Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists


“Success is dangerous.  One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.  It leads to sterility.” Picasso

Search for Form, Variations on a Theme – Three Easy Exercises

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Today I will tell you about three amazing exercises in seeing which have helped me so much.  They are a piece of cake to do and won’t take too long.  You will need to be consistent with your daily seeing though.  These exercises are most beneficial.

Exercise 1

Choose a picture you either really like or really dislike.  Look at the picture, put it aside and roughly sketch the details you saw in that picture.  Look at the picture again the next day to see what you missed and quickly sketch it again.  Do this for 5 days and compare what you noticed on day 1 compared to your complete visual understanding of the photo on day 5.

Look at and roughly sketch your bedroom over different 5 days and you will be surprised at how you did not know it.  This is why the great masters did so many paintings and studies of one subject before commencing their masterpieces. They searched for a complete visual understanding.

Exercise 2

Look at a picture in a book and “project” it onto the wall in your mind’s eye.  Really see it on the wall mentally, do not just remember it. Try to establish the frame and picture. When you can project a picture with one hundred per cent belief, you have the eye of an artist.  If your concentration is a little off, (you may be stressed or tired) you will only remember the picture in your mind, you will not see it projected on to the wall.

With enough practice you will be able to visualize your subject as you paint/draw it rather than copying from a photograph.  I have yet to master this and am still working on it with some difficulty.  Let’s say it’s a goal for me.

Exercise 3

  • Select a photograph which resonates immediately with you. Magazines are good.  You can either really like the photo or really dislike it.  Both are fertile ground for an artwork.
  • Create your first drawing.  In most cases, this drawing will be quite realistic.
  • Put the photograph away and use the first drawing as a reference for the second. To make it interesting, try using different mediums or mixing media in the subsequent drawings.
  • Put the first drawing away and use the second drawing as a reference.  You will notice the form becoming more simplified and this usually turns out to be a good thing if you are into abstraction.
  • You can take this as far as you like by drawing from a previous drawing until the subject becomes a mere essence of the original.  This is a lot of fun when you compare your first drawing with your last one. The final form will depend entirely on the original photo and the drawings that preceded it.
  • Once your drawing has become completely abstracted, you can use your imagination to create something completely different from the original.  Look with your trained eye, what shapes do you see?

The photo above is an illustration of this exercise is from the book “Learn to Draw” by Robert Kaupelis.

Zen Quotes for Artists

Synchronize for Swimming

The striving of man to beautify his life is the only trace he leaves behind him through the ages. We know only about those departed peoples, which left after them some works of art – as monuments, drawings, sculpture, literature, etcetera.”  Richard Boleslavsky