Drawing – Still Life, Puzzle Pieces and Giving Up Control

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Remember when you played with jigsaw puzzles as a kid, the same principle can help you to make amazing artwork.   “Puzzle pieces” are geometric shapes including highlights, shadows, reflections patterns and textures.

“Puzzle pieces” add so much vitality and variety to our drawings and if we are not daydreaming, we see them on or around objects every day.  At first, it may be hard to see them as shapes but sure as eggs, they are indeed two-dimensional shapes.  A shadow or a distorted reflection, both stand tall as geometric shapes in their own right.  They could be elongated triangles, dented circles or weird shapes with their own crazy contours.

Putting these shapes together is like making a jigsaw puzzle.  Each highlight or reflection is an added detail to make your work look soooo much better. This is what makes your work the real deal.  A work rich and beautiful is created by the looker’s awareness of the “puzzle pieces.”

Exercise – Allow 30 minutes for this drawing.

  • You will need a pencil (HB, B or 2B) with a sharp point.
  • Paper for drawing large enough to draw your object life size.

Find a jar or bottle made of tinted glass and place if in front of you. I did a stainless steel coffee pot and that is okay too.  Draw the hugest shapes first, make an effort to keep that pencil on the paper.  Try drawing “blind” 3 or 4 times. That means looking at the bottle, not your paper!  Scribble in the smaller shapes next then the many reflection-shapes in the glass.  If there is a label, you can draw some crazy letter shapes if you like.  Allow three or four restatements (going back overs) to give character and freshness to your incredible drawing.

Do not be concerned with the finished result of your drawing, chill!.  Try to give up your white knuckle control on doing a perfect drawing just for now.  After all, is there such a thing as a perfect drawing?

Unless you want to spend years (about 10!) learning to draw (as artists did in the olden days) you had better get used to your shapes being somewhat distorted, fresh and original.  Those who have practiced drawing for many years find it very difficult to go back to the childlike, fresh and lively drawings you see here.

Your best drawings are the ones that come from your heart.  They come not from your mind but from your spirit.  Look at these amazing works by Peter Arscott.  Was he freaked out about his drawings? I think not!


And this awesome work by Picasso.  No stressing about drawing here!

Pablo Picasso

You can paint and draw just like this if you just let go! 🙂


Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

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“It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ~ Vincent van Gogh


Drawing – From the General to the Specific

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The pencil is poised, the subject is before us and the blank piece of paper is screaming  “START!”  But where? How?

It seems easier to work from the general to the specific rather than the other way around. Starting with the largest thing you see, drawing that shape and forgetting everything else helps make marks to guide you to make other marks.  Drawing the whole idea gives you a frame to start putting the details into the correct place.

It could be a vase of flowers or the outer silhouette of a person sitting on a chair as above. Your drawing may include one or more shapes together as in both these examples. That way, you capture them as a whole idea.

The drawing does not need to be executed perfectly and if yours looks wonky, do not despair.  You now have something to build on, something to restate, compare with surrounding shapes (see previous drawing posts) and subdivide into smaller shapes if you think fit.

Choosing your large shapes is up to you and if problems beset you, try squinting first then draw the shapes you see.

Tips and tricks to help you along the way:

  • All drawing is process.
  • Be brave and courageous by making some marks on the paper.
  • Those marks help guide you to make other marks.
  • Actually, you don’t always know where you’re going until you get there.
  • A large shape is the start of that process.

Away with you to your studio/loungeroom/study or whatever to START!

Contrapposto – A Traditional Pose

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Contrapposto” is an Italian word meaning counterposing one part of the body against another to maintain a position in balance.”  It is a Renaissance principle in which the whole weight of the trunk is supported by one leg.   For example, when the model places almost all her weight on one leg, the shoulders then naturally relax and drop down over the side of that leg.  The shoulders counter the upward thrust of the hip and the head tilts in the opposite direction to the shoulders.

Michelangelo’s “David” and “The Porch of Maidens”  are great examples of contrapposto poses.



Porch of the Maidens (south porch), Erechtheion, 421-406 BCE
Acropolis, Athens  artsy.net accessed 04/09/2016

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When the Mud Settles

Contemporary drawing

Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles?” Zen saying

“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.” Lao Tzu

After all, mud is just mud, we’ve walked in it before and we will walk in it again.

Relationships can sometimes be our biggest challenge.  Developing patience can help us when we are not sure which way to turn.

Come Naked Before Me…

Women of the South

My quote today is from Eshin, Zen Master

“We create a mask to meet the masks of others.  Then we wonder why we cannot love, and why we feel so alone.” 

Is your mask completely blank like my characters in the drawing above?  Is there something that needs to be revealed or said.  Showing your true self without that mask is a profound statement of your beautiful individuality

Drawing – Shape Consciousness

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“There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another. “ Edouard Manet

This statement is a major key to improving your drawing.  Each “shape” or “area of colour” is in fact a shape.

This leads us to the conclusion that drawing shapes is easier, much easier than drawing things.

Below is a magnificent painting by Paul Gauguin called “The Seaweed Harvesters”.  Can you see the series of shapes the artists has put together to make a picture?

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Photo courtesy Encyclopaedia Britannica International Limited, London.  “Great Artists Collection”, 1971 Phaidon Press Ltd, London

EXERCISE – Allow 35 minutes for this task.

  • Trace the outline of an object in the air as if you were actually drawing it along its outer edge.  Begin anywhere and continue all around the object until you meet your starting point.   Did you notice that your eye and hand do all the work; there is virtually nothing to think about.  This exercise is just a slight step away from actually drawing the shape.
  • Now choose an item to draw from around your house.  It is a good idea to check out the helpful hints below before commencing.  Keep your eye on the object and do a real drawing only briefly glancing at the paper as you work.  You are now working in the “language of shapes”.  The great thing about this language is that it bypasses conscious thinking and critical dialogue and allows you to record only what you see.

The more we stay in the language of shapes, shutting down the language of things temporarily, the more our drawings look like the reality of the things we have observed.

To break away from the language of “things”, these helpful hints can become your pocket guide to learning this new vocabulary:

  • Draw larger shapes first, then smaller ones.
  • Join shapes together.
  • Draw the shapes of highlights, shadows, reflections patterns and textures.
  • Recognize “trapped” shapes and draw them. (Trapped shapes could be the area between your arms and body when you have your hands on your hips.  Trapped shapes are usually the areas where there is space between parts of the object.)

Understanding these hints will make drawing easier and help you see things in a fresh new way.

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Would you like to know how to do this?  Check out my next post for all the info.