Working out the bad

Recently I have been doing a lot of drawings that emerge for the womb of my mind with dents and lumps and stork bites all over. They look just ugly to me, five minutes in. I know this is a function of my being out of shape — I need to keep limbering up my powers of observation and forcing myself to slow down.

To deal with these lifeless pups, I turn to advice for my old pal, Tommy Kane. If you took “Beginning” at Sketchbook Skool you will remember his lecture exhorting us to keep working on bad drawings, massaging them until they cough, splutter and start to breathe.

I have been wondering why this works.

Is it like taking a wrong turn early in the journey and then continuing to drive, circling, perambulating until eventually you get back on track, slowing down, recalculating, finally getting oriented, our earlier mistakes now buried in many miles of tire tracks?

Or maybe you keep making mistakes, more and more inaccurate observations, until they all even out, balancing too long with too short, too left with too right. The mean is accurate.

Or does all the effort show, the layers, the thousands of strokes, the many decisions all evident on the page so they coalesce to exude an air of confidence that make the early mistakes seem intentional, now polished and upholstered in finger sweat?

Regardless, the act of concentration and dogged perseverance clear my mind, assuage the pain of earlier blunders to bring me a doodly peace.

Once again, drawing is like living. Perseverance will out.

10 thoughts on “Working out the bad”

  1. This is the most helpful piece of advice you have shared. If it can happen to Danny, it’s ok when it happens to me. And according to Danny and Shia Labeouf, just “do it.”


  2. I think it’s easy sometimes to run from mistakes to more quickly put them behind us and maybe pretend they didn’t happen. But sometimes life requires that we stick it out. I’d say some of the most important things we do (raising children, working on a relationship) we really can’t run from nor should we. I see fixing bad drawings as small, low-stakes exercises in sticking it out until it works.


  3. As always, exactly what I needed to read: dogged perseverance to doodly peace. Plus, a delightful picture of a pooch 🙂


  4. When I taught middle school I quickly realized that every student wanted to throw away their work and start over after only a few minutes of drawing or painting. My rule became “you have to keep working on they same piece of paper…it will get better and more interesting as you go. The only excuse for starting over is if you throw up on your paper…yeah, then you can have a new piece of paper” . I explained to them that no artists really like their work in the middle of doing it. You just have to persevere …just like with real life!


  5. I think it’s the fact that the drawing is no longer important so anything goes. Often results in something spectacular.


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