Monthly Archives: October 2011

Contour Drawings

About a month ago I started looking over the artwork I’ve created in the past year. I enjoy what I’ve created immensely, but when looking back over the past year I must admit that I’ve seen very little improvement. Yes, this has easily been the craziest year of my life, leaving very little time to practice, but no excuses, I can do better. I fully expect this year to be just as crazy as the last and that won’t stop me.

I’m going back to the basics and pushing myself through the exercises in Nicolaides’ epic book The Natural Way to Draw. Considered to be one of the best books on the subject of drawing, many say it is the equivalent of a first year college level drawing course.  The studies and exercises you complete aren’t meant to be shown, they teach valuable skills in observation and drawing, but the finished drawing is in many cases not much to look at. Nicolaides compares it to a singer learning to sing: They start with breathing lessons, no one would ever expect a singer to get on stage and perform their breathing lessons, yet the breathing lessons are essential to becoming a great singer.

Many of the studies I’ve done so far have been very helpful but completely unpublishable, even for my humble little blog. Because of this I will not be updating my blog as often, while I throw myself into my studies. For now though I’ll give you a little peek into what I’ve been doing.

Old Fashioned CameraAn old-fashioned camera that we found at a garage sale. This study (same as the following ones) was done while looking only at the subject. While drawing you are not allowed to look at the paper. This is called contour drawing. Half an hour to complete.

MicroscopeA microscope. Once again done without looking at the paper. This took me fifteen minutes to complete.

Two Stuffed CowsI plopped down two stuffed cows to use as models for this exercise. Took me twenty minutes to complete.

KittenThis here is a quick (less than a minute) contour drawing of a kitten that was rescued from a friend’s car engine. Our friend is allergic to cats so we volunteered to take her in. We’re still working on what to name her, at the moment we’re just referring to her as the Motor City Kitty.

So there you have it! I have published the unpublishable! I may at times offer a few more peeks into my studies as I go along. Once again pushing the borders of what can be published. Okay enough talk, I’ve got to get back to work!

My Personal Motivational Poster

Learn Poster

Over the past year I’ve been doing a lot of research into the learning process. What accounts for one person learning faster than another? What is the best way to learn a new skill? The books I’ve read on the subject suggest many of the things common sense already tells us, but they back them up with studies and the scientific reasoning behind why it works. It’s really fascinating stuff! Science has a long way to go and a lot more to figure out, but what they do know has been useful to me.

One of the biggest things is that there are no shortcuts, to get good at something you need to do it and do it A LOT. Like they say “Practice, practice, practice!” There is a claim by psychologist Anders Ericsson that it takes 2,000 hours to get good at something and 10,000 hours to master it. This number has been floating around a lot in scientific circles. How exactly accurate this number is I’m not quite sure of, but it does drive home the point that to get good at something you need to get off your butt and do it.

Goals are important to keep you focused and driven. Research shows that role models play a big part in the learning process. Also you need to be okay with failure, you have to love failure, because to get good at something you need to fail over and over and over again in order to improve. You need to endure despite failure.

Most of what research tells us is only reinforcing common sense, to be honest the only big surprise was that eating fish is apparently really good for our brains and can help some with the learning process. It’s help is minimal compared to the value of practice, but that hasn’t stopped me from filling my shopping cart with fish sticks.

Research also shows that, if done right, motivational sayings and posters and such, corny as they are, really seem to work. So in order to help me in my goal of improving in my drawing skills I’ve designed a poster that will be printed on canvas and hung in my drawing nook to give me that little extra help when I need it. Something to kick my butt in gear!