How to draw something complex.

Jürgen writes from Germany to ask,

When I start to draw a simple thing like a cup or glass of wine, that’s not a problem, because the lines are “clear” BUT when I try to draw a plant, a tree or something which seems to me complex, thanIfeel a very, very strong resistant in me, which blocks me and frustrates me. I tried to train to overcome this feeling, but I feel tired. It takes a lot of energy of mine.

Hi Jürgen:

Lovely to hear from you.

I think your problem lies in the phrase “something which seems to me complex.” The monkey in your brain is saying,”this is too hard. I can’t do it. ” You need to eliminate that sort of thinking by changing the lens in your brain.

Instead of seeing a tree, look at a branch. Or the intersection of two branches. Or where a twig meets a branch. Or the shape of a group of leaves. Study it for a minute and then draw just that section, leaving room on the page to continue the drawing beyond. If you need to, tell yourself, “I’ll just draw that little part of the tree and that’s all”.

Once you start examining this section you will gain confidence and be able to add more and more of the tree.

Here’s another approach: Square not your eyes so the tree is blurry and you can’t see details. Draw that shape. Then go in and add the biggest details. Then get smaller.

So, one approach is small to big. The other big to small.

Yet another way is to draw the negative space around the object. The sky behind the tree for instance. Do it slowly and accurately. Then go into the shape and start to add details. Again big to small.

Remind yourself that complex subjects are just a lot of simple objects joined together. Break them down, draw them one by one, and there’s nothing you can’t draw

I hope that’s helpful.

Supply List: Live!

Folks have asked me what I use to make these videos so I put together a supply list.

Originally this was a Facebook Live thingamabob but you may not have the time or inclination to watch it there. Maybe this pristine non-commercial stage will change your mind. Or not.

Oh, and if you have a problem reading my handwriting, a) join the crowd and b) look at this then.

 

Diving for news.

I live with a person (who shall remain nameless) who doesn’t want to hear it. Doesn’t want to discuss politics, to fulminate over the latest outrage, to join in prognostications or stew in venom. So, each morning, when I read the paper, I have to find other things to tell her about. I read the headlines in silence, then turn to back pages and read aloud from the book review or the food section.

Today, I plumbed the depths.

I told her about the new Damien Hirst show, his first in quite a while, which is all quite mysterious, apparently containing “jeweled buried treasure covered with coral as if just pulled out of the ocean.” I do love his twisted mind.

And then, huge news! Scientists have identified a new continent. Whaa? Yes! “an underwater continent two-thirds the size of Australia — and they are calling it Zealandia.” New Zealand is the bit that protrudes above the water but the rest fit the definition of a continent. So cool!

And I shared an article detailing all of the unusual animals that have escaped into the  streets of my city in recent years: a goat, a zebra, a kangaroo, several cows, and, gulp, a cobra.  Most were sent to animal refuge centers, thank God. They omitted mention of any deep sea creatures, but we have been following one with interest since last summer: several whales that have been seen breaching in the East and Hudson Rivers, right off the shore of our island.

Each of these stories seem more directly relevant to our lives than a lot of the stuff I skim over. And they keep our mornings calm and sunny. Try it.

On not drawing

It happens. You ought to write something, draw something, not eat something, but ya just aren’t feeling it. Your New Year resolutions have petered out — less than two weeks into January.  Are you a bad person? Worthless? Is the monkey 100% right?

‘Course not. Ronnie Lawlor (who is drawing monster, by the by) and I talk about why not.

(Happy Friday 13th! It’s your luck day.)

How to draw when it’s ccccold.

Cripes, but it was cold here this week.  To boot, we were all coming down with some sort of flu, but the cold even had our dogs snuggling into the same bed, deep under their blankets. Then there was snow and salt and muck and, ugh. It finally eased up today, bit still, what the hell, where’s global warming when you need it?

Anyway, I was fortunate to have chatted about how to cope with all this mess earlier with my Ronnie Lawlor.  Here ya go:

How to get over a creative block

My SBS co-founder, Koosje Koene, has been experiencing a bit of a creative block of late so she has been asking for strategies on how to get past it. We did a Skype chat in which I gave her a few ideas to help her reshuffle the deck and get back to work.

This chat is part of a series for the Sketchbook Skool blog which has lots of other ideas for improving your creative life. If you sign up for the SBS newsletter, this sort of advice will find you and kick your monkey’s butt.
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P.S. Please excuse my unshaven, pimply appearance. I am going through a second adolescence and my usual hair and makeup person is on sabbatical.

Patti and the monkey

Tim sent me the following email last week:

Hi Danny,

Thanks for Shut Your Monkey. I’ve been working on quieting my inner voice for 40 years mostly through meditation. I’ve added Shut Your Monkey to the list of books that have helped me over the years including Be Here Now, Ram Dass; The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle; Experience of Insight, Joseph Goldstein; The Art of Living, William Hart; and Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche.

Where your book has been extremely helpful is in discovering those nooks and crannies where my Monkey has been hiding and impersonating my voice with subtle little comments that I didn’t recognize as coming from him. So thank you.

I do have a question for you. I’ve been following you for a number of years and was especially touched by your willingness to be so open about your wife’s illness and death. I’m wondering how that inner voice was part of that experience?

Tim


Here’s what I wrote in response:

Tim:

I’m so glad my new book is helpful.  Thanks for letting me know.  I am flattered to be in such august company.

As to the inner voice and my wife….

When Patti was first injured, we spent a lot of time looking for information. We were in a fairly narrow niche among people dealing with spinal cord injuries: 1) my wife was a woman (obviously), 2) we had a 9 month-old-child and 3) we lived in a big city and 4) she was over 30. There just weren’t many people like her (one more way Patti was special).  We were in a constant quest for information about our particular situation and it was hard to come by in those early days of the Internet. So I started a bulletin board called curbcut.com and it soon became a vibrant community for sharing information and support. You can see part of an archive of it here. The discussion we had there had to be frank to be useful and it became increasingly normal and comfortable for us to tell total strangers some pretty intimate stuff in order to get useful feedback.

Similarly, when I started drawing, there was very little information and inspiration about illustrated journaling. Hannah Hinchman had a book, d.price had a zine, but otherwise not much. So I formed a community on Yahoo! that quickly grew to 4,000 members. 

In both cases, I found that sharing what I was going through with other people helped me and help them. That’s why I wrote Everyday Matters and eventually A Kiss Before You Go and Shut Your Monkey too. And that’s why I have been blogging for all the years: because turning the things of my life into words and pictures helps me understand them better and sharing them with people, even strangers, makes even the worst moments seems worthwhile.

The monkey doesn’t always agree. He told me many time that my sharing was actually exploitation, that I was turning my family into fodder for my bottomless need for attention. That may be true. But so is my other point: when I turn my experiences into some sort of art, it makes my life richer and clearer to me. And when I make art, it seems natural to share it. That’s what artists and writers do.

Sharing stuff publicly hasn’t had many negative consequences beyond the whining of the monkey in my head. And it seems to help other people too.They write to tell me that I am not alone in my feelings or that my description of an experience has helped clarify it for them too.

The monkey has a lot to say about every one of my projects. He has been particularly vocal about my book/podcast/newsletter.  Nonetheless, creating them has been helpful to me and hopefully to others too so I persevere over the cries of outrage in my head.

I hope that’s helpful. Thanks for asking,

Danny