Drawing Dana

Once a week, I do art with a few artist moms from my daughter’s old school. We all work on different projects most of the time, but recently we occasionally started hiring a model–Dana. She’s been great—she comes up with imaginative and interesting poses, doesn’t get restless or impatient. It’s been a valuable and humbling experience—I was surprised and chagrined to find out how much of a challenge it was (as were my friends)! If a gesture drawing is a sort of visual equivalent of a sit-up, boy was I in sorry shape. Yes, I could draw our model with relative accuracy, and knowledge and technique started to come back as I got into the swing of things, but it required discipline and concentration I wasn’t used to. Odd, since I draw people all the time for most of my illustration jobs, and can put in long days when I need to. I’ve heard any number of illustrators complain about no longer keeping a sketchbook–and I’ve been one of them. I’ve been getting illustration work, and my style isn’t particularly realistic, and I guess I’d been thinking I get more than enough drawing practice.

Nope. Drawing Dana has made me understand what got lost when I started letting the sketchbook gather dust.

I started doing art in the first place because I couldn’t stop doodling when I was a kid—paper, cardboard, schoolwork, the occasional dresser. In some of my art school classes, we had to keep a sketchbook, and my drawing and observation skills improved with all the life-drawing I did. There was discipline—and joy. But my sketchbook became more than a place to draw things I saw. It became a repository of words, pictures and ideas. I could be serious, playful, ridiculous. My sketchbook was a place to explore, create and develop my identity—my voice as an artist.

I make art when I do illustration, but that doesn’t make me an artist true to myself—I need the discipline—and joy of a sketchbook for that.

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3 Responses to Drawing Dana

  1. wellerwishes says:

    “If a gesture drawing is a sort of visual equivalent of a sit-up, boy was I in sorry shape.”

    That is a great and very accurate analogy!!

    I’ve been thinking about taking a casual life drawing walk-in class on a weekend day… for the past few months. I have not carved out the time to though. YOur post helps me see that I really should force the time for this. It will help in so many different areas. I have to “just do it”.

    Wonderful post!!

  2. Janet McDonnell says:

    Hi Carol! Glad to hear you’re doing some life drawing — what fun! Yes, sketchbooks are great. I fall in and out of the habit, but your post has given me motivation to stick to it. I actually just picked mine up last night and drew in it for the first time in weeks. I’ll have to post some pages when I have a little more time.

  3. carolkoeller says:

    Since we’re not in art school, and we don’t always have the luxury of “art for art’s sake,” making exploration/experimentation happen really does, ironically, involve significant scheduling and discipline!

    How to make that part of a lifestyle–ah, there’s the rub!

    My Aunt Annie used to say that “life is so daily.” I love that because it’s so true. To maintain status quo, or if we’re lucky, forge ahead, we pretty much have to become Entropy Warriors. It is easier, though, to make some peace with the inevitable routine/creativity tension when kids are small. They accept a lot because, frankly, they might not know any better.

    Nice to know others worry about this–it helps me!

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