The Importance of Drawing as Studio practice for artists

Why Artists Should Make Drawing a Daily Practice

 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 named Steve, who demonstrated how the practice of art-making and the hatching of new ideas could be brought to life, using a sketchbook.  He taught me many useful things, such as how to keep an art sketchbook pasted with photos of artwork by artists I admired, and how to write an artist statement that reflected my unique artistic voice. Above all, his most important advice was that I should draw every day. At the time, that task seemed quite difficult to stick with. 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. I learned later that that was a mistake. Now that many years have passed since my graduation from McDaniel, I can truly see the wisdom of his advice.

In hindsight, I realize that he was so right about drawing every day. Now, I no longer rush artwork and I have learned to love drawing, whether it becomes a painting or not. In fact, I have embraced his advice of a daily drawing habit at various times in my life, and I have worked on several art challenges for both human portraiture and pet portraits on my Instagram account. One of these challenges is called 100 faces in 100 days, in which I drew a pre-selected photo of a celebrity using only pencil and paper. I did not add in a lot of detail or shading and I limited myself to 45 minutes a day. The process of a drawing challenge gave me many opportunities for both successful drawing and ones that I didn’t like, but it helped me to see my progress, and that the practice bore much fruit in terms of learning to take the time to really observe my photo references and record my observations on paper. You could say drawing is akin to yoga or meditation because you need to be completely mindful in order to capture the nuances prevalent in realistic drawing.

At present, I am struggling to carve out time for drawing. Sandwiched in between working, and preparing an art portfolio for graduate school applications, and other responsibilities, I am striving to make time at least 1x a week to draw. This time, I am focusing on making mixed media pastel and torn paper collage drawings. These take several days to complete so I only post about 1x a week on my Instagram account.  But this working process works well for me, as the breaks in the

The World painting, flat
Stage 4: I began composing this piece by moving elements of the collage back and forth until I was happy with them. Then I had to cut them all out and paste them to the masonite. I created an entirely new sketch for the self-portrait and painted it in oils instead of acrylic so I could get more working time to blend and smooth the edges. 

 

Detail work, small
Stage 3: Next, I decided to paint my individual details and then add them to the substrate as collage pieces. I had to try several different adhesives to make these collage pieces stick from crazy glue to heavy acrylic gel, with varying degrees of success. The collage pieces were constructed on the illustration board, and are remnants of my first attempt at this painting. I used canvas paper for the parts I completely re-painted, such as the self-portrait profile figure.
The world, gradient, small
Stage 2: I started an entirely new painting on a new surface, using water-mixable oils on a masonite board as my support. 
First attempt, small
Stage 1: This was my initial sketch, created with acrylic, colored pencil, and pastel on illustration board. However, I wasn’t happy with it because of the colors, and some drawing errors in the self-portrait. I also decided to go with a more realistic style in the portraits and paint in tone rather than crosshatching in the final piece. 

action, give me additional time to evaluate the accuracy of my drawing proportions and the values in my shading. The most important take away I can say about drawing and getting good at it, is that it really helps your art practice to flourish. For instance, once you have the drawing and composition mastered, you can enjoy the next step more fully, whether its collage, painting or some other art form such as graphic design or sculpture. With an accurate drawing, you won’t have to worry about continuing to fix it and can fully embrace your next steps, and I am learning that it’s so much better to take the time and lay a good drawing as your foundation for your art.

A good case in point was my latest painting in progress, Money is the Bait, which started out unsatisfactorily because of several drawing errors in the initial portrait. I ended up starting from scratch in oils on a totally new surface, and it still isn’t finished. I hope to finish it by next week. Thanks for stopping by! If you want to follow my progress with the mixed media portraits, you can follow me on Instagram under my profile name, jsjschmidt.

The Dream of Time Travel: Extreme Makeover

Voices and Visions: Work in Progress: Extreme Makeover

Make Time for Art

For the past two weeks, I have really been making an effort to make time to get into my art studio and work on my Voices and Visions series, every Thursday from 10 am-12 pm. It’s been challenging. I am focusing on finishing one piece of artwork that I started a few weeks ago, called, The Dream of Time Travel. This mixed media piece has gone through many changes and edits. I’ve subtracted some elements and added others trying to find the right composition and color scheme to express the emotions I want viewers to feel when looking at this artwork.

The Creative Process: Dream of Time Travel

And yet, I am still trying to figure out just what that feeling might be that I want the viewer to take away from my painting. Is it sadness, longing, discontent, or some other emotion? I feel that finding the answer to this question will be the key to solving the difficulties I have had with completing this piece in terms of composition, color choices and subject matter.

Extreme Makeover

I began making my edits on this piece by cutting up my color sketches in watercolor and adding other elements such as paint chips for the clouds. After that, I took more drastic measures, cutting out anything from the painting that did not add to the composition, seeking simplicity. Even after hours of work, I could see that I needed to start the whole project over from scratch, because some elements of the piece just didn’t work, especially the imaginary ones, like the road leading to the fairy tale book. I realized that trying to do a surrealist style in this work, and it just wasn’t working.

Back to the Drawing Board

After I realized that the piece was not working, I decided to start over from scratch and gather my own photo references of self-portraits and a landscape to combine them into a Photoshop collage. Then, after I had placed all of my photos into the collage, I began drawing the composition free hand, trying to make it the same scale as the photo reference. While I was working on this piece, I realized I need to draw more often, and that I had become too reliant on tracing photos for my art, rather than drawing from life or photo references. So, my new piece is a sketch that I still need to finish, but one that I think will be easier to complete as a painting.

 

The Takeaways from the Creative Process

Otherdream of travel with hands, flatdream of travel with flowers_edited-1dream of travel, landscape_edited-1, flatPhoto College Dream_edited-1Dream of Travel Version 2, sketch_edited-1 takeaways from this project are: 1.) Sometimes you just need to get started on art to make progress, even if you’re out of practice, 2.) Failed art pieces can be the springboard for new art, 3.) Simple compositions work best for me, 4.) I need to draw more often, 5.) Drawing from one’s imagination is really difficult, and perhaps I need to stick to a more realistic style, and 6.) I need to think about what emotion I want my viewers to feel from my artwork, which will influence my color and compositional choices. Through it all, I am learning that everything on my journey of creativity is useful to me and that good art can’t be rushed, not for me anyway.