Practicing with some workflow concepts—changing from paper to digital. I made a simple drawing of a rose and some sage leaves that I had on my desk. I liked the layout and the composition. I kept wanting to add more, but I made myself stop, realizing it was just enough.
A quick draw to get in a creative mood for this new beginning of a year. I just picked what colors and themes that came natural. 30 minutes, and I’ve got something that makes me feel good, and helped me to step away from some anxiety I was feeling inside. (I’m sure that’s how that heart got in this thematically.) Pleased with the quick-line portrait work. Fighting back the inertia and moving…into motion! Go fingers and brain, go!
Struggled to get into it today and it shows. My hands were going numb, so that certainly didn’t help. The eye measurements did seem to be more accurate today, even though some other measurements suffered.
After struggling with eyes for so many sessions, I focused more on them today. I used some preliminary measurement lines. I could use more practice doing measurements in general, and I am scaling from photographs, which complicates the likeness, too. Flipping through the sketchbook, I am seeing progress, so I’m pleased. I’m only about quarter through this sketchbook, so more drawings to come.
Yes, I have continued working on Gesture Portraits. I decided I’m going to do them until the completion of my black sketchbook. I don’t know how many more that is, but it seems right that they should all be contained in the same book together.
This morning, as I was in the middle of drawing, I had a little visitor.
So, that was the first twenty minutes of my drawing session today…yay, pets!
Now, onto the actual drawing part.
I have done three every day over the last three days. I feel as if I haven’t learned much in getting better at it, but I have noticed some style changes. My drawings seem to have gotten tighter. My original lines are getting closer to correct approximations, especially skull and hairline. I do feel as if I have been struggling with facial features such as the lips and levelness of the eyes.
I have started to draw some preliminary measurements regarding the eyes, but it doesn’t seem to be helping me much, yet. I changed pencil brands once during a session, and that had an effect on some drawings. Two sessions were at night, one session was during the day. Time does make a difference—it’s easier to draw when I’m not expecting sleep. I feel as if I have taken some steps backward in these sessions. The line is tighter, my drawings seem to be changing to be more “studies” rather than “gesture.” I’m not going to fight that much, if I get to approach drawing feeling open and with a low-barrier, that’s really what I’m going for. The rest will work out over time, and with practice.
Now to the drawings! (19-27)
So, I have very mixed feelings about this set of drawings. It is interesting to me that my form has tightened, and I have started to become more interested in the detailed shading accuracy of lips and noses. Also, that I tried to align eyes has changed some measurement focuses in the drawings, sometimes with successful results, and sometimes with strange orientation results. I am hoping that in time I will be able to perform more accurate measurements faster, and to do shading of features with enough success to capture the model’s representation.
How have your exercises and creative practices been going? I know that I’m not doing Inktober, I’ve been more doing FaceTober or Pentober or Graphtober. But this is working for me. It’s been nice to see results from effort applied.
Today, you get three days’ worth of drawings! I have been sticking to the practice, even though I haven’t posted.
Two sessions were at night before bed and one session was today during the day. I’m still learning. I’m still violating my own guidelines (I have to stop doing that.)
I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten the hang of this, but the emotional barrier to drawing has lowered dramatically–since that is the number one reason I started, this exercise is already a success, no matter the outcome of the drawings. Yay!
But, as it is progressing, the drawings are coming out quite well. I’m still struggling with the time limit—I’m drawing for about 10 minutes each, when it should ideally be less. I am pleased though, looking back on other drawings, that I am managing to get as much quality out of these 10-minute drawings as I have in 30-minute drawings, or even hour-long drawings in the past.
What I am learning, and small variations I’ve done so far:
All 2B pencils are not the same!
In fact, grades between brands do not perform the same.
One day I used a 9B from an entry-level set of pencils I have.
The 9B wasn’t anywhere near as dark (or as soft) as a 2B from another brand.
So, I had to switch pencils. I just couldn’t get what I wanted from that 9B.
Sharpen, sharpen, sharpen.
Don’t be lazy! Just resharpen that pencil.
I promise 5 seconds isn’t going to stop your flow.
