Thursday, August 9, 2012

There And Back Again - One Month Down

Having finished the first month of this project (and counting), I thought now would be a good time to take something of a step back and look at what I've done and where I'm going. I didn't get much of a chance for forethought when I started, largely because I was caught in a little sliver of a window between the IMC ending, my new job starting, and moving out of an apartment in Harlem and into a new apartment in Queens - so, apart from the beginning post and a lot of notes that I thought I Should be Writing on each page, this project so far has been a feet-first blind jump.

Not that I don't know what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to use these six months to become a better and more confident draftsman, and to home in on what I actually want to be drawing. I strayed, in the last year, and I've known that since the IMC.

What I haven't really been able to parse until recently, though, is exactly how to go about getting back to my roots through this project. Each day, I basically went, "Uhhh, I guess today I will draw... THIS! Because!" and that wasn't, yanno, helpful. Oh, it fulfilled my hour, and I'm not stupid enough to think that every single day out of six months is going to be a Meaningful Drawing Day... but there are a handful of pages where I clearly just had no idea what to do.

And so I doodled. Some of them were interesting doodles! But I've never been terribly good at such things (it's hard for me to do anything when it's a white sheet of paper and no prompts, and it's not a full composed illustration), and my doodle pages were almost always days that I was 'too tired' to do something real.

I've known for a rather long time now that the difference in my drawing between 'with reference' and 'without reference' is, uh. Significant. So it shouldn't have been surprising that when I started pulling my day's drawings from photos, they got not only much better, but more informative: suddenly, I was able to see some of the things I was doing.

When I'm drawing out of my head, I'm not concentrating on anything, it's not challenging any part of me, and therefore it's not teaching me anything. I fall back on the same shortcuts and approximations, use the same angles and expressions, indulge in the same allowances I always do. When I'm drawing from something, though, I have to concentrate, and so I notice things. 'Oh. That's how long a nose actually is.' 'Oh. That's how light falls across a hand, because the hand's structure is like so.' 'Oh. That's where a neck goes.' And on and on and on.

In the last third of the month, I worked almost exclusively from reference - either photos or life - and not only did my quality skyrocket, but I began loosening up in my rendering and exploring new markmaking. And I was choosing my reference based not only on 'is this beautiful to me?', but also on 'is it useful to me?'.

It was the correct choice. At one month and a week and a half, I can say that I am already better at drawing than I was before, more confident and more expressive both.

The really exciting part of that is I still have most of five months left to keep climbing.


  1. Thanks for sharing a bit about what you've learned so far Jenna. Seeing your illustration studies and hearing what you're learning is a great help for me. Is there some concrete accomplishment that you'd like to have achieved by the end of this, beyond being 'better'? Perhaps a challenging composition you'd like to conquer after the six months?

    1. I'm glad what I'm saying makes some sense, and that you're taking something from this project!

      I don't have any specific single goal, actually... it's more of an overall cumulative effect that I'm looking for. I want to be much more technically capable, faster and more comfortable with drawing, with a much clearer understanding of my aesthetic and direction, and perhaps a bit of new knowledge!