Give that hand a rest!
Those who know my courses are not surprised when I have participants practice a few exercises using their other hand. That is, the non-dominant hand. This fairly well- established idea puts you outside of your comfort zone and can yield some great results, by slowing down the drawing process and increasing concentration. The focus becomes observation over dexterity – and so much of drawing is about observation. I wrote about this previously, in my blog article ”on the other hand”.
Fair’s fair of course, so I often do a short demonstration. Perhaps it’s lack of facility that’s quietly freeing – it’s not me really drawing after all is it? I can relax, enjoy the path of the line unraveling, generally following someone’s bidding, surprising with interesting and random side paths. Here are a few of my recent other-handed studies! Try it!
Many people tell me that portraits are difficult.
There must be some magic to getting a likeness. But maybe not. The main thing with drawing, all drawing, is to “draw what you see and not what you know”. This is not a new idea, of course. The expression “the more you look the more you see” contains the same essence. When we worry, judge and rush, we become distracted. In fact, when confronted with just about any of the details of daily life, we stop truly seeing.
There’s probably a double challenge with portraits, because we have so much deep-seated brain wiring geared to family, faces, recognition and related emotional responses. These responses: innate, profound and mostly unconscious, can easily swamp our portrait drawing abilities.
A few tips that work for me:
- Turn both the work and reference upside-down – though difficult to do with a live model, I grant you
- Use your non-drawing hand – I wrote about this in my blog post “On the other hand…”
- Look at your work in a mirror – you see things anew!
- Squint, take your glasses off, turn the lights down, use sunglasses or look through a slightly frosted surface – all of these reduce detail
- Look at negative shapes – the shape behind the shape!
- Draw corrected shapes before erasing the old – if you must!
- Exaggerate corrections – and then revise.
Some of these are “Old Faithfuls” and I’ve added a couple that have become good habits for me. One is not to erase, at least until new marks are established: those old marks show you where not to draw and sometimes can be recycled for new purposes. A related habit is to exaggerate revisions. The point of both of these processes is that they help me to not become “vested” in what I’ve already drawn, but to continue searching for what might be.
A starter-kit for your drawing toolbox! Do you have any favorites? Let me know!
This Saturday, 18 October, we explore the realm of “Portraits from photos” Details are on the courses page of my website.