December 5, 2018

"While you’re making marks and drawing, pay attention to all the physical feedback you’re getting from your hand, wrist, arm, ears, your sense of smell and touch."

"How long can your mark go before you seem to need to lift the pencil and make a different mark? Make those marks shorter or longer. Change the ways you make them at all, wrap your fingers in fabric to change your touch, try your other hand to see what it does. All these things are telling you something. Get very quiet inside yourself and pay attention to everything you’re experiencing. Don’t think good or bad. Think useful, pleasurable, strange. Hide secrets in your work. Dance with these experiences, collaborate with them. They’re the leader; you follow. Soon you’ll be making up steps too, doing visual calypsos all your own — ungainly, awkward, or not. Who cares? You’ll be dancing to the music of art. Carry a sketchbook with you at all times. Cover a one-by-one-foot piece of paper with marks. But don’t just fill the whole page border to border, edge to edge. (Way too easy.) Think about what shapes, forms, structures, configurations, details, sweeps, buildups, dispersals, and compositions appeal to you."

From "Lesson 6: Start With a Pencil" in "How to Be an Artist 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)" by Jeffrey Saltz (New York Magazine).

ADDED: If you're like me, your first thought was: Where can I get a sketchbook with square paper and does it have to be 12"x12"? What I bought, 3 minutes after putting this post up, is a Moleskine "sketch album" that is square, but is smaller — 7.5"x7.5". Here's the Amazon link. Bigger might be better, but you're less likely to imagine carrying it with you at all times. I'm not going to carry this 7x7 thing at all times, but I do look back fondly on the time before I had a camera and traveled with a sketchbook, and I do think things would have worked out differently if the paper had been square. In the old days, when I painted, I nearly always made square canvases. Something about the square, no?

34 comments:

EDH said...

The art of masturbation?

Make those marks shorter or longer. Change the ways you make them at all, wrap your fingers in fabric to change your touch, try your other hand to see what it does. All these things are telling you something. Get very quiet inside yourself and pay attention to everything you’re experiencing. Don’t think good or bad. Think useful, pleasurable, strange. Hide secrets in your work. Dance with these experiences, collaborate with them. They’re the leader; you follow. Soon you’ll be making up steps too, doing visual calypsos all your own — ungainly, awkward, or not. Who cares? You’ll be dancing to the music of art.

Laslo Spatula said...

I never realized that drawing was so much like yoga.

I am Laslo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I had a class like that in college and it totally turned me off on taking art as a major.

Spent hours basically doodling useless and pointless nothing things. At least the ceramics class was productive; physically and mentally challenging. I especially liked the glaze formulation classes....but then again...That was really chemistry with a pretty outcome when your glazes came out of the kiln on the pieces that you had crafted.

Doodling. Might as well be drooling.

M Jordan said...

“Something about the square, no?”

No. Something about the Golden Mean. I heard that somewhere.

Henry said...

There is some really good advice in that long list, to go along with much that is just groovy.

For example, in dealing with the art world: "To protect yourselves, form small gangs. "

Old Camera Guy said...

"Something about the square, no?"

Of the photos I've taken back in the day that I'm happiest with, a lot were taken with a Rolleiflex 6x6 camera.

My next digital camera will have the ability to select a square (1:1) aspect ratio. There are a few.

Ann Althouse said...

@DBQ

I disagree. With ceramics you have lots of bulky objects in the end. Yes, they are not nothing, but why not buy plain mass-produced vessels for your food? With drawings, you can do a lot without accumulating too much stuff. It's more like writing. Of course, like writing, your drawings can be worthless, but the intrinsic value of drawing (described in Lesson 6) is always there. When I traveled with a sketchbook, it sharpened my observation. I was always looking for details to draw, and in the process of drawing what I chose to draw, I got to higher levels of observation than you have with a camera, where you might delay really looking at the thing until you get back to your room to see what you got. Drawing was also a great way to pace myself in the physical world and to travel and to sit in restaurants and cafés when I was alone. Excellent in museums too. It was deep and meditative, at one with living, and it made living and being in the world more profound.

