The Lost Art of Drawing

About a century ago (well I exaggerate a little); I was a college student studying art at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. I had a brilliant and successful art teacher who was able to make the practice of art making and the hatching of new ideas come alive like no other teacher I had before.  He taught me many useful things, such as how to keep an art sketchbook pasted with photos of art work by artists I admired, and how to write about my art in a way that expressed the message I wanted to share with it. Above all of the tips and advice, he gave I remember him telling me that I should draw every day. At the time, that task seemed quite difficult. I was always an impatient artist as a student and I often rushed through the drawing stage to hurry up and get to the painting, especially oil painting, because I enjoyed working with the buttery texture of the oil paint and I loved working in color. Now that many years have passed since my graduation from McDaniel and I am a professional artist seeking out new avenues to showcase my art and making custom pet portraits, I can truly see the value in his advice.

With hindsight, I can see that he was so right about drawing every day. I no longer rush art work projects and I have learned to love drawing, whether it becomes a painting or not. A few years ago, I took a drawing class at Frederick Community College, with instructor Cynthia Bausch, who taught me how to use charcoal, pastel, and pencil to create compelling drawings with a high degree of finish. This experience started my love for drawing, even though getting the drawings right was extremely difficult. Frequently, I would do the sketch over and over again until I was pleased with the result. For instance, the self-portrait in charcoal, pictured in this post, was drawn a total of three times before I  handed in the final piece to the art teacher. Since then, I have embraced my former art teacher’s advice, Steve Pearson, from McDaniel College,  to draw every day. at present, I am working on a drawing challenge I like to call 100 faces in 100 days. In this challenge, I draw a pre-selected photo from the Internet or a coffee table book, Icons, of a celebrity using only pencil and paper. I do not add in a lot of detail or shading and I limit myself to 45 minutes a day. This time frame for drawing sessions tends to be more like 5 days a week for me since I often work on weekends and feel pretty fried when I come home. The drawings are strictly for practice and not intended for sale at this time.

To see what others in the art world had to say about the importance of drawing, I did a web search, with the query term, Why Artists Should Draw More.  Artist and blogger, Lori McNee, states that drawing can give the artists a multitude of benefits to help them improve their craft as an artist, not the least of which is learning to observe a subject, which is a skill that is important both to the practices of painting and drawing. Source: http://www.finearttips.com/2012/10/10-reasons-why-artists-should-draw-more/.  Drawing more can also help you plan out your compositions better and give you a road map to follow for your design before you get to the painting stage when it is more difficult to make changes.

McNee, (2012), also states that many children enjoy coloring with crayons. For example, I have observed this tendency in the day care setting, (McNee, 2012),  when I was working as an Assistant Teacher at La Petite Academy when I was a high school student. However, over time many children stop drawing or making crafts and self-consciousness drifts in, stealing the spontaneous joy of creating something new. I observed this tendency when I volunteered as an assistant in a middle school art class back in the early 200s. A lot of the kids in this art class would say, “I can’t draw this,” or “You do it,” to me when I walked around to work one on one with the students.Picasso-quotes-every-child-is-an-artist  In fact, even artists (such as Mc Nee) who have been trained to draw, often let this essential art practice slide over time, (McNee, 2012) and may come to rely on tracing, especially if they need to get a project done quickly for a client. I admit, I am guilty of this tendency and until a few years ago, I rarely had a daily drawing practice, and I often struggled to get my proportions in portraits correct, often giving up in futility to join all the other drawings on the reject pile.

However this summer, I was inspired to tackle my fears about drawing and making mistakes by the drawing challenge artist and blogger, Julie Fan Fei completed which she called, 100 15 minute Balzer Faces, in which she made a daily drawing practice using a variety of media such as ink, acrylic paint, and jelly plate printing, among others. Source: http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/100-15-minute-balzer-faces/.  This challenge and my art teacher’s wise advice, motivated me to complete my own drawing challenge which I like to call 100 Faces in 100 days.  I post progress photos of my celebrity sketches on my Instagram account almost every day, but it tends to be more like 5 days a week because of my work schedule, in which I often work weekends.   I spend 45 minutes on each sketch, with minimal sketching, and I simplify this process by working only in with paper and pencil.

I also keep a visual photo file of celebrity imagery I would like to draw from. One important note of caution here: If you want to sell a portrait or sketch, it is best to use your own photos if possible to avoid copyright violation, or to visit the Wikipedia web site, http://www.wikipedia.org, where you can do image searches by the name of the celebrity and find out the photo’s provenance, such as the name of who took the picture and whether it is in the public domain. Here is a link Wikipedia with a public domain photo of Cary Grant: https:enwikipedia.org/wiki/Cary_Grant#/media/File:Grant,_Cary_(Suspicion)-01_Crisco_edit.jpg. I have attached my sketch of Cary Grant based on this photo.