Take a moment to focus on the image.
My drawings started going better when I forced myself to stop and just look at the image for a few seconds.
Just take in all the shapes, the relation of facial elements in the picture, the negative space of it.
Should be a few-second “absorption” look.
Don’t judge your work, at all, while you’re in progress.
Say, you get done with portrait #2 for the day…don’t think about it,
don’t even begin to say, “I wasn’t happy with that,” or “that’s not as a good as yesterday…”
Don’t Even Think About It. Just keep drawing.
Music changes the quality.
I tried listening to music one day. The drawings were still good, but it shifted my flow state.
I like listening to music when I’m doing coloring in a drawing, or intense work, but for measuring, nope.
Everyone is different, maybe music would help you. But for me, the “setup” of a drawing needs to go without.
I tried some different grades of pencil, besides 2B.
I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, I’m going to play with this some more.
I didn’t like having to put down my pencil to retrieve another pencil during this exercise.
But a different grade was occasionally helpful, especially with eyes.
Eyes are getting easier!
The shading of them and positioning is getting more accurate.
Lips are still difficult.
They are still tricky, especially in relation to the chin. It’s a challenge to get that measurement correct.
Lipstick and gloss on women also changes the lines and light quality, I’m finding this a little frustrating.
And I seem to have a you got it / you didn’t get it relationship with noses.
I’m having some trouble with noses these last few sessions. Not sure why.
Gotta slow down, and take it easy with this feature.
Starting with hair at the top, and placing facial features is a great way to get an accurate facial border.
It’s easier to place the hairline and cheeks / facial shape with something to relate it to.
Contrast makes everything look better.
Shade a little darker around the light areas, especially the highlights in the eyes.
Be super light next to dark places. Contrast will make your drawing come to life, even if your shading or shaping is wrong.
Here are drawings 10-18!
As you can see, I’m working the exercise. Some days are better than others. I haven’t done any one picture that I would come back to and develop further, yet, but I might change my mind later. I’m suspending judgement for now, just being an “unthinking drawer.” That mindset seems to eliminate anxiety, and keeps me open to the image at that moment.
I hope you are doing well in your own creative efforts.
Continuing with gesture portraits today. Not as happy with the results today as I was yesterday, and I did tend to spend more time than I really wanted to with each of these. The average time was maybe a little less than 10 minutes, and should ideally be this level of competency (or better) in 5 minutes or less. But, I’m sure all of those elements will come together in time. That is why, I am practicing after all!
Lessons learned today for this specific (gesture portrait) practice:
Sharpen that 2B pencil!
It really helps at the beginning of a drawing to make loose, fluid lines.
Sharpen again and again as the drawing continues.
Eyes are involved.
They are just going to take more time to develop.
And this may not be a thing that will advance with this quick-drawing method.
But, first-time placement of the main features of the fact should get easier. This includes eye placement.
Noses are (relatively) easy.
It doesn’t take much to mostly get them right. Little suggestive outlines, and you’re good to go.
The difficulty comes with placement, which I haven’t gotten the hang of, and with showing the uniqueness of the model.
Lips are too easy to make into a cartoon.
Like noses, I imagine if I can plug into them better, I could use some suggestions of line and shading and get some better results.
Right now, I’m still thinking of them as the ideal-model-full-lipped-lips, and I’m having trouble seeing real lips. I am hoping this will adjust.
Pick a model that isn’t wearing heavy makeup, or who isn’t smiling.
In example two from today, of Portrait 8, heavy lipstick and smiling obstructed my effectiveness with this technique.
Heavy makeup changes the lines and the shading, which might make your drawing subject not look human.
Teeth are involved, require time, and delicate placement and shading—not a good feature for this exercise.
In an effort to draw more, but keep my barrier of entry low (and the practice and line motion high) I decided I am going to do some gesture portraits.
Gesture, for those who you who are unfamiliar with it, is this: (definition from wiki)
A gesture drawing is a laying in of the action, form, and pose of a model/figure. Typical situations involve an artist drawing a series of poses taken by a model in a short amount of time, often as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes. Gesture drawing is often performed as a warm-up for a life drawing session, but is a skill that must be cultivated for its own sake.
