I think it's always good to be prepared, and to know how you feel about your own work and techniques. I do feel a tinge of irritation when I see artists who reply with bemused shrugs or nondescript mumbles when they are asked about their work.
I received my first piece of constructive criticism today in a long time, (besides the frequent critiques from my artist partner, who has very strict thoughts about art) and it sparked this very fruitful night of thinking hard about my work. It was great. I needed it.
It made me want to share a bit about my revelations, and a little about my very recent artistic path.... so, where shall I begin? Maybe at the beginning... very briefly, I promise.
I started drawing at a young age. My first grade teacher told my mother I was a very good artist. She looked at my childish scribbles and could not for the life of her fathom what he saw that distinguished my work as showing artistic talent. He mentioned my "figures" had eyelashes, rings on their fingers, shoelaces.... tiny details that were unusual for a six year old. Now, I was by no means some artistic child genius, in fact, I struggled at art all the way through my education.
My recent critique brought memories with a smile to my face. Proudly showing my mum a new drawing, to have her mention something that was wrong with the picture. In hurt tones I would defend my mistakes, to which she would reply "Oh I didn't know you only wanted to hear good things... okay Monika, It's beautiful, it's amazing, oh, it's perfect!" (She was, and still is, a very sarcastic woman.) This would irritate me even more, and indignantly I would sweep away my drawing and scuttle back to my room.
After finishing Art School, I slowly began to get back into drawing the way I wanted to.
I would tentatively draw my picture using a pacer (technical pencil), erasing mistakes, and redrawing. Erasing, and redrawing, erasing and redrawing.... Until I finally deemed the piece perfect. Having a high expectation of what I wanted to achieve, it could take me weeks to finish a single A4 sized drawing. After this laborious task, I was often too daunted to even colour and finish the drawing, terrified that after all that hard work, I might ruin it. I still have a lot of unfinished drawings from the last few years, waiting to be coloured and brought to life.
This next picture was the last, and first, of two different stages of my artistic history.The last piece I would draw meticulously in pencil over a period of time, then slowly colour, and only the second time I had ever used watercolour paints. It was the "dawn" of a new style and subject matter for me, and I drew it less than a year ago.... my entire portfolio right now is under a year old...
I was the co-manager of one of Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill's coquettish boutiques, working alongside a small team of beautiful girls. Struggling to find a voice in my drawings, and a subject matter I wanted to pursue, I began asking the girls I worked with to pose for me.
I knew instantly that I had found a "subject matter" that I loved. But the drawings were taking so long. Preparing to begin work on the next drawing, (that I figured would be at least another week or two till completion) I decided to do a "test piece"- a quick sketch in my sketchbook, just to test out the composition.
Doing these two sketches changed everything. Sure, there were mistakes, they were loose and messy compared to my "proper" drawings... but there was a life and vibrancy that took only a single evening to achieve.
My partner told me a quote at this time: "You can't hesitate your way to fluency."
He related a story about a painter he used to know, that would spend days in the studio just preparing. One day he would stretch the canvas, the next he would clean his palette and prepare the paints, the third he would work out a colour wheel... it would go on like this forever, he was so daunted by actually starting the project that he would just prepare endlessly, but would never actually get to the painting itself.
With this motto in mind, I decided to set myself a project. To work like this in my sketchbook for a while, to practice drawing quickly... using the pen straight onto the paper - no pencil under drawing. One go, one chance to get it right.
It was after I finished this particular piece that I thought I should just start working on nice watercolour paper, but try to keep the same immediacy and flow of the 'sketchbook drawings'. I haven't looked back since.
This technique of drawing straight onto the paper with pen, means that I do make mistakes, and have to just keep going. There were some drawings where I had made so many mistakes and had to abandon lines half drawn, to re-draw them in their proper place, where I felt like just giving up on the piece entirely and starting again. But I forced myself to finish them, and add watercolour. It means there are ghostly black lines crossing across torso's, the remnants of where I made a face shorter, double lines, double chins... You can see the evidence with this young lady's arm.
But I don't mind (well, of course I do, but...) I have learnt so much from this forced technique of non-tentativity. I am trying to not hesitate my way to becoming a better drawer. I have thrown myself in the deep end considering the previous perfectionist that would not finish a drawing till every line was perfect.
Some drawings are riddled with distracting mistakes... but miraculously.... some recent ones have had none. This, and all the helpful and encouraging comments I've received have kept me going, pushing myself further to better my skills and techniques. Thank you to everyone who leaves a comment!
I hope this terribly long post was not too arduous to read, I hope some of you enjoyed it - and I hope it clarifies some of those curious black lines and obvious mistakes!!! :-)