Monday, February 14, 2011

A Dose of My Own Medicine...

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to say something than to do something? For example, I am continually telling my two boys to clean their rooms, but if you were to see my classroom, you would know immediately that I was not following my own advice!

I realized this past Friday, that I have been doing a similar thing as an art teacher and author. I am continually trying to encourage creativity in my students and in my readers, but do I really practice what I preach? Sure, I do a lot when it comes to planning lessons or marketing my book, but that is not the same as taking time for myself to be creative. I'm talking about doing something spontanious, fun, and exciting. I found out just how much I had been missing this quite by accident...

On Friday, I still hadn't decided exactly what I wanted to do for my wife for Valentine's day. I knew that I wanted to make something for her, but what should I do? Should I settle for another flower/heart painting? There's no doubt that she would love it, if for no other reason than that I had made it for her myself. But would it be something she could cherish and display proudly, or would it end up in a stack somewhere collecting dust?

I chose to take the road less traveled. For one, I didn't want to do another heart painting (where's the originality in that?), and two, I wanted my wife to be suprised by the fact that I had made something for her and by the image, itself.

Now, I will be the first to admit that the image that I chose was not terribly original, but I knew it was something that my wife would love. I decided to do a black and white charcoal drawing of praying hands. Once I had decided what to do, I started to get really excited. I would get to draw hands (which I love to do), break out my charcoal (which hadn't seen the light of day since college), and I'd get to do it all in my newly setup "studio area" in my garage (that's a story for another day). At this point, I began to question who I was really doing this for... :)

Now that I knew what I was going to do, I had to decide how I was going to do it. Just for fun, I decided to do the drawing in reverse. Typically, artists will start a painting/drawing with a basic line drawing or value sketch. Then he/she will work from the darkest areas to the lightest.

What I did, instead, was tone the entire drawing area grey with the charcoal and then use an eraser to draw the lightest areas of the drawing. (This was a drawing technique we were taught in school to help train our eyes to look for differences in light and dark.)
Do you know what I realized as I was drawing? I had completely forgotten how much I loved to draw! I let life get so busy that there was never time to be creative just for the heck of it! I didn't even realize how much I missed it until I started the drawing. I got totally engrossed in what I was doing, and I hated to have to stop when I knew my wife was coming home (it was a suprise, after all). It was great!!

So what's my point? The point is to make sure that you are giving yourself time to explore that creative side of you and to let it bloom. Take a little time once in a while at creating something, and remember that creativity is not the sole property of the artist. We all use it (or should, anyway) every day. It could be something as simple as working in your flowerbed, as complex as inventing the fuel source for the next century, or anything in between. Maybe you could make up a new board game to play with your kids. The key is that you are doing it because you want to, not because you have to. Maybe you just need a space to do what you love. I found that after I created my own little studio space in the garage to paint and draw that I am much more motivated to paint and draw (shocking!).

I posted some pictures of the drawing in its various stages above, and below are the basic steps to creating a charcoal drawing of your own. Underneath that is where I want you to post a comment on something creative that you love to do or are going to do. How did it turn out? Did you have fun? Send me some pics of what you created. I'd love to post them!!

Charcoal Drawing from Light to Dark
1. Using a medium-toned charcoal (vine charcoal or something similar), tone the entire drawing area. The color does not have to be uniform. Add some darker areas and some lighter areas. This will add interest and variety to your drawing.
2. Look closely at the item you are drawing (either an actual object or photo reference), paying particular attention to the size and shape of the brightest areas on the object.
3. Use a kneaded eraser to begin "drawing" these highlighted areas on your paper.
4. Now that you have drawn out the highlights, you can go back in with the charcoal and begin added your shadows and contour lines.
5. Don't be afraid to mess up! That's the beauty of charcoal. It can be blended, erased, drawn, erased again, blended some more... You should have some really dirty hands by the time your are done.

Tip: Anytime you do something familiar in an unusual way (like drawing with an eraser), it forces you to concentrate more and you will be more likely to learn more from the experience, even if it's something you normally do all of the time. For other great drawing ideas, check out the New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Wow! That was a long post! I hope you made it all of the way through. :) Remember to send me some pics of your next creative adventure and be sure to leave your comments below.

'Til next time!
P.S. My wife loved the drawing!!

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