In less typical cases the artist may be observing people or animals going about normal activities with no special effort to pause for the artist. For example, drawing from people on the street, performers, athletes, or drawing animals at the zoo.
The key takeaway for my use of the word and technique is: “short amount of time, often as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes.”
And that it is a skill performed as a warm-up for a drawing, but should also be cultivated for its own sake.
So, that is what I am going to work on.
These are portraits primarily using the technique of gesture drawing.
If I develop them more, or shade or color them, or it becomes a more fully-realized drawing, great.
Or, if they become the basis or inspiration for a future project, that’s good, too.
In the same way I have been freeing up my poetry, to come up with a few lines at a time (the poetry equivalent of sketching), I thought, “why not get back to drawing in the same way?”
No pressure, not outcome, just semi-daily practice and some fun.
So far, the results have been surprising good, especially, since I’m not measuring or laboring over anything.
I’m just looking at a picture and letting that arm move, with my drawing brain doing what it needs to do.
The happy outcome that is happening while trying this mindset (with both poetry and drawing): I’m learning to get out of my own way.
Here are 6 gesture portraits. Three I drew a few days ago, and three I drew today.
Above is a grouping of lines I wrote by hand, in an effort to keep my mind all the more open and receptive to what comes.
I have taken to writing more frequently, and that has been restorative. Instead of straining to make it good, I’ve been trying to make a mindful effort to keep it open. What do I mean by that? By default, I tend to be a tight-little-fist of person. I think you know the type.
When it comes to writing, I have, in the past, wanted completion. I wanted all the images to work, to be what they are when they emerge, need tiny amounts of editing, and set them to roam the earth. I still believe in what I hesitate to call “an organic process” of writing, but I also have adapted my thinking.
What if there could be just a line?
What if it wasn’t a full poem?
What if it could be exactly what it is, and nothing more?
At first, I was uncomfortable with this idea. Of course, I wanted to develop it, to make it several stanzas, to complete the thought more. Could I still be considered as “in a work session” if I only emerged with a line? Why was the idea of ‘not being done’ uncomfortable to me?
I sat with this feeling and explored a little. I realized that I had been forcing a lot of phrases into poems that haven’t had the legs to support itself. By insisting that thoughts be complete, I had made a lot of subpar poetry. This, in itself, isn’t bad, as one needs lots of bad poetry to get to a good poem. But, it was making my words weak, my themes watered down, my time and attention spaced out and distorted, and I began to see a pattern of reviewing my writing—everything was sounding the same, and not in a pleasing way.
I have been reading The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio again, and that has reignited feelings of wanting to create fuller-bodied poems, spending time with them as one would savoring a meal or a fine wine. I feel for me, that means my process needs to slow down, open up, and not be restricted by time or the emotional pressure of finalizing.
I am greatly looking forward to what this shift in mindset brings me. Already, I have gained a peace and pleasure in writing I haven’t felt in a decade.
What do think you could do along this same path? In what way can you open your writing, and let it be enough for the moment?
I did end up writing a few poems in August, which is supremely encouraging. I have been pecking at reading more of The Poet’s Companion. I can’t say that the prompts from that have led to any work, as I have not being doing the prompts! That’s on me, not on the quality of the book. The book is amazing.
I have been reading more contemporary poetry during the day, which does put me in a receptive mood for the poems that are inside of me.
Nicola Mae Goldberg’s “Wisconsin” in Winter Tangerine has really impressed and propelled me.
I want to move toward more full-bodied poems. Poems that say more and have more substance. I have a tendency to rattle off about three to four stanzas and then walk away from a poem. I want my poems to be more like a meal, or an experience, than a flash of light, or a sparse, mysterious vision.
I don’t know if this will mean a change of style or voice, or if this is what experimentation looks like. Is it a desirable idea? Either way, it never hurts to play–and to use an artistic illustration, it might be like breaking out the watercolors when you’ve been used to oil painting. Or maybe making a collage–changing it up altogether. But I feel like I am ready for this, and it feels like a natural transition. So, onward, I will play. (And will share that play.)
