Daily Practice of Setting a Timer and Sketching

September 29, 2013

Filed in: Uncategorized

Simple Tips Post! 

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase,”But I want mine to look like that,” when I teach adults. I totally get it, we want our work to look like we have accomplished something, look like a finished painting, look like it should in own own minds. The biggest problem with that way of thinking is that many years of practice and study, not necessarily formal study, have gone into those inspirational paintings and that ‘leg work’ must be done to create at a level that ‘looks like that.’ 

With that said, there are tons of strategies new artists can use to help build confidence in their own mark making, their own designs, and their own artistic voice. 

(Ardith turns and grabs her bag of ‘MUST DO THIS’ items)

Kids are instinctive mark makers, especially younger kids. They lack the sinister voice in their head saying ‘they are doing it wrong,’ and they simply create with reckless abandon. I am lucky enough to see this process every day because I teach little ones, and I so wish I could bottle that ability and share it with my adult students. One of the best ways, and I call this one of my MUSTs, is to set a timer EVERY DAY and draw something. 

If one wants to master drawing faces, sketch faces, weird faces, pretty faces, long and short faces. Just sketch faces. Set the timer for 10 minutes tops and go! If one wants to master the palette knife then just use a palette knife. Work on gessoed paper, in small sizes or one large size over several days, but work consistently, 10 minutes tops and stop. If one wants to master color theory then play with colors. Set the timer, choose a palette, and mix and play for 10 min. then stop. Does that mean you can’t paint the rest of the day….of course not. 

What this does, if one commits to it every day, is build up “leg work practice” which every practicing artist must have. Matisse and Picasso did study after study of the same image before committing to a final piece, the leg work had to be done. Every artist must come to terms with that and it is especially hard for new artists who really want to be successful from the get go. 

Here is an image that I sketched in today’s 10 minute practice session. I wanted to simply draw a character, but I had no pre-planned idea of what I would draw. I used Portfolio oil pastels and opaque paint for the background, a watercolor pencil for the lines, and I just played. Timer went off and I stopped. The result left me with a unique character that I could use in an illustration, in my art journal, or not at all. 

I went on to sketch him two more times, just noticing his outline, and his personality resonates with me. Over the course of the next few weeks I will share with you his evolution as I use this character in lots of other pieces, just to show you how important those 10 minute sessions can be. 

Giving yourself the time to evolve as an artist is so important and overcoming the voices or desire in one’s head to ‘paint like that’ is a concept that new and evolving artists must come to terms with. If one puts the leg work in every day, their own artistic voice and style will begin to develop much more quickly which is really the path we all want to be on. It is great to have the ability to “paint like that” but what I love so much more is seeing an artist find their own style and painting like their heart is moving the brush….not the voices in their heads, 🙂  

*I want to give a shout out to my dear friend Gayle who is one of the many artists who daily strives to move forward in her new journey. She paints every day, gets frustrated, has ‘aha’ moments, and embodies the spirit of one who has chosen a path of creativity and is beginning the process. BRAVO TO YOU! 

comments +

  1. Ila East says:

    This reminds me of a conclusion I came to several months ago. When we watch someone like Bob Ross we forget that he has painted that same picture time after time. He can probably almost paint it in his sleep.

  2. Susan Libertiny says:

    Such an excellent point and so timely. I was just telling my husband that I needed to spend more time practicing painting and that I was growing frustrated with not being as good as I wanted to be. The irony, you can't get better if you don't practice.

    This is great advice. Thanks.

  3. Jane George says:

    brilliant something i am going to do! x

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