Last weekend I visited my family and took some time to doodle.
I made a landscapeito of the lake we went to for the afternoon: I decided to limit the time to 5 minutes, so that I focused on getting the framing, shading and details right. In this drawing, I tried to make the background lighter than the foreground, a way of suggesting distance. I am not super happy with the water, but I think that I captured the essence of the scene.
My mum is currently practising guitar together with her colleague Biagio, so they invited me to their rehearsal. It was a perfect occasion to draw! I took around half an hour to make the drawing below. It was easier to draw the parts of the body that didn’t move much (right arm, shoulders), but hard to draw the head and the left hand, that moved a lot. For these parts I chose a particular position and waited for them to show it, drew a couple lines or hatching, and wait for next occasion. I learned about this technique from a workshop about wildlife sketches, where you choose several postures of an animal and work in parallel, adding details to each doodle every time the animal falls into that position. It is indeed a valid technique for any moving subject.
Last week I entered the stationery with the intention to buy a folder. I ended up buying two A4 folders, an A5 folder and 7 STABILO Pen 68 felt pens of unusual colors. Here are the first two sketches with the blue/green pens:
I like the vivid colours, and the flexibility of the pen tip. It makes it behave a bit like a round brush. The paper I have drawn on is too raw, so it’s easy to make darker spots unintentionally. I’ll try on a smoother paper and let you know! Anyway I am already happy with these first sketches.
I am reading Oliver Sacks’ “The Mind’s Eye” and I first want to say that I am fascinated and soothed by how Sacks talks about some of his patients – with humanity and empathy. It is difficult for me to explain how reassuring it feels to always be treated as a human being, who deserves respect and consideration: physical and mental issues can bend your life in unbearable ways, but the person, the “you”, should remain out of their reach.
(It sounds easy to say, and I feel I am not entitled to talk about it because on so many levels I am healthy and functioning; but as I have experienced how temporary malfunctions have hit me hard, I feel guilty for having been so weak, ungrateful and doubtful about my recovering potential, when others face permanent changes in their bodily abilities and fight so bravely.)
Back to the book. I started Chapter 5 “Stereo Sue” with expectation and curiosity. Sue (Susan R. Barry) grew up stereoblind without relevant difficulties, but at the age of forty her sight process worsened in a way that she seeked professional help, started vision therapy and surprisingly acquired stereo vision at 48 years of age – against all odds, because it was (is still?) commonly considered that stereo vision must be acquired within the first 3 years of life.
I was so touched by her story that I kept reading page after page, speechless, breathless. I cried when she described her old way of seeing the world and her former issues, because I recognised my daily life. Stereo blindness is not a rare condition: many people (5 to 10% of the population, according to Sacks) have grown up without acquiring stereo vision but developed a bunch of alternative ways of estimating depth and distance of the people and objects around them, and most live normal lives.
I am unsure of what to do. I must say that my stereo blindness interferes with several activities (driving a car, playing ball games are extremely difficult for me, among other things) but enhances others (drawing from real life is easier: I see it flat already, and I even guess how hard it is to draw for people who see in 3D!). However, I would hate to see myself as “in need to be fixed” and that stereo vision would bring me “closer to normal”. I am aware that I am missing a piece of functionality that most have, and that most make good use of, but I also feel that it’s not that crucial for me to get it too. I would hate to get stereo vision to get a step closer to how others perceive the world, just because my way of seeing the world couldn’t be understood.
Sacks himself lost stereo vision after an operation to his right eye, and considered it a net loss of functionality – that his perception of the world was changed for the bad and the false – I understand his conclusions, but they are not mine; I have always functioned differently, and that should have equal dignity. I was grateful to Sacks for his admiration for all the clever workarounds that Sue was putting in place – he admired her ability to use other senses and ways to compensate for an ability that most people give for granted.
I want to let these thoughts simmer for a while. I am for sure excited to discover that it’s possible for me to gain stereo vision, but I want to think well about the motivations that would lead me on that path. In the meanwhile I keep sketching.
“Landscapeito” is John Muir Law’s name for mini-landscape drawing (by adding the Spanish diminutive –ito). John succeeded in motivating me to draw more often, because this technique offers a few goals at my arm’s (or pencil’s) reach, but yet challenging enough to make them interesting. Even more important, his video gave me a lot of tips on how to spot mistakes myself, and how to avoid them in future drawings. I am so grateful that he has shared the mental paths that he uses during drawing, because it makes me confident that my own way can lead to better results.
So here is my second landscapeito:
I liked his suggestion to start with only three levels of luminosity of a single color, before using the actual colors of the landscape. The first step is using a pencil and create three shades, from light to dark. I thought that it would be simpler if I used felt pens and chose three fixed shades of a single color – in this case, blue. So out I went and found a cute little corner near the river. I started with the lightest blue and used the two others in sequence. I took time to understand which shade to use for each area, and I am quite satisfied of this first attempt, even if overall it is too dark. I actually used a fourth color, and that too has made the picture too dark.
Today it rains, so there are no chances to draw outside – but stay tuned for more landscapeitos!
She controls me when I’m alone. She waits for everyone to leave, then she attacks. That’s why I try to be with friends, but it feels like they are my hostages. When they are there, she lays down in a corner, and I feel almost normal.
But sometimes she attacks them too, and I feel that I put my friends in danger, while trying to protect myself. Therefore I stay alone more often.
When I sleep, she sleeps.
She usually likes listening to music.
Some things that look great to others sometimes annoy her a lot. She’s quite unpredictable. That would be OK if she weren’t so strong and dangerous.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to distract her enough to have a few minutes alone.
Today I watched John Muir Law’s lesson about drawing 5-minute landscapes and got inspired to draw one myself. I went to the park near my house and picked a corner with a couple of trees. The sun started to shine nicely right as I started drawing, so that it made better shadows. I took longer than five minutes, but not more than fifteen. Here is the result:
I am quite happy with the result! The subject in itself is not so exciting, the drawing is far from pretty, but I am proud of having been able to watch the video, grab my sketchbook and pencil, go outside, find a subject to draw, and actually draw it. I could have stopped anywhere in the process – I could have thought: yeah it’s late for today, there is not much light, there are no nice landscapes around my house, this sketch is not looking that good, I’m not going to finish it… instead, here it is!
I hope this inspires you to do the same, find a small art task like these 5-minutes landscapes, complete it and feel proud of your achievement. Any journey starts with a small step!
Last week at the supermarket I saw a 18-set of acrylic paints and bought it at once – but I didn’t open them right after coming home. I wanted to find a good subject, read a bit about painting techniques, find the right paper/cardboard. A week passed and I realised I would never start painting, if I waited to make something great at the first try! So I just opened a few colour tubes and doodled on a piece of paper, with a broad pencil:
I felt happy with the result, because I tried various ways to hold the brush, various densities of paint (with more or less water), I mixed the colours, overlayed some of them. I think that setting small goals for a first experiment is more rewarding that starting with a proper subject, that has high chances to turn out ugly 🙂
I hope this helps you in starting with the art/hobby that you like so much, but feel intimidated – “what if I try and I don’t like what I can do?”. Starting with a test of tools and techniques, or just some free doodling, is a good way to break the “white canvas fear” and give you courage to practice further.