We hear repeatedly about how important it is to disconnect from our phones and technology regularly, that our brains need to rest from the overstimulation our devices create. The disconnection from technology allows you to cut off the constant distractions, giving you the mental space to reconnect to yourself. By making art you can strengthen that connection and move away from being just a consumer into being a maker.
In Ladies Drawing Night the authors agree: “It’s refreshing to have a good outlet to make things by hand by hand again. There’s something immensely satisfying and relaxing about how you’re immediately connected to the thing you’re making, as opposed to through a mouse and cursor.”
Making something by hand stimulates your brain in a much healthier, nurturing way than technology does. And if spending your time endlessly scrolling through your social media channels or the internet feels more ‘productive’ than making art, that’s just the ego spinning a story. It doesn’t want to ‘fail’ at doing something new so it will attempt to stop you from even trying. But art is about the making and not about being productive or ‘good’. It’s about getting your hands involved and having a play.
Wanting to instantly be good at art or anything new is part of our wiring. The expectations around your improvement progress can be so sky high, that it can stop you from trying again if you don’t match up to those invisible standards. Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve suggests “More often than not, our creative dreams aren’t launched overnight. They are built gradually.” The idea that it’s going to take much much more than a few attempts is not ideal to our brains. We want to get the instant gratification of making something good and when we don’t, the feeling can be very uncomfortable. In this fast paced modern world, you may not have much time to spend on practicing and so the likelihood is that your improvement will be a slow process.
Coons argues “When you are in a season of life when you can’t dedicate hours a day to your craft, it can feel like you’re standing still. But at those times, when the odds are overwhelming and the busyness is suffocating, you still have something to give.” Taking a brick by brick approach to making art, where small adds up is something that Coons agrees with: “The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.”
Build things gradually because there’s no extra prize for improving quicker. The satisfaction comes from the journey of art-making – the practice of making art – and not from arriving at an imagined destination. If you have a desire to make art, MAKE ART and embrace your slow evolution. Don’t sabotage the journey before you’ve even got started.
In an interview with the contemporary visual artist George Condo, he remarked “I don’t see why it takes so long to make drawings.” He draws a large-scale drawing with oil stick on camera and the whole process take 16 minutes. It appears to be a very quick, dynamic and instinctive method of drawing. He explains “I kind of draw like you’re walking through the forest, y’know. You don’t really know where you’re going and you just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a place where you finally reach your destination.”
The idea of making art quickly is echoed in an question on Seth Godin’s ‘Origin Stories’ podcast episode.: “What should teachers be focusing on to help young people write their best? Godin answered “… the problem is the word ‘better’, because when they seek to do ‘better’ writing, they’re focusing on… complying, on pleasing an anonymous reader or a teacher.” Instead, “… get kids to write. Get kids to do lousy writing, Get kids to do frequent writing, emotional writing, superfluous writing, useless writing, writing, writing, writing. That if they write often, then the fear of writing has to do away.”
“Paintings are nothing but research and experiment. I never paint a picture as a work of art. Everything is research. I keep researching, and in this constant inquiry there is a logical development. That is why I number and date all my paintings.”
This idea of everything you make is an experiment – and therefore ‘mistakes’ are a vital part of the process – allows you to create with much more freedom. There are no rules when it comes to making art. Picasso was in favour of the unknown: “If you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the good of doing it? Since you know, the exercise is pointless. It is better to do something else.” Allow yourself the gift of making ‘bad art.’ Get clumsy like Picasso and don’t worry if the image in your head isn’t matched up with what you’ve made. Repeated consistent practice is the cure for improvement but that requires you to first get comfortable with being uncomfortably ‘bad’.
“There is never a time when you can say: I have done a good job and tomorrow is Sunday. As soon as you stop, you have to start again. You can leave a canvas aside, saying you won’t touch it again. But you never come to ‘The End’.”
Sometimes when getting creative, we get caught up in judging our art before we’ve even finished making it. Focused on wanting to make something ‘good,’ we limit our potential by having such a low tolerance for ‘mistakes’. There is so much potential in making strange and weird marks, allowing for spontaneity and happy accidents, that making bad art is a way to get better a making good art. Sam Anderson suggests blind drawing is “the fastest way to break them out of old bad habits, to make them unlearn lifeless conventions.” As well as being “Joyful and meditative…you can do it anywhere, anytime, with any subject. It will flip you, like a switch, from absence to presence.” It’s a kind of active meditation where you let go of the outcome and get very still while drawing.
You will need: paper and a pencil or pen. Optional board or book to fix the paper to, if you find the paper keeps slipping.
Fix your gaze on your chosen subject and without looking at your paper, slowly draw what you see
Take your time to finish your drawing without looking at your paper
Kimon Nicolaides reminds us that “a contour study is not a thing that can be ‘finished.’ It is having a particular type of experience, which can continue as long as you have the patience to look.”
A couple of variations you can try:
close your eyes and draw from your imagination
set a timer and draw until it goes off
Place the paper within your peripheral vision so that it’s still fuzzy but you can see where your pen is in relation to the paper. This creates a sort of 1/2 blind drawing, allowing more control
Use your non-dominant hand to draw and either choose to look at what you’re drawing, or not. Be prepared for some fun mark making!
Your first attempt is likely to make you laugh because it will be so strange and bad but that’s exactly the point. Art should be about having fun and letting go. Blind drawing is a wonderful exercise in letting go, embracing bad art and getting clumsy like Piasso. But with practice comes improvement, more speed and confident according to Felix Scheinberger. “As strange as it may seem, blind contour drawing will teach you to observe more closely and to draw more confidently.”
“Lately I’ve been experimenting a lot with “un-perfecting” as a way to loosen up, embrace the grit, and explore new kinds of energy in my paintings. While a highly refined painting can certainly be lovely, I find raw, messy, human expression and experience to be incredibly compelling – and refreshing… One way to achieve this kind of less controlled look is to explore using your nondominant hand.” – Flora Bowley, Creative Revolution.