Pencil Jam

Art under the Influence?

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, meditation, Sketch Club, Sketchbooks by crabbits on June 29, 2010

This discussion on our online community made me think about why we draw what we draw.

The question was, why do we draw?

George’s reply was enlightening:

“… Why this urgency to convey our subjective experiences? Writers, artists, musicians are all engaged in this activity, so it’s not simply a one off thing. The attempt to turn subjective experiences into tangible reality is a natural process of being human….”

Why, then we should be drawing all the time! George explains why we don’t:

“… As a young ‘un your inner, subjective experiences tend to be raw and powerful (Remember your first love, first breakup, first birthday gift etc…) These are often channelised through activity such as poetry, art or in some cases in adverse ways such as violence or depression. You probably sketched a lot when you were younger because many aspects of life were new. As you grow older you develop stock reactions to life’s situations, shorter, snappier, seemingly more efficient ways. A breakup is familiar territory and new love doesn’t quite feel the same…. “

Which is why music, depression, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, absinthe (am thinking of Marilyn Manson, who has Mansinthe to his credit!), shrooms, shoes, shopping, puppy dogs and other exciting stuff help a whole lot in heightening a dimension of emotion to a level potent enough to pin down a subjective experience as an objective work of art.

Even J K Rowling’s epic-in-seven-parts talks about some aspects of this kind of emotional channeling and their uses. Wizards can produce a Patronus they concentrate upon a happy memory (with all their might), which protect them against Dementors, the very epitome of weepiness and depression. A Boggart is a magical creature who takes the form of your very worst fear when it confronts you, becoming concrete and objectified in front of children, whose fears are simpler (spiders, snakes!) as opposed to forms that are more complex (the moon, scenes of death?) for adults.

George mentions in his post that as we evolve and survive, we develop language to help describe experiences, and develop stock reactions to common or recurring occurrences (breakups, brushing teeth et al). However as grown ups (groan ups!) our internal emotional state is increasingly complex with “hopes and dreams” and “vague fears hard to describe”.  Interestingly, children with their simpler inner hopes, dreams and fears (“I want a new toy car!”, “I hate school!”) – might I venture to call these “stock” – have vaguer descriptions of external experiences due to their limited linguistic capability (“It huuurts!”).

The stock reactions that we usually apply in everyday life lead to expressions like “quirky”, “embarassing”, “weird”, “surreal” to describe anything out of the ordinary hum of collective normalcy. The little children who love drawing truly express themselves with flourishes, squiggles, fingerprints, left hands and feet, tongues, toes and walls; relishing the feel of crayons on a surface, the process of drawing. As they grow, their abilities are chanelled into “colour within the lines”, “draw a scenery”, “trees are NOT blue”, “DON’T draw on the wall!” “Architecture entrance exam: draw in perspective for 10 marks!”, a systematic process of creating the equivalent of stock reactions; thus taking away all the undisguised pleasure of “drawing” as a process. Then comes the day when you draw every day for a living, where every drawing is a “job” and a “portfolio piece”; or you “can’t” draw; or haven’t drawn in ages since the computer took over your fingers.

This is when you need to unlearn all that those square systems of education (read stock reaction-conditioners). Its harder than it seems, isn’t it? Which brings me back to that immortal discussion on why we draw. This will hopefully push you a bit on the way to real unlearning.

Draw, draw, draw… like nobody’s watching!

We Draws for a Cause.

Posted in Drawing Nature, Drawing-Seeing, events, Sketch Club, Sketchbooks by crabbits on June 14, 2010

Saturday before last, we found ourselves bright and early (at 9:3o am, haha!) on the shores of the mind bogglingly HUGE Bellandur lake. Remember, it was World Environment day then? We had our eyes open and our sketchbooks out (wands at the ready!) We found HSBC employees on a tree-plantathon, here.

An un-illustrator on Sketchbooks.

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, meditation, Sketchbooks by crabbits on June 12, 2010

Greeshma Y, PhD student, has been inextricably involved with my work as a critique-r, secretary, manager, scratching post, moneylender, brainstormer and other similar roles. Finally provoked into writing a blog post, she has artfully described a non-sketchbook-er’s view of sketchbooks, that I found very enlightening.

Capturing Time in Drawing

Posted in Drawing-Seeing by George Supreeth on June 11, 2010

Duchamp's Nude_Descending_a_Staircase

So if you followed the 2 previous posts you noticed that we keep mentioning that the sketch is more evocative than the photograph. Why should this be the case? Is there a further explanation beyond the fact that photographs freeze frame the situation in precise detail, or that it is because the artist took the time to draw the sketch and as such participated in the scenario – the subject of the sketch.


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A Popular Misconception about Drawing

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, meditation by George Supreeth on June 4, 2010

Sometimes when I sit down to draw from imagination, non-artist friends typically ask me how I’m doing that. “Do you first imagine the picture and then draw it?” My answer is “yes and no” most times. It’s because I don’t want to be bothered with getting into explaining how perception works and how messed up we all are in terms of understanding this. Well, I want to explain it now, if you’d like to listen.


Reverse-Engineering Perception

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, meditation by George Supreeth on May 21, 2010

In previous posts we covered 2 crucial aspects. What the process of drawing is and how one can learn to see the world differently through the process of drawing. Both these articles may be useful as a background to this post.

All artists meditate. In fact I would go as far as to say that true art is meditation, and that the process of creating is nothing more than coming to terms with what you really are. When the process is finished the end result is an empty shell. A reminder of an experience and something that a viewer can infer from. True art is in the process. An introspective, meditative and self-reflective process that can help us decode what we really are.


