Drawing – The 5 Minute Handwriting Burnout

1509 001 1509 002

Okay, here are the rules:

  • Set your stopwatch for 5 minutes.
  • Look in any direction, inside or outside the house.
  • Draw what is in front of you without stopping.
  • Draw as fast as you can without thinking whether your drawing is good or bad.
  • Give no thought to composition, accuracy, style or subject matter.
  • Capture as much as you can as quickly as you can within your field of vision.
  • Don’t worry if the subject matter is boring, the more complicated the better.
  • Corners of rooms and cluttered tables are especially good!
  • Lift your pencil if you want but rubbing out is banned!

What is the reason for doing this?  Answer: many fold, i.e.

  • Gets you out of your fussy, cramped and jumbled head.
  • Displays your free handwriting by using short, sharp bursts of energy.
  • Puts aside your conscious controlling self.
  • Teaches you to capture images quickly.
  • Helps you capture subjects that move, like children people on buses, dogs etc.


  • A long term exercise in growth.
  • Production of the occasional “gem”, seen as happenstance.
  • No evaluation, no criticism, no comment.
  • Reveals your true handwriting style.
  • Lots of these will create real changes in your drawing style.

At last!  You have found your own style, stick with it by practicing the 5 minute handwriting burnout as often as you can.

PS  Above I show two of my crusty drawings.  The second is my jumbled, controlled self and the first my true handwriting style.  Like them or not, they are helping me to become my real drawing self by showing me my handwriting.  I know which one I like best.

Drawing: Great Masters – Matisse

Henri Matisse - Tutt'Art@ (33)

Study of a Girl, Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse had a signature which was all about the curving decorative line.  His simplicity and elegance of line is balanced by a methodical approach with his patterns of decoration.

Matisse’s drawings are spontaneous in that he would draw in a long single line which took him wherever.  The lines seem to lack planning, and proportions were not as important as contours.  Light, shade and perspective were not his main focus, neither were accurate proportions as can be seen from the girl’s hand in the study above.

For Matisse, line was all!  He loved decorative linear patterns and did not bother with restatements.  The faces of his subjects usually had no expression or individual character which added mystery to his work.

Below are some lovely drawings I saw a couple of years ago at a Matisse exhibition at GOMA

The reclining ladies are called odalisques.

Here is an easy exercise…

Try going over the face of a Matisse drawing holding your pen in the air.  Follow the shorthand way Matisse drew the model’s features.  Doing likewise with the model’s dress will help you to feel the speed and pressure of Matisse’s long contours.  As you do this, think of the artist himself (you can read about him in the link above) and imagine you are he.

Now go ahead and do your own drawing from a magazine in the style of Matisse.

You’ve Got to be Joking!



My quote today is from the controversial Bagwan Rajneesh..

“Whenever you see seriousness,

Know well something is wrong – 

Because seriousness is part of a diseased being.

No flower is serious unless it is ill.

No bird is serious unless it is ill.

An awakened man realizes life is a song.”

It could be said our lives are built upon the idea of limitation and struggle.  Could it be that out sense of limitation comes from seeing ourselves as separate and struggling to survive in what seems a hostile world?

Peak moments arise when this separate sense of self vanishes.  These primal experiences can be experienced during prayer, love making, meditation, music, art or whenever separation from life dissolves.  In this state the person returns home to their source or God if you like.

Meditation can happen while gardening, cycling, running, doing housework and in all those repetitive things we do.

All the more reason to make music, make art, write, photograph, meditate and make love!

Drawing – Still Life, Puzzle Pieces and Giving Up Control

3010 001 3010 002 3010 003

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! 🙂

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

Lost in the Music

Xmas 2012 002

Today’s quote is from T S Eliot..

Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music.”

I can think of times when I have listened to music and my self disappeared.  I was lost in the music and became one with it.  This quote is worth thinking about.  Can you remember times when you were the music?

How to Prepare a Canvas Using Your Own Gesso Primer

Windsor and newton

Photo courtesy winsornewton.com

If you want your work to last, it is wise to prime your canvas first because oil paint will eventually rot an unprimed canvas.  I recommend priming with Gesso when using all mediums including watercolour.  It is possible to use watercolour on a primed canvas as per my post, “A Few Facts About Watercolour.”

Firstly, hold your canvas under warm running water.  Using pure soap (Sunlight or similar works well), lather up a soft and gentle scrubber (old ones are good) and wash the canvas down thoroughly with the soap and water.  This removes the sizing and starts you off with a “clean slate” so to speak.

prepare canvas 005 prepare canvas 004

Rinse until water becomes clear then dry off the canvas using an old towel.

Once dry, go ahead and cover the surface with Gesso primer.  You may use the Atelier brand which leaves a lovely chalky finish.  If you like, you may make your own Gesso (which is just as good and much cheaper) with the recipe below.

prepare canvas 012

Leave the canvas to dry, preferably outside.  This should take about 45 minutes depending on the strength of the sunlight. If there is no sun where you are, a hair dryer will do the job.  When dry, softly sand the canvas down with a very fine sand paper and wipe clean with the old towel.  I usually prime, sand down and wipe off three times to make the perfect chalky finish for drawing and painting. Don’t forget to allow your primed canvas to dry completely before sanding each time.

prepare canvas 013

This process prepares a fantastic surface to work on and I recommend leaving it for at least 24 hours to set. If I am feeling keen or perhaps doing a commission, I prime the reverse of the canvas too but this is entirely your own choice.

This is a lovely relaxing preparation and sets the tone for wonderful things to come.  I urge you to go slowly with this, smile, breathe deeply and concentrate only on the task in true Zen-like fashion. If you love your canvas, your canvas will love you and that is the start of developing a wonderful synergy with your upcoming work.

My Own Gesso Recipe

Most of this stuff you will have on hand at home so it is easy and quick to make your own Gesso primer. To make the primer you need a pigment, a binder and a tooth.

You will need to put one cup of warm water in a bowl, add one cup of glue, one cup of baby powder and a cup or so of left over paint.   This will make a syrup consistency.  If you want yours to give better coverage, use more pigment.  Usually, equal amounts of everything makes a perfect mix.  It is best to test first for coverage and drying time.  This dries fast!

When storing, rotate the sealed storage jar every now and then to keep the even syrupy consistency of the mix.

If you would like to receive a quarterly gem in your inbox then please subscribe. 

Take action at the bottom right of the home page.