Why were the things you chose to draw "nothing"? And that doesn't even sound bad. I love "nothing." Find the nothing and draw it! What is the thing that is better than nothing? Not much. Therefore a drawing of nothing things is a fine idea.

Henry said...

ADDED: If you're like me, your first thought was: Where can I get a sketchbook with square paper and does it have to be 12"x12"?

I religiously carried a sketchbook for many years.

Then I just started using 8-1/2 x 11" printer/copy paper. Everything is disposable. Sketchbooks are too precious.

Fernandistein said...

No. Something about the Golden Mean. I heard that somewhere.

The Golden Mean has been updated from ~1.62 to ~1.78 (16:9).

Henry said...

The great advice in regards to sketchbook drawing is this:

"But you have to look.... Don’t make it up!"

Henry said...

Bigger might be better, but you're less likely to imagine carrying it with you at all times.

This is good advice. The 9x12 sketchbook is ubiquitous in art school material lists and it's too big.

Ann Althouse said...

"No. Something about the Golden Mean. I heard that somewhere."

That explains why nearly all sketchbooks are rectangular, but consider why Saltz recommended a square and why you might break out in some way if you used a square.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I disagree. With ceramics you have lots of bulky objects in the end. Yes, they are not nothing, but why not buy plain mass-produced vessels for your food?

I don't disagree with your disagreement :-) Art is in the eye of the beholder, and the enjoyment of the process of producing the art is also very individualistic.

The satisfaction of painting and putting colors and textures on the canvas to create a pleasing composition,(eye of the beholder) whether it is representational of an actual thing, (as in an impressionist painting) or not (like Jackson Pollock) is something that I enjoyed.

Drawing, as in the class mentioned, to just create pencil/charcoal lines, over and over and over, was just boring and mindless...to me. Make circles. Make jagged lines. And then what???? Perhaps it was the teacher.

You don't need to throw clay on a wheel to make bulky items or functional things to eat from in ceramics. That wasn't the point, at least to me. Sculptural forms that can stand alone. A vase that is a person's head. A bowl that isn't a bowl. A pitcher that is something else. Tiles to create a glazed and textured multi dimensional panel. The colors and textures of the glazes to complement the forms or to stand alone where the form is just a base for the final glaze was more interesting to me.

I suppose it is individual thing and why we have so very many variations of art. How boring to be all one thing :-)

tcrosse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tcrosse said...

I'm delighted to see that Betty Edwards's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, is still in print, and available you-know-where.

Ann Althouse said...

@DBQ

I wasn't there so I don't know how the teacher ran that class, but there might be a good way to draw that is a matter of collecting marks on the page, something more like handwriting or runes that you don't really understand. Paul Klee said a drawing is a line going for a walk. It's something that happens on the page that relates to what's in your head, but I can see that if your head isn't into it and a teacher is forcing you, it might not be a good experience.

SeanF said...

Old Camera Guy: My next digital camera will have the ability to select a square (1:1) aspect ratio. There are a few.

I was going to be snarky, but I'll be sincere instead, since I'm guessing you know more about photography than I do. What's the advantage to getting a camera with a predefined square aspect ratio, as opposed to just cropping the picture after you take it?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Althouse
Paul Klee said a drawing is a line going for a walk

I like that.

Remember doing those "doodles" in school (when we were bored with the class). You took the pencil and made a large random squiggle, like a loosely woven birds nest??

Then... examined it and started filling in the vacant spaces with texture. Saw faces, or birds, scenes or an abstract type of shape emerge from the squiggle mess. Darkened some lines. Added purposeful lines, a few embellishments. Too bad they wouldn't allow us to have colored pencils in class :-) But...that would have made the exercise too obvious that I wasn't listening very closely. I'm amazed that I still got good grades.

