A New Method of Drawing

Line Sequence Sketch 1

Line Sequence Sketch 1

Okay, I might be going down a blind alley or I may have made a great discovery. I’m not sure which yet. This is my first try at a new way of drawing. The idea hit me as I woke up the other day and it’s basically this. Instead of looking at a scene and drawing all the shapes, you instead progressively put down different kinds of line in a specified order. The order is taken from research about the developmental stages of drawing which found that children progress through making horizontal marks, then vertical, then diagonal, and then curvilinear marks. They then see and draw shapes, values and colors, and finally space. So, my idea was to first draw all the horizontal lines in the scene, then the vertical lines, then the diagonal lines, then the curves, and then to add some emphasis and finally some detail.

The other part of my idea was to use a method called Centering to turn off my inner critic and direct my nervous energy. I recently came across this idea in an article about how musicians are trained to overcome stage fright and use their nervous energy to enhance performance. Athletes also use the same method. So, I thought hey, why not artists. Here’s the link to the article in case you want to read the details. http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/how-to-make-performance-anxiety-an-asset-instead-of-a-liability/ .

My goal in combining these two methods was to do a very quick (2 minute) on-the-spot sketch. I would first center myself and then draw spending 20 seconds on each stage of the drawing. I knew I needed some kind of timer. So, I recorded my voice giving directions and timing cues while using a stopwatch. I would play this back while drawing. Here’s a link to my audio recording in case you want to try it for yourself.

I sat at the kitchen table and looked across the room at the stove and cabinets. I sat up straight and centered myself, picked up my pen, hit the play button on my iPad, and drew.

It was a very different experience. I wasn’t drawing things or shapes of things. I was concentrating on finding specific kinds of edges and drawing their relative positions and lengths, angles, and curves. In the last two steps I emphasized a few darks and for detail I added some hinges and handles. While drawing my inner critic was completely turned off. It’s as if he said “Oh, you’re just drawing horizontal lines? You don’t need me for that” and walked away.

20 seconds is a VERY short time to draw each stage. I admit that I was surprised to find that my drawing actually resembled my kitchen and I immediately wondered how it would compare to my usual way of quick sketching. So, I flipped my page over, set the stopwatch on my iPod Touch to 2 minutes, started it and drew until the timer beeped. I used my standard approach which is to start somewhere, draw a shape, and move outward drawing the surrounding shapes.

Standard Method Sketch

Standard Method Sketch

It’s interesting to compare the two images. The standard method produced a “wonkier” drawing. The horizontal and vertical lines weren’t straight and the proportions were off. The new method produced a drawing with a completely different character. It feels calmer, less frantic, more stable and assured.

Usually it takes me a while to warm up and get into the flow of drawing. My best sketches use three stages – a quick analytical sketch to figure out the subject, a pencil under drawing, and a final ink drawing. I’m hoping this new method will help me bypass all that to quickly achieve a better sketch in one pass. This first try is encouraging.

Next I want to try it with different subjects and without the time constraints.


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