Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Didn't I Just Leave It Alone?

After Sunny left for work last night I was sitting on the couch watching some TV when my new awesome drafting table just started calling out to me.

“Sit at me!” It said. “Look how shiny and professional looking I am! Imagine the sheer works of greatness you could accomplish with my help!”

“Bollocks.” I said. Unlike a lot of people I’ve had the misfortune to meet, I understand that expensive equipment doesn’t automatically make you a better artist. Put simply, if you’re a mediocre artist drawing on newsprint at a card table, you’re going to be a mediocre artist drawing on Bristol at a purpose-built drawing table.

However, I do love to draw, the drafting table solves a lot of problems and it’s just so darn comfortable to draw at.

So I grabbed some paper, sat down and went to work.

After a while I decided to do some photograph copying. Drawing straight out of your head is great and intensely satisfying from a creative point of view, but for actually learning to draw, you can’t beat drawing from life or photographs. It’s really hard to draw from life or a picture and not learn anything from it, even if your final result looks terrible.

So I jumped on the net, found an interesting picture, printed it out and settled in to draw it.

For once I deliberately forced myself not to rush. I was going to take as long as it took to get right. That’s a problem I have. I get carried away and will finish a drawing in half an hour when I should really be spending a couple of hours on the original contour drawing alone.

Anyway two hours later and I was done. Better still I was actually happy with the end result. I’d deliberately picked a picture with a complicated pose and viewpoint that I know would cause me to stop and think. (After a little practice it’s easy to draw someone standing up straight and looking directly at you…a dynamic pose with lots of foreshortening from an extreme angle is much, much harder).

That’s when I hit my biggest problem.

I forget who said it, but the saying goes that “Artwork is never finished, it simply gets abandoned”.

I’d put down my pencil, gone to get a drink and had sat back down on the couch and started watching ‘dirty jobs’ on Discovery. I glanced over at my drawing that I’d left on the desk and decided to take another look.

As I stood looking at the drawing next to the original photo…I noticed that something was just slightly off. So I picked up my eraser and pencil again and ‘corrected’ it. Then I noticed that that correction made something else look slightly off.

An hour and a half later I’m still drawing, cursing how it’s impossible to erase part of a shaded object and then get it back looking natural. Of course, when I was finished, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I did the first time it was ‘finished’…and all the while I was fighting the urge to keep drawing to ‘fix’ it.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d be playing with a ball or something inside the house, and you knew you should stop, but you just kept pushing your luck until you accidentally broke your mum’s favorite lamp?

That’s what this is like. You start tinkering knowing you’re going to ‘fix’ this tiny little problem…and an hour later you’re looking at a disaster area on the page thinking “Why didn’t I just quit? Why didn’t I just quit? Oh God, why didn’t I just quit?”

And the best part? While you’re chastising yourself for not putting the pencil down and just leaving well enough alone…you’re still drawing.

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