Sunday, September 17, 2006

Drawing on Observation

Before you became a professional – way before, when you were little – you probably had a lot of freedom in expressing yourself, with colored pencils, crayons, or finger paint. Do you still express yourself with this much abandon? As professionals, we seem to rely more on technology as our tool of choice, whether it be a scanner, copier, digital camera or computer program. We may feel that our drawing skills don’t have the “perfection” that these machines do.

Author/illustrator Danny Gregory believes that drawing skills will get rusty unless we use them on a regular basis. As creative people, our goal is to lead a creatively fertile life, so the best way to knock the rust off is to pick up a pencil and pretend you’re a child again. Start by getting a blank journal and, instead of drawing layouts or logo designs, draw your morning coffee, your lunch, your co-workers, your computer, anything. The key concept is OBSERVATION. Look closely and interpret details.

Gregory also encourages writing in this journal. Write down ideas, foods you’d like to try, places you’d like to travel, descriptions of your commute, etc. Again, the key concept is OBSERVATION. Gregory advocates trying different mediums also –experiment with various types of pens, markers, paint, or rubber stamps.

If you can make this a daily habit, just a few minutes per day, it can become a mini-vacation, especially in our stress-filled lives. The practice of journaling can help cultivate the part of your brain that OBSERVES. After a while, this can help you make links and associations more quickly when you’re trying to solve design problems. Some designers also advocate the use of artist journals to help them develop their own sense of style, by seeing what they like in the way of technique, color, or way of thinking. Some say that they can see a definite growth by looking through these journals after they have been doing it for a while.

Many of us probably feel that we don’t have time to do this, but maybe we should make the time. Maybe your drawing skills won’t get any better, but your observation skills should definitely improve. Has anyone tried this on a regular basis? What are your experiences?

“Just Draw” by Danny Gregory, HOW, August 2006.


Blogger Timspeak said...

Hand skills, like anything else, do get rusty without use. And I think the main point, that doing this could cause you to see rather than just look, is true. However, the computer is just a tool. And a very valuable one. It is so closely tied to the profession because it allows you to spin out professional looking ideas as quickly as possible.

So, perhaps just taking the time to think before you design could have the same effect.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I'm the eternal pessimist. The idea of a drawing journal sounds good in principle, but I know better. Journals, though always an attractive idea, very rarely last longer than a week for me...enjoyable at first but then I find it to be just another "chore" for the day. For those of you that do or have kept journals in the past, what's your secret for keeping up the energy and the excitement to write or draw in one every day?

6:49 PM  
Blogger mary said...

I have also found it to be a chore, mainly because my mind is usually always churning with other stimuli. I wish I could record my visual thoughts without the paper trail! But he (and others) advocate doing it for yourself, not just because you "have to." I guess if you don't enjoy it, it won't be much help to you.

12:21 PM  
Blogger marydorsey said...

I agree that it works, but it falls way down on my list, near jogging. I think the "Artist's Way" also recommends journaling and drawing every morning. It would be very good if you were self-employed and need structure and stimulation.

10:52 PM  

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