Drawing – Critical Dialogue or Helpful Dialogue

Girl in a Dressing Gown

Drawing is a miraculous co-ordination between the hand, the eye and the heart.  When learning to draw, each of these is subject to training and habit.

Improvement in drawing comes quickly when we break bad habits and replace them with new helpful ones.

What do you think about when you draw? Do you use critical dialogue or helpful dialogue?

Here are some examples of critical dialogue:

  • I can’t draw legs.
  • I never draw hands right.
  • Why do I have so much trouble drawing?

And some of helpful dialogue:

  • Which way are the hips tilting?
  • Is there a curve in the spine?
  • Are the shoulders tilted or horizontal?

If you have the critical dialogue habit, don’t worry, as it is easy to break.  To do this we must first talk about:

  • Where do you look when you draw?  Do you look at your drawing or your subject?

If you aren’t sure, ask someone to watch your eyes when you draw and tell you whether you are mostly looking at the subject or at your paper.  This is an important question and the key to your improvement.

If your eyes rest mainly on your paper, you will be judging your efforts, this leads to self-analyzing and self-involved “critical” mode.  As you draw you will be judging things as “wrong” or “they don’t look right”.  In despair, you may then try techniques and methods you already know rather than drawing what you see.  As you can imagine, it is easy to get lost and confused when in critical mode and is a very real trap for beginners.

On the other hand, “helpful” mode happens when you are focused mostly on your subject and you refrain from continuously looking at your paper.  This results in a dynamic dialogue between you and the subject giving you information about shapes, angles and measurements that you can translate onto paper.

Some artists use “triggering” words to translate their feelings onto the page.  Words such as “angular”, “sharp”, “tilted” can be repeated in your head over and over while your hand moves on the paper.  This helps to keep you in contact with your feelings about what you see and that makes it easier to translate that feeling onto your page.

Please feel safe in doing this, as you always have “restatements” up your sleeve!


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