 To be on the safe side, you want to choose photos in the public domain if you plan to show your work or sell it or publish it in any way unless you can get written permission from the photographer to reproduce their work.  If you’re drawing is just for practice, no need to worry. But do try to give credit to the photographer if you can find out that information, and include that photographer’s name in your sketch when you sign and date it. Here are two web sites you can refer to learn more about copyright violation and terms: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html, and https://blog.kenkaminesky.com/photography-copyright-and-the-law/.

In conclusion, I am still working on my drawing challenge and I am really enjoying the process.  I feel like I am getting more comfortable with drawing and the pressure if off because this work is not for a custom art order, or for an art show entry. I am learning how to slow down and not be in a rush to finish a project. What really matters is that I have passion, determination, and am willing to put in the time to learn to draw, paint, etc.  It takes time to acquire these skills and is similar to learning a sport or an instrument, which requires hours, days, weeks, and years of practice. I’m trying to be patient with the process and remember that most of what I know how to do now with ease, had to be practiced and (and often!), whether it was walking, talking, reading, writing, cooking, etc., etc.  to reach a level of mastery.

100 Faces in 100 Days: Drawing Challenge

Back in June of this year, I had started a drawing challenge with celebrity portraits. In this challenge, I drew one celebrity portrait a day, using photo references of actors, actresses, and entertainers from the 1980s. I was inspired to start this series by a drawing challenge which I read about in a blog by Julie Fan Fei Balzer, called Balzer Designs. She called her challenge a 100-day

challenge and she created 100 faces in 100 days using a variety of media including acrylic monoprint, screen prints, ink on paper, ball point pen on paper, etc. I modified this challenge by using just paper and pencil to simplify it and instead of making up imaginary faces; I attempted to capture celebrity likenesses. I was also motivated to do this challenge because I had recently completed a portrait commission in May, and I truly struggled to get the likenesses of the people in the photo.

To make this challenge a daily habit, I collected photos of celebrities from the internet that I found inspiring and saved them to a file labeled, portraits, on my computer, so I had a ready supply of faces to draw. I also did a few other things to keep me on track, since I struggle with discipline and finishing art projects that I complete, especially ones without a definite deadline. So, I coupled setting the timer for 25 minutes and making the drink, usually coffee or diet coke, of my choice to go along with it. I also tried to start my drawing mid-morning, before other activities intruded. For the most part, the challenge has been going really well, and most days with a few exceptions, I have set aside time consistently to draw.  On the days when I can’t get to my sketch pad, I don’t beat myself up and I just start again the next day. And I feel I am learning so much about how to draw better portraits, for one, taking the time to really scrutinize the subject’s face and other features.

Also, just stepping back frequently has given me a fresh perspective on how closely the sketch resembles the photo reference.   On the other hand, there have been some days when I have felt really discouraged about whether I have what it takes to be an artist, when I have to do a drawing two or three times over, maybe even selecting a different photo to draw from if I get desperate.  On days like that, it’s hard to keep going with this challenge and I start to get discouraged. Lately, it has just been the dedication to push through and get it right. Last week though, I felt encouraged about the necessity of making art because, without a studio practice, I can’t have anything to share with my friends, family, and fans.  Nor can I grow in my skills as an artist, if I don’t practice. And not only that, I feel I would be losing a big part of myself and my identity as a person if I stopped showing up to make art.  I would lose that joy of creating something or seeing my internal visions come to life in sketches and paintings.  In the words of art business coach, Allyson Stanfield, “Without your art, you have nothing to promote, you have nothing to market, you have nothing to take out of the studio and share with the world.”  Source: Ecstatic Encounters Lesson 1: Devote Yourself to Studio Practice, from https://artbizcoach.com/ee-1/.

So despite the difficulties I sometimes encounter with making art, I am not giving up, not on this challenge or any other art project. As it stands, I still have quite a few more days to go before this challenge is complete…By my calculations based on my Instagram posts, I have 63 more days to go. After that, who knows what new challenge I will take on… If you would like to watch my progress, you can view my Instagram profile at jsjschmidt2 on Instagram. I attached a few photos of this drawing challenge from my Instagram account. I hope the challenge to draw every day or almost every day, challenges you as much as it has challenged me. Thanks for stopping by!