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.
Book List:Creating Characters by Tom BancroftCharacter Mentor by Tom BancroftPrepare to Board! By Nancy BelmanDrawn to Life I & II by Walt Stanchfield