Learning to See

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, Techniques by George Supreeth on May 14, 2010

Is there such a thing as objective reality apart from the observer?  If you’re like most people, you’ll argue that there is. It takes a lot of time to try and teach people that there is no such thing, and if there is we can never know it. Of course, mystics from across the planet have been saying this for a really long time, but science has only now started to piece together evidence that once and for all proves that the mystics were right.  There is no such thing as objective reality.

Now what does this have to do with drawing?


Big bad scary drawing.

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, Resources, Sketch Club, Sketchbooks, Techniques by crabbits on May 14, 2010

Drawing is really darned scary for so many people. “I can’t draw.” “Did you draw that with your own hand?” (Yes, who else’s!) “Eeee… these are really bad drawings. Don’t look at them.” “I don’t draw because I don’t know how.” “I am a graphic designer so I don’t have to draw.” “My left toe hurts so I can’t draw.” The list of excuses is endless. So here’s some more demystifying tips for those happy folks who’ve got a sketchbook close at hand and a desire to draw in their heads.

1. Why not?

Remember art classes and those good ol’ Navneet drawing books from back in school? Everybody created versions of the familiar “scenery”, stippled, dabbed and scraped across layers of mucky oil pastel.  Nobody stopped to say “I can’t draw.” What changes now that we’re “all grown up”? Perhaps its a feeling of being watched, judged, or of measuring up to something or the other. (Read Vinod’s post on Belief.) The first thing to do is to draw like nobody’s watching (not even you). You’re drawing it for you the way that you keep a diary for you. When you let go of the Watcher around you, you can really observe your surroundings and make those visual notes about them that we call drawing.

2. What do I draw?

Well, lets look around. We’ve got a beautiful, wacky world around us waiting to be captured on paper.  There are people, trees, houses, dogs, squirrels, birds, vehicles and so much more. Besides, you can look to your immediate surroundings and draw your own  toes and fingers. You can pull out old photographs and try to turn those into a drawing. You can delve into your own head and pin down that awesome conceptual butterfly that just floated in there a moment ago. You might have a sudden urge to draw a dinosaur out for a walk with a top hat on. Draw it.

3. How do I draw?

Grab some paper and a pencil. As George has mentioned in his earlier posts, the pencil is superb for soft lines that you can mess around with endlessly, erase (if you’re the sort that likes a “perfect”, finished drawing”) and shade with in gradations from dark to light.

A great idea for “loosening up” your drawing hand is to draw a whole lot of circles on a plain old A4 sheet. Fill the sheet with circles, and then fill another sheet with straight lines. Make your strokes loose and quick without any aims at exactness, perfection or neatness. Draw until you’re on a roll to draw more complex stuff. Like this.

Pick a subject to draw. You’ll find that most subjects are either still or moving, and I’d recommend drawing the still ones first, practising on them till you’re cool enough to take on a mover and shaker! You could be drawing outdoors, and pick an interesting building or tree or sleeping guy to draw. Or on an exceptionally rainy day, you’d be indoors, still itching to draw, and pulling off photos from the Internet as your references.  The general rules of drawing apply to all of these subjects.

Observe the form of the object. Or the shape or silhouette that it makes against the surrounding space.For example, look at this doggie here.

When you start to draw him you’d find that what you “know” about a dog’s shape will kick in and you’ll start to try and draw those without “seeing” what this particular dog is all about. Then issues of exactitude creep in and could possibly make you so bent on creating a perfect doggie that it could drive you nuts. For now, we’re only trying to draw what we see, because what we see is going to sit around for some time, and we can look at it for as long as we like and draw it real slow. Drawing what we know is important in a case of a moving object (like a real, moving, live people) our subject has posed for us for practically 10 seconds, and we need to fill in the blanks of our drawing with what we “know”.

So look at the subject through half closed eyes and spot areas of “light” and “dark” that soon resolves into shapes that you can put down on paper. Like this.

And you get this.

Which you shade in to get this.

This could very well be a completed sketch! Or you could get real finicky and add some detail. You might get something like this.

And that’s all there is to it. All. I promise you.

Here’s another example.

If you give this method a think, you’ll realise that what you’ve just captured is one still frame of a moving object. And it took you a certain amount of time to do this. If you keep drawing subjects of this kind, for a while (anything from one day to a few weeks) you’ll realise you get faster and more confident at dashing out lots and lots of  drawings. You’ll find you can get a light-dark-shape analysis of any subject more easily, and you’ll take on a moving object quick-scan-and-draw sometime.

Who ever imagined that you couldn’t draw?

4. Now what?

Go draw, you. Go.

Understanding Go-Ju through drawing

Posted in Drawing-Seeing by George Supreeth on April 28, 2010

Go-Ju is a Japanese term, meaning Hard and Soft. I think it originated from the term Go-ju ryu, meaning hard-soft style in karate, a Japanese martial art form. The concept of hard and soft refers to a system of yielding and pressing forward, a sort of push and pull if you will. The system recognises that in an engagement, the opponent uses force as well and this force can also be used alongside one’s own force of attack. You can see this more readily in martial art forms such as aikido or judo, where the opponent’s force is used against him.


What drawing is.

Posted in Drawing-Seeing by George Supreeth on April 18, 2010

English is sometimes a funny language. The word drawing is misleading. People associate drawing to drawings, but the first word refers to the process and the other is an end result. It’s like the word – building. Wouldn’t you rather just call it Built or Builts? Like a Drawn or Drawns? See?