It's alright to go back and say, "Next time I'll try putting the line for the nose here," or suggesting to yourself, "If I put the lower eyelid in more of a gentle curve, I'd like it more."

#3. Embrace imperfection. You will make some drawings you hate. That's okay. You learn the most from your bad drawings. You learn where you went wrong, so that in the next image you know what you don't like and what you should do with the curve of the nustril and that little divot above the upper lip.

#4. Keep at it. Don't give up. the most important thing is that even though you are going to make some really bad drawings, you will eventually make some really great drawings. But you won't make great drawings if you give up. I make a lot of bad drawings. I'm okay with that. Part of art is learning what your style is and embracing that style.

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Here's a late add on to this post, MIllande has some great ideas about portraits. I love what she does with her self portrait.

  

On The Go Drawing

Now that I take the train to work I have a choice of drawing or reading. It's pretty evenly divided as to what I pick. I more often then not decide to draw on the way home. It's also a great way tot get uppity type people to not sit with me. Automatic drawings seem to weird those people out.

 

This is where things get complicated. I have drawing stuff for at home and drawing stuff I take with me to school. I’ll write about the stuff I take with me for use on the train and T. At home any pen or pencil is fair game. I use 3 brands of gel ink or gel hybrid ink pens, all of which are water resistant,so that I can add watercolors when I get home. I don’t like using a fountain pen on the train because of the bumps, shakes and jolts. I don’t want to crush a nib.

 
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Zebra Sarasa 0.7 This has been my go to pen. It’s not scratchy, the ink flows perfectly on every paper I’ve used and when I layer watercolor, watercolor crayons, and acrylic paint over it, there is NO LIFTING. This is very important in my current work. If I’m layering bright clean yellow over black I can’t have black lifting into the color and turning it muddy or green. Occasionally this pen grays out or doesn’t make a perfect black line. The one detractor of this pen is it’s cheap feeling body. Awesome ink in a cruddy pen body. If I have to write standing up I’ll use a Sarasa, as the clicky pen is easier to use than a fountain pen.

 

UniBall Signo in a variety of sizes. Again water resistant or waterproof ink that doesn’t lift. I find this pen to be a little more scratchy and not as smooth on all papers thrown at it. It is a great dark black ink that never grays out. It’s just not quite as smooth as the Sarasa. The pen’s body is better than the Sarasa.

 

Pentel Pocket Brush Pens I carry 2 with me at all times. I’ve written about them before, nothing has changed from those initial explorations and feelings. I still love these brush pens.

 

Pentel Hybrid Technica I have 4 sizes. I like these but they do have a slight tendency to lift, so I only like to use these when I’m going to leave the page black and white. I have reviewed these in the past.

 

I also carry one of my many technical pencils in 0.5 with me, usually with HB leads loaded. It varies from day to day depending on what I want to use.I also carry a wite out pen and a clicky eraser.

 

Everything gets shoved into a pen roll I picked up at Staples for $5 at the start of the school year. It is padded and offeres some protection for delicate points.

Study Break

I've started to start and end my day with a modified mandala type of image. I start with a center of one of my automatic drawings and build out from it in a somewhat circular pattern. I do not attempt to create anything perfect. Occasionally I'll break out of the circle with shapes. I draw these with an inexpensive but water-resistant pen, usually a Zebra Sarasa or Uniball Signo in 0.7 and black ink. After I finish the drawing and pattern making I work back into the image with watercolor crayons and watercolor.

While I start with a core of my automatic drawings these are different in that I don't add to them in the same way. Rather I work in patterns around the central image.

Anyway, here's part of last night's closer, before I added water.

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And one from my train ride home a couple nights ago. If you draw something like this, none of the high falutin' business people will want to sit with you. So on a very crowded train you can end up sitting alone, which is a luxury. Color was added when I arrived home.

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And I'll have to write about the particular watercolor crayons I'm using, they aren't Caran D'Ache, but I'm very happy with them. That's a tease right there.

Evidence #2 and Starting Grad School

I had my first week of grad school last week. It kicked my ass, in a good way. It was an intense 9am to 6pm class Monday through Friday. We did a  lot of writing and reading and art making. It was the most completely intense class I've ever had. In short it was awesome. I got to meet and hang out with 23 amazing women. The best thing is I'll be spending the next 4 days with them as well. This time in New Hampshire.

I expected to have evidence on Etsy by the end of last week but I ended up having a lot of work  to do for school. I finally got it all scanned and up today. You can get your very own copy.

30 in June

A
few months ago I came up with this plan, I called it 31 in May. It was a
good plan to get me producing art on a daily basis and then requiring
me to list it on etsy. When the plan hatched from my brain I assumed
that my last few weeks of DayJob would be uneventful, sadly I was wrong.
So 31 in May becomes 30 in June. I’ll need to come up with a new
drawing for it, but there you have the idea in a nutshell.

The
reasoning for it is that I’ve gotten out of my daily art journaling
habit. I journal but not daily and I miss it and let’s face it, I need
it. So the plan is that I work in my small coil bound Stillman and Birn
Beta journal everyday for the month of June. When the page is finished
to hold myself accountable I load that page to etsy. Each page will be a
real journal page. Sometimes with writing, but not always. I’ll work
this coil bound journal just like I’d work any other journal, keeping
process to the front of my mind. Each page will get a blog post and
possibly a video. (The video portion will be harder due to video editing
constraints. Editing a video a day is way harder than it sounds.)
Anyway, that’s the idea, thirty 5×7 inch pieces in June, all loaded up
to etsy and my blog.

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It’s a Process

I’ve
been sick, in more ways than one. I’ve had a sinus infection. It’s
knocked me on my ass. I’ve also been dealing with disappointment. Abject
utter disappointment. Disappointment so deep it hurts. I let myself
wallow in it and be consumed with the feeling. The feeling making my
sinus infection seem a hundred times worse than perhaps it was. Or maybe
it was just that bad* that it could make me feel so helpless.

The
cause of the disappointment is not important other than to me. I’ve
spent the last few days in a fever induced haze of misery, scribbling in
my art journal and watching TV on my laptop and sleeping.
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My
scrawling and scribbling in my art journal don’t reveal much to me. It
chronicles my self-centered misery, my sadness and my sneezes.**
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Except
one page, a meditative page I did in a sort of mandala style. It’s also
self centered, in that there is an image of me in the middle of the
page. Radiating out from the center of the image (at the sinuses
interestingly enough) are layers of circles filled with various
patterns, alternating colors, lines, rays, circles, sheep, and gears.
All of this done on a hot colored background in cool colors.
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Though
I had not planned the imagery it matches the evolution of my thoughts
over the last few days, from useless rage and helplessness to being able
to think clearly on the problem at hand and coming up with a plan that
may work. It’s not done yet, but I like where it’s going
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