Then Ta Dah!! The nothing squiggle became something funny, pretty or interesting in shape and texture. That was fun. That was art...sort of.

I still did that when I was trapped in a work conference situation with some gasbag droning on. It looks like you are taking serious notes :-D

tim maguire said...

I've been using Drawing With Children to teach me and my daughter basic drawing skills.

Howard said...

Fredmurtzistan: what is the new new maths that results in 16:9? Can't find it on the gooble

Howard said...

Drawing is just mapping. The trick is knowing what to leave out.

SeanF said...

Howard: Fredmurtzistan: what is the new new maths that results in 16:9? Can't find it on the gooble

I'm pretty sure Fernandistein's just riffing off 16:9 being the ratio for widescreen television.

Robert Cook said...

Square sketchbooks are available. When New York Art Supply was open, it was easy to find them...that store had the widest array of types of sketchbooks I ever saw...all sizes, all types of interior paper, all types of binding.

Mr Wibble said...

I need to start drawing and painting again, and get back into the forge. I miss creating something.

Howard said...

https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Dynamic-Symmetry-Dover-Instruction/dp/0486217760

Bill Peschel said...

"pay attention to everything you’re experiencing"

I like "The secret to life is to pay attention." Same idea.

One of my favorite books is Bill Griffey's (the Zippy artist) "Get Me A Table Without Flies, Harry." Its reproductions of several travel sketchbooks he filled up during trips to spas, a comic convention in Italy, a trip to Ireland, and other places. Portraits, landscapes, weird moments, snippets of conversation that caught his ear.

Cameras are wonderful. I use my digital as a visual diary. But I wish I had the patience to sketch.

rhhardin said...

Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch.
Stripper hiding in a pile of grapefruits.

Just lines.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Saltz has no respect for the disabled and disadvantaged. New York Magazine should not publish the shit these people write. The staff there are all H8TERS!

Saltz writes: "While you’re making marks and drawing, pay attention to all the physical feedback you’re getting from your hand, wrist, arm, ears, your sense of smell and touch."

This is written with no consideration at all for the sightless and the illiterate, who must listen to a reading of the article.

The meaning of "you're" is not immediately and unambiguously clear. Could be "your," "you were," or "you are."

These National Socialist writers wish all disabled people were taken to the ovens. They purposely write to make understanding through listening harder.

The sentence could easily have been written "As you mark and draw, pay attention to physical feedback from...."

I am calling Saltz out! That second "you're" in his sentence was entirely unnecessary. He just put it there as a deliberate stumbling block for the disabled and disadvantaged. Asshole!

Become a clarity crusader, Jeffrey. Abjure the apostrophe.

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Phidippus said...

Sean: As far as I know, no one makes a digital camera with a square sensor, so if you like the square format, and digital, you have to crop.

The 6x6 cm (or 2-1/4 square as we used to call it) lends itself well to 120 film. You get 12 exposures, and cut into fours, they fit nicely on a piece of 8x10 paper to make a contact print of the whole roll.

Square format is not my thing, but it worked well for Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier, Oleg Videnin and many others.

Over to you, Old Camera Guy.

Xavier Onasis Too said...

The Panasonic GX85 (e.g.) can set format as choice of: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1.

This is for display in the viewfinders and recording. If the photographer has in mind to display on an old square TV screen, or the newer 16:9 screens, or making prints, setting the viewfinder to the best matching ratio helps in framing the picture from the git-go. Whatever floats yr boat.

Rusty said...


"That explains why nearly all sketchbooks are rectangular, "

For either potraits or landscapes.

Kirk Parker said...

For people who like this sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like!

My own take: the happiest day of my 6th-grade life was when it was revealed that next year, when we got to junior high, you took music OR art. Free at last, thank God Almighty free at last!

Kirk "Can't Draw A Recognizable Stick Figure"

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