Speaking of sharing…here are some excerpts from the writing of August.
I am still submitting work into the world, so it’s all happening at its own pace. No recent acceptances yet, but there is still the hope.
Wishing you creative experimentation and growth in your own season,
I am struggling to write. I see her fantastic prompts, and just come up completely blank. The month of August was not very fruitful with writing, but July was. In an effort to encourage myself and others, I will share excerpts from poems from July. These poems are currently in the race for acceptance from literary magazines. I have managed to be fairly regular with submission.
I know the season of poem writing will return in earnest. Even when I’m not writing, my brain is assembling images and thoughts. This is often the case for novelists, and I’ve heard them say that they are always working–always looking for characters and dialogue. I would say I am always working also, but I am looking for that moment which ties to larger themes—in the past, present, or future.
Here are some stanzas from what was rough draft writing in July 2018:
So, onto those next moments…
Wishing you inspiration, and moments of your own from which to write, ♥
I am still submitting poems, when I have some clarity. A steady little stream of rejections have turned up over the past two weeks. I am encouraged, because the replies to rejections have become more encouraging and slightly personalized. I believe this is due to submitting to the same magazines, multiple times, so they have some familiarity with my name. This, in my mind, comes to multiple great successes.
First, that I am submitting when I’m not really in the best physical or emotional shape–yay, to me, for persevering.
Second, I am becoming familiar with the magazines–that’s good, it means I’m becoming more a part of the community.
Third, the magazines are remembering me!
Fourth, I am seeing a positive outcome after investing in submitting poems over the years–this gives me confidence not just for the acceptance of the poems, but also acceptance of myself as a poet.
Here are some of the rejections I’ve received recently:
This, from The Account: We appreciate the chance to read this submission. Though there is much to admire in these poems, unfortunately none is quite right for us at this time.
And from YesPoetry: Sadly your poems do not meet our criteria at this time, but we wish you luck in placing it elsewhere. We encourage you to submit again!
And from THRUSH We are pleased to have read these new pieces from you; in particular we enjoyed: Back, however, we have decided to pass on inclusion.
To Summarize What Was Said:
“There is much to admire in these poems.” That’s a great compliment!
“We encourage you to submit again!” An invitation to try again. Okay!
“In particular we enjoyed Back.” Feedback on a piece that was liked. Good to know of their sensibilities, and good to know in general.
I am very happy with these realizations. I am updating my spreadsheet with rejection notices, but I am smiling as I do so.
Keep on writing, and sharing that writing. I’m rooting for you!
As I’ve been reading The Poet’s Companion, I have been writing poems. I thought I’d take a moment to share some poetry journal excerpts with you. Re-reading this book has brought up memories and sensations I wasn’t expecting. The first and last time I read it, I was in the middle of abuse and turmoil. Looking over certain passages, reading example poems such as Ellery Aker’s mind-blowing “What I Do,” I have felt old familiar feelings of hurt and unrest. I remember what drew me to poetry in the first place.
I have gotten caught up in poetry as “a work” and an academic achievement in recent years, but The Poet’s Companion kindly reminds me that truth and vulnerability are where the beauty is. It reminds me that writing about experiences and observations are about articulating a shared human experience. Being brought back to these Greater Truths about writing is a little scary, but in a good way, as if I’m about to find out who I really am, after all this time, uncovered.
Here are some stanza selections from July 2018. Most of these poems are out in the submission process right now, which I why I can’t share the entire poem. They are where they should be, doing their poem job.
I’ve been devoting time to writing poetry. The morning works for me, so does early evening before bed. This may not be the case for other poets.
Some people write poetry as a academic exercise. Others because they want to do something ‘spiritual’ or mindful, and tap into what they feel, and sense. I have no objection to this, I think writing poetry, and any way you can get the practice into your life, is a wonderful thing. For me, poetry writing has not been optional. I’m very much in the I-do-this-to-survive / confessional / more-like-Anne-Sexton part of the spectrum.
Here is a list of what causes me to write poems. It’s usually fueled by some kind of intensity—but that can take many forms.
