Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Unstuck Part 1


Some days my sketches flow from my pencil effortlessly. My pencil dances across the page like Fred and Ginger. I can’t draw fast enough to get all of the ideas out of my head and onto paper. I start to believe it will always be this way. I can go on like this for days or weeks at a time. But then comes the inevitable crash. The brakes screech and, quite suddenly and without warning, it happens. I completely forget how to draw. Nothing works. I’ve fallen flat on my face! Every line is stiff and awkward. Where just the day before I held my head high and created with ease, now there is only the dreaded Ugly Drawing, misshapen and taunting me. This tends to occur for no apparent reason. Other times it’s a result of a less than encouraging portfolio review at a conference or when I’m not getting projects and stop believing in myself for a moment.

Doing nothing is one option, but I don't think it's the best one.

We all know, or at least should know, that drawing is like working out, if you don’t keep up with a regular schedule, your skills start to atrophy. The question is, what do you do when you hit this all too frequent wall? The answer may be burn out. Getting out of the studio and into nature or an inspiring boutique or museum is a great idea, but what if it goes on for too long? I’ve been struggling with working on improving my drawing skills, especially when it comes to drawing people, for a while now. I’ve acquired some wonderful books to help me with that. I go out on a regular basis and draw from life. I have a lot of sketches of the backs of people watching volleyball from my sons’ games as a result. All of this is great, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.



Tracing of Tony Fusili's work. He is a master!
The best trick I’ve found for getting past this stuckness and improving my drawing skills at the same time is to trace the art of some of my favorite illustrators. Except for this blog post, no one ever sees these tracings. They’re purely an exercise for me. I don’t just trace the outline, I use a blue pencil and draw the action, gesture, and shapes, and then complete the sketch. It’s amazing how much you can learn from doing this. No amount of staring at the sketches replaces the actual drawing of them. Doing this keeps me using me in shape for drawing even when my brain and hand refuse to communicate. Connections are made that carry into my own drawings. This is huge! I’m telling you I have learned so darn much! I can force myself to continue to make ugly drawings, which I do, a lot, or I can give myself a bit of a break and trace something inspiring.

Tracing of LeUyen Pham's work in Vampirina Ballerina

The next time you feel stuck, go grab a picture book you love and try it! You’ll be awed and amazed, trust me.

Happy Drawing!

Laura

Book List:
Creating Characters by Tom Bancroft
Character Mentor by Tom Bancroft
Prepare to Board! By Nancy Belman
Drawn to Life I & II by Walt Stanchfield

14 comments:

  1. I think this is a wonderful exercise idea and a great way to pull yourself out of a rut. Thank you for it - I will certainly try this out.
    Lisa

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    1. You'll be surprised how it helps! At the very least, you're still getting your 'workout' in.
      Laura

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  2. Great post, Laura, thanks!

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  3. Very helpful. I never thought of tracing images I admire, but I can see how that would keep me practicing even when inspiration isn't knocking on my door.

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  4. I do the same thing when I get stuck in a rut! Of course, that sometimes leads to a whole new wow-this-is-artist-is-so-good-and-ill-never-be-that-good rut so I generally stick to teeny doses of it :D

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    1. I know what you mean, but it hasn't affected me that way…so far. I feel like I discover so much from their genius, that it outweighs that feeling.

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  5. Great idea Laura! The title of this reminded me of a great talk by Buddist monk Pema Chodron also called Getting Unstuck that helps me out sometimes. I can't find the actual audio online, but her talk with Bill Moyers is in the same vein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrgznKit-vI&list=PL4D822228DCC71E89

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  6. Such a fantastic suggestion and I happen to have tracing paper on hand...off to play thanks! :D

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  7. Thanks for this. Today was one of those days. In the past, I have copied work of artist I admire, but have never tried this method, and certainly never on one of my off-days. I can see how valuable it would be. And thanks for introducing me to Let's Do Nothing. I can't wait to check it out.

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  8. Oh good, I'm not the only one. It's good to see that talented artists use this to help them get unstuck. I also copy other illustrators when I am stuck with something. It loosens me up and gets my creative juices flowing again. Thank you for your post.

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