Lover of nature, color, art, life, adventure. Choosing to find beauty. I hope you can find inspiration and joy while you're here.


4 Ways to Sketch, Part II (Continuous)

On Instagram, I showed a sketch I had done of the same flower using four different techniques. I thought it would be helpful to dive into the types of sketching since each technique is used to hone in on different illustration skillz.

The second sketching method is what I like to call a continuous line drawing. It can have some silly results at first, but with more practice, the better things will look. The purpose behind this exercise is to help you learn how to gauge space and relative line placement. This isn't a timed exercise, and I like to do this slowly as I continually reference my subject and the nuances that my line quality is developing. I'd love it if you joined, so grab a pen and a paper and let's get started:

This exercise is a single continuous line, so pick a focal point on your subject and begin there. Since this technique doesn't lend itself to easy correction, plan out your space usage before laying your pen to paper. I started at the top of the tomato where the stem meets the fruit because everything seemed to radiate from that point for me. I used it to gauge how much space the sketch would take up and the relative placement of the features. Using that as my reference point, I drew the right side, paying attention to my subject for subtle dips and ridges so that I could reflect those nuances in my sketch:

Then I swooped around, making sure to represent indentations with loops. It's important to keep your entire arm and shoulder loose when you draw a continuous line. If you're only using your wrist, you're going to get little saw-toothed sketch marks. That is not what we are after. To keep the line as smooth as possible, you should use your entire arm in a slow and controlled manner. I like to imagine the movement originating from my shoulder or even my chest. It's not unusual for your upper body to move around in support of your pen, but the results can be unique and beautiful:

Loops and overlapping is totally cool and expected because this is a single line. This is an exercise in self-control, in achieving a smooth line quality, and in predicting the results of where you started with your scaling. Sometimes you'll realize immediately that your spacing is off, and sometimes you think it will work out until you get to the end and your lines don't match up as planned.

(A fun variation of this exercise is to draw your subject using a continuous line without looking at your paper at all. As soon as your pen touches the paper, you can only look at the subject. It helps you realize the difference between what the subject actually looks like and what you think it looks like.)

Have you done this exercise before? I love how effortless the final result can look, but it takes lots of self control to get to that point. It can be pretty funny if you're with friends drawing one another, but it also helps develop essential artist skillz. If you try this out, I'd love to hear how it went!


4 Ways to Sketch, Part I (Gesture)

On Instagram, I showed a sketch I had done of the same flower using four different techniques. I thought it would be helpful to dive into the types of sketching since each technique is used to hone in on different illustration skillz.

The first in this series, and quite possibly the best for beginners is the gesture sketch. This is great for super fast sketching and embraces errors and allows for easy correction. I like to use this technique to capture images in two minutes or less because it really focuses on the gesture or movement of the subject. This is less about a finished piece of art and more of a warmup exercise to stretch those drawing muscles. Three-fourths of becoming a good artist is learning how to see and the rest is learning techniques to draw what you see. Perspective is everything, and this little exercise will allow for developing that ability to see things as they are and not as you imagine them to be. Want to learn how? Grab a pen and set your timer for 60 seconds to join along...

This technique is pretty much a controlled scribble, and is meant to be done super fast, like a ninja. Instead of just starting wherever, take a few seconds after the timer's started to glance over the subject. Begin by identifying the main points of your subject. You're not looking for volume or space, but are noticing the intersections of different appendages as well as the farthest reaching points. Once you've identified them, begin drawing. In this grasshopper sketch, I've drawn points at the head, thorax, end of the abdomen, and the legs:

Once you've started drawing, don't pause or lift your pen from the paper. That keeps you from lollygagging and helps you draw fast. Continue by filling out the lines with some snakey scribbles. The point it to get the general idea of space taken by the subject:

The trick is to get it as identifiable as possible in a short amount of time. Continue with your frantic scribbles to fill out that shape. You should be spending most of your time looking at your subject than at the paper you are drawing. Really look at your subject. Pay attention to the shape in general, then look at it again for a few more specifics, then look at it again with an even more detailed eye. Refine and redefine the shapes as you scribble, and if you have enough time, now you can concern yourself with volume:

You'll notice this isn't the prettiest sketch, and that's okay. It seriously took seconds. I didn't get all of the leg joints in before my time was up, the head shape is way off, and some of the angles are wrong. That's fine, this is not finished art.

This is a great exercise to do before sitting down and actually drawing for realsies. I like to do 5-10 subjects for a couple minutes each (or try 30-second increments if you really want to challenge yourself) to relax and settle into the practice of drawing. Doing this has probably helped me improve my observation skills the fastest out of any other drawing exercise I've done. The more comfortable you get with the quick format, the better you are at seeing subtle differences in angles and proportions sooner and the better the actual sketch will look after a while.

I'd love to know if you found this helpful or if you've already tried this. And if you've tried this, do you have any tips to add?


Nature's Lessons

As you may or may not know, lately I've been focusing on deliberate practice and spending time specifically honing in some art skillz. I've also been super inspired by the lessons Nature has been teaching me this year. I decided to invest some serious hours in a hand lettering piece to help remind myself to search out and appreciate the tidbits of wisdom from my outdoor adventures:

Although I've gleaned several poignant lessons this year from my interactions with the great outdoors, one of the most significant for me personally in terms of change and motivation was regarding the nature of fear. I realized that sometimes the scariest thing about fear is anticipating it, so I decided to woman up and get my act together. Thanks, Nature, I really needed that kick in the pants. You're the best!

I want to know from all y'all about the most meaningful lesson you've learned from nature this year. What amazing lessons have you learned? Have you found anything surprising? What in nature has made you stop and ponder the ins and outs of life lately? Please share!


Taking Every Opportunity to Improve Part II

As promised, I went back to the Bean Museum with my family. Thanks to Dreamguy and his incredible parenting skillz, I was able to get a few minutes (not just seconds!) to sketch some more creatures:

Yep, It's just like riding a bicycle. These things just got easier the more I did them. Now that this museum is finally open for realsies, I'm going to be spending some quality time there appreciating life and death and art and nature and my place in this world.

Is there a skill you've reawakened recently? If so, I'd love to hear and be inspired by your awesome self! And to see part one again, just to see how much one extra visit helped, go here.


Taking Every Opportunity to Improve

I'm always looking for opportunities to improve, especially with my art skillz. That means that when appropriate, I will sketch during meetings, classes, church, or in between tasks at home. It means that any time I go on vacation or get a chance to stare at something long enough to jot a little representation down, I'll take my sketchbook along.

We recently went to the Bean Museum with that crazy youth group that I love so much and I took my sketchbook along for the ride. Don't judge, but what I'm about to show you are gestures only, not real or finished drawings by any means. I seriously only had seconds to complete a couple of these because our group was moving fast as lightning:

Gesture drawings mean I try to capture the general shapes and movement and not necessarily the detail. Drawing in pen meant I couldn't erase and redraw incorrect lines or shapes and that I had to draw over in order to correct and redefine the shapes. Admittedly, the first couple were pretty rough because it's been a while since I've tried timed drawings. Once I was able to gauge the timing a little better, though,  I was able to get more detail and essential shapes in before moving on. These sketches are in order of appearance in my book, and I can definitely tell a marked improvement as I flexed and stretched my dormant gesture muscles.

Moral of the story is that regardless of how much time you have, the important thing is to keep practicing. I'm planning on going with my family again soon and taking a little more time to refine my output. So, we'll see how that turns out next time. Wish me luck! Meanwhile, are there any tips you have on continual practice? I'd love to hear!