I usually have dreams that I can write easily into a poem. My dreams tend to be highly symbolic. Very often I’ve written dreams in full description, and that’s been enough for a complete poem. Sometimes, it is a dominating color in a dream, or a theme. There is a treasure of image, sound, emotion, and downright psychological awareness from dream material. If you haven’t taken the time to explore your own psyche in this way with poems, I recommend it.
The typical teenager pouring their heart out onto the page, feeling forcefully, isn’t a archetype without reason. Emotions can be a huge source of energy and used successfully as writing material. They can be used to connect you to potential readers, they can help you experiment with the language, they can strengthen your sensitivity and enable you. Joy, sadness, loss, grief, all aspects of the human condition can be described with the words of your choosing.
I deal with several mental illnesses, which are mostly managed. But they do have periods where they creep in or takeover my life. Writing enables me to use language to expel my thoughts. Sometimes, I use poems as a therapist. Or I use poems to make metaphor from what seems intangible. Using poetry to label difficult sensations, during times of trial can really aid in grounding and perspective. You might feel improved after writing out your pain, or at least feel legitimized—because the mark of your reality has now morphed into an art.
Our brains are amazing and keep so many details. Special memories or persistent memories are good writing material. I have also used poetry as a sort of journaling, to keep a feeling or memory intact—say a special day with someone. Maybe you really want to remember seeing the beach for the first time, for example. It can used as a time capsule, keeping your experience alive with a word picture.
If you’re seeking something to write about, try thinking over some of the things I’ve mentioned. Maybe an experience, a dream, or a feeling can open you up to a field of language you never knew lived inside.
I’m returning to writing, and getting back to submitting. It’s a dichotomy—because when you take time to write you feel like you should be submitting, and when you’re submitting, you feel as if you should be writing! Of course, both are necessary, so there really is no internal conflict. Not really. Sometimes, emotionally, it does seem like a bit much.
I like to write a little when I feel that urge to write while I’m submitting. Even if it’s just a image or a stanza, it feels better emotionally. I don’t know if other poets encounter this. It’s a situation I bump into frequently, so I try to manage as best I can. I want my writing time, and my submitting time to be exclusive and focused. If that means I have to break between one or the other to meet a small need, in a small way, I’m willing to do it. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me so far.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling pulled—into writing while you’re submitting, or submitting while you’re writing!
Are you being inspired by seeing your writing? Or inspired by putting together a submission?
These are feel-good hormones, and excitement. This is good! We want to keep these momentum-feelings!
Do you have coffee, is your blood sugar stabilized, and are you relatively unstressed?
It’s no surprise if you haven’t eaten, or haven’t had your own-personal-stabilizer, or are emotionally or physically compromised, you’re going to have difficulty focusing.
Do you have other things on your mind?
Housework, your job, other anxieties, health issues…can all contribute to distractibility.
Do you have space and sufficient time?
Feeling like you have to fit in submitting or writing, feeling pressure, can lead to ineffective time usage. Or mistakes made while submitting, or poor quality-time writing.
What if you are meeting all your needs and everything is ideal?
As in you’re: 1) chemically balanced, 2) have plenty of time, 3) have plenty of space, 4) have focus, and you are still fighting with wanting to write while you’re submitting, or submitting while you’re writing?
Then, meet both needs, of course! But do it in a small, one-at-a-time focused way!
If you want to write, but you’re in a submitting session…
Take a break from your writing session, and submit to one magazine.
Or read about a magazine you want to submit to.
This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
You still want to devote 90% percent of your time and attention to writing.
If you’re submitting but you get that fire to write…
Take a break from submitting!
Write a line, or a stanza, or an idea for a poem.
Or write an entire poem.
You shouldn’t devote more than 15 minutes to this.
Hopefully, meeting your poem need should free you up to focus on submitting.
Yes, self-discipline does come into play. I’m not saying it’s always going to work out that you can both submit and write. But you can honor yourself and your time, when that itch wants to be scratched.
Sometimes, devoting just a little attention can go a long way towards complete satisfaction and fulfillment, and better clarity and performance with the main task you’re setting out to perform.
Wishing you concentration and effective creative time,