Still Life with Robot #1

I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw – how to channel the magic that turns a few lines into an object with life and personality – but I’ve always been intimidated. I know that I shouldn’t, but I can’t help comparing the doodles I scratch in notebooks and on post-its to the finished work of people who have been training for years. Of course those artists are good now, but in all likelihood they started out with the same kinds of doodles that creep around the margins of my pages. Everyone starts somewhere.

The other obstacle that I have placed in my way is the excuse that I don’t have any framework to guide me. I never took art classes in school and the adult classes I’ve looked at around New York are just too expensive. Where do I start? Sure, I could pick up a pencil and draw, but I don’t know what I’m doing, and more importantly, I don’t know how to correct what I’m doing wrong.

Those excuses – the intimidation and the lack of structure – could probably keep me from drawing forever, but I’m not going to let them. I enjoy art and I like being creative. That’s enough. I’m going to learn how to draw, and, luck you, I’m going to share my progress on this blog.

I bought a copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. The book was recommended to me by a few people and the reviews on Amazon seem pretty positive, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The first exercise is to draw a self portrait and a couple of other things as a benchmark, something to refer back to at the end of the course. I won’t post that here. I’ll save it for my MOMA retrospective.

Igor Stravinsky, by PicassoThe next exercise is to take a Picasso drawing. Specifically the portrait of Igor Stravinsky pictured on the left and draw it upside down. The idea is that by drawing it upside down we are able to forget about what the shapes and lines represent – and so let go of what things are “supposed” to look like – and instead focus on the lines themselves.

I found this to be a pretty fun exercise and for the most part, I think it went pretty well. I tried hard not to think about what I was drawing and I concentrated on angles and relative position. The hardest part was trying not to see the hands as I drew them. That’s where I ended up erasing the most. As you can see the first 7/8 went fairly well. No Picasso, but not horribly unrecognizable either.

I was feeling pretty good about myself. Maybe, I thought, maybe I have a talent for this after all. And then this happened!

What the…his head. Oh God, he’s hideous. He looks like he’s been sitting next to that guy from Beetlejuice. The Picasso drawing is pretty stylized and so you can get away with a few scaling problems, but nothing is going to give enough wiggle room to disguise how tiny his head is.

Oh well, even the longest journey begins with a small head…or something like that. And hey, nobody can say my drawing doesn’t have personality.

See you guys next time.

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4 responses to “Still Life with Robot #1

  1. I am a big fan of Dr. Sketcky’s Anti-Art School.
    http://www.drsketchy.com/
    They have chapters all over the world, but I’ve only been to Baltimore, so maybe it differs, but the basics are: Burlesque models and artists of all abilities.
    It’s often at a bar on a weeknight and free or very cheap. They get local burlesque performers (or roller derby girls!) to pose for an audience. Some people come set up with an easel and water colors and some people come with a notebook and a golf pencil. They do different timed poses (2 minutes….20 minutes…) and fun challenges rewarded with prizes (“draw with your non-dominant hand” challenge is great because everyone’s work looks goofy). Very easy-going. Very fun.

    • Ooo. I’ll have to check that out. Life drawing classes are so expensive here and that sounds like a fun alternative.

    • I originally read “draw with your non-dominant hand” as “draw your non-dominant hand”, and then realized what I really want to see is a drawing of your dominant hand drawn with your non-dominant hand. You will have one very confused brain by the end of that exercise, I’d think.

      And that portrait makes me giggle every time I look at it. The comparison to that one guy in Beetlejuice is so accurate.

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