Drawing – Can You Match the Tones?

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Can you match the tones in the photograph?  This is an easy exercise, all you will need  is a soft pencil.  Allow yourself about 30 minutes and stop there even if the drawing is not finished.

Try not to be hard on yourself, after all, you are not doing a drawing for the royal family. See how lazy and casual I was with mine.  Drawing is about meditating through the process and is supposed to be a form of relaxation!  I love half finishing drawings too because it gives the viewer a chance to participate in the work.  He has the chance to make up his mind about what is not shown.  Many famous artists deliberately decide a work is finished when there is space left for contemplation.

To make it easy this time, you may want to lightly trace the main shapes first then lay the page alongside the photograph and copy the tones. The exercise is made simpler by using only 4 tones, light (the white of the paper), medium, dark and darkest.

It may help if you refer to the tonal bar from the previous post called “Drawing – Living in the Light.” https://zenschoolforcreatives.wordpress.com/category/learn-how-to-draw/

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Build up the tones gradually paying particular attention to the hard and soft edges. Squinting helps to compare your drawing to the photograph.

Have fun with this and remember…your drawing is good enough despite what you may think!



Drawing – The 5 Minute Handwriting Burnout

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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.

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

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“Let the situation or relationship be what it is for now, let it move and change on its own. Become a mountain in the middle of it.”  Unknown


The Great Man is He Who….

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“The great man is he who does not lose his childlike heart.” Menicus

My quote today is from a wonderful book called “Zen and the Art of Falling in Love” by Brenda Shoshanna.

She goes on to say “The childlike mind is a mind without clutter.  It is not carrying around years of wounds.  The childlike mind is Zen mind: open, free, eager to delight and enjoy. The childlike mind itself is a manifestation of a life of love.”

Children are always looking for the next place or way to have fun.  I think we secretly are too.  We are all “open, free, eager to delight and enjoy”  but sometimes we don’t realize these gems are with us every waking moment.

Go ahead! …Make your own day, be as a child again!

A Species of Writing

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My quote today is from Edgar Degas:

Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression.  A species of writing, it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.”

Do you draw from your heart and show your personality or do you try to make your drawings perfect in the hope everybody will like them?  Your drawing style is like your handwriting, it is unique to you.  I wonder what would happen if your drawing style was treasured, nurtured and appreciated?

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

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“Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing – then a work of art may happen.”  Andrew Wyeth


Drawing – Overwhelmed by Detail?

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As a person who draws, I am sure you’ve probably experienced times when you have been absolutely overwhelmed by visual stuff….meaning detail, detail, detail of your chosen subject.

Above is a picture of St Barbara Kirche (church), Baernbach, Austria.  It featured a collaborative design with one of my favourites, Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.  The church was made for all major world religions in the spirit of ecumenism, tolerance and togetherness.

Enough about that, I loved the place and set out to make a painting but where to start?  I was bogged down by detail.  The last resort, “squinting”.

Squinting works well to simplify the detail and have you focus on the major shapes. This in turn, makes the whole thing completely manageable.  Most artists use this technique and I myself close my right eye and squint at the same time?  (Not a good look!)

Go ahead try it, you may be in for a complete surprise, and if you usually wear glasses, try taking them off.

Below is one of many sketches of the subject and a finished study in gouache.  I have yet to make the major work in oil and it is coming soon – 8 years after I first saw that church.

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How do you filter detail?  Please comment and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.