Delicious Creativity Nugget #2: There's mundane behind the magic

In September I posted Delicious Creativity Nugget (DCN) #1 and promised you more on the topic of CREATIVITY this fall. Well, winter doesn't start for 20 more days, so here we go... ;-p DCN #2: There's no MAGIC without some mundane.

I love a nice Dixon Ticonderoga #2!

This afternoon I presented a drawing workshop to a group of 10 year-old Girl Scouts. (Hooray for Girl Scouts to honor drawing skills with a badge!) We started by pairing up and drawing each other's faces. Then we did some contour drawings, keeping our eyes on the object and our pens in contact with the paper. We took turns "modeling" while the others did quick gesture drawings of us using charcoal on large newsprint. We talked about lines and shapes, and so on. The two hours went by very quickly, and at the end we bound our drawings, along with extra paper for future practice, into sketchbooks.

Here's what I heard during the first few activities:

"I'm sorry I messed up your nose."

"Faces are hard!"

"I'm really bad at hands."

Here are the THREE TAKE-AWAYS from the workshop that I hope they'll remember:

1. Getting good at drawing, like everything else in the world, takes... (guess what?)... practice. We saw the satisfying results, even during this brief lesson, by comparing their third gesture drawings to their first ones. The head shapes were more oval. The hair was flowing naturally rather than in hard, straight lines. The limbs were more proportional. Skill in drawing doesn't come by magic. It comes with practice.

Use any tool that floats your boat.

2. Realistic drawing requires you to be good at looking. Yes, that's right. (If you're good-looking, that's a plus, but won't help your drawing skills.) It sounds easy, right? But often when you "look" at something, your left-brain is just filling your head with a bunch of useless facts about that thing you're going to draw: Heads are round. Necks hold up heads. Hands have five fingers. What you might not be noticing are the shapes, and the curves of that line there, and how this part is darker than that part, and how the details over there are all blurry and indistinct. That's your right brain trying to get through! If you allow your know-it-all left brain to lead your drawing with its irrelevant factoids, you'll end up frustrated. (Then refer to #3.)

So for example, Charlie Brown's head is nice and circular, but the rest of ours aren't. And maybe the only "neck" visible is a tiny dark triangle below the chin. (But necks aren't triangular! says your left brain. Tell it to hush.) And maybe you can't see any fingers, or just one, from the side. Forget all those facts you know, and just let your eyes LOOK at the shapes in front of you. Believe your eyes! Make note of the shapes and lines, and where they meet, and how dark or thick they are, and where they end. Describing the shapes out loud helps, while you copy them down.

"Having trouble drawing" usually means you're "having trouble looking." The good news is that when you do start really looking, the magic will begin.

Another nice tool...

3. Art is all about problem-solving. I asked the girls to do this: When you get frustrated that your drawing doesn't look the way you'd like it to, DON'T say (or think): "I suck at this! Drawing is too hard for me." Instead, ask yourself why it doesn't look right. What's not working? Are the proportions off? Is the head too big? Are the arms too skinny? Are the eyes too high up on the head? Once you've identified a specific problem, you can go about fixing it, rather than fixating on how you just generally suck at drawing. And with practice (see #1) you'll get better and better at seeing where you were off (see # 2) and figuring out how to fix it.

What applies to 10 year-old Girl Scouts applies to you, too!

Here's your added bonus, if you follow these three steps:

Follow these steps and you'll learn to ignore that harsh, judging voice that tells you you suck, until eventually it will skulk away to find an easier victim. Then you can just get on with the business of improving your drawing skills!