Isn’t the purpose of an eraser to take away supporting lines and unwanted spots? Yes, of course, an eraser comes in handy when you make a mistake. However, you can also draw with an eraser. Imagine you want to create a texture. You can do this by drawing lines of dots that show the fabric of a pattern, for instance the nerves of a tree leaf. But you can also first fill a leaf with a dark tone and use the eraser to draw nerves. And you know what is very beautiful? Doing both, drawing highlighting lines and adding lighter areas in otherwise shaded sections. This creates beautiful illusions. Have a few different shaped erasers to help you: one that has a round top, one that is thinner and can be used to draw lines. Next to pencils and a drawing pad, invest in a few erasers as well. It will help you to create beautiful details.
Drawing is not a mathematical exercise, unless of course you are working on an architectural or archaeological drawing which is about facts, measurements and right angles. It is often charming when you are making the same mistakes again and again because this is your signature. Viewers start to recognize your style not only by your style but also by identifying (consciously or subconsciously) your mistakes. It is not that I say stop teaching and correcting yourself, stop improving your skills. It is just that tiny mistakes can be your truly charming style and why erase them? Your drawing or artwork is not made by a robot nor by Da Vinci.
How to Learn without having Botticelli around? How to improve your drawing skills? Listen to feedback by fellow artists and copy artists you admire. Make studies of artwork that you admire. By copying these, you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you will learn so much. Remember that apprentices in Renaissance workshops of respectable masters received training of several years. They started taking care of tools, moved on to doing handyman work. Later they were allowed to mix pigments, or trace artwork. Only a few and the very best worked closely to the master. How can we copy this classical training? By copying masterpieces and seeing what trouble we run into. You will notice improvements straight away.
Sometimes I take a photo of my first layer of graphite. As I use Derwent H7, the hardest of pencils for the vaguest and most subtle of layers, I can not see well how my drawing will look like. Here comes the magic trick; I take a photo and increase it in contrast and darkness. This way, I get to see ahead of my progress. I can evaluate the darker and lighter sections now with ease. I can only evaluate, I am afraid, not change anything beyond this point because the composition by now is already set. Seeing the contrasting dark-light sections, however, provides me also with an impression of the movement of the drawing. With this drawing, I am very pleased. Can you see large lotus leaves and three dynamic turtles?
How to Draw an Underlayer?
I use H7 Derwent pencils for the first layer. Do I put the leaves or turtles (or any other subject) straight on an expensive sheet of Arches paper? No. I first make some very rudimentary sketches in my diary or on the back of a payment slip, or on the inside of a carton of gluten-free cereals at breakfast. How often one sketches a beginners sketch depends on one’s self confidence. With this I do not mean that I am confident all the time; new subjects demand more pre-studies than subjects you have done many times.
Is Using Rules Fine?
Yes! I always use a ruler because I work on large Arches sheets and thus I divide my sheet in erasable sections. Should I not do that, one turtle might perhaps have too little space and thus ‘fall’ of the composition. I use a ruler also to create white space around my composition, which is aesthetically pleasing but also handy for using a mount (passepartout) or frame. By the way, with my remark to create space for all objects you like to include in your drawing, I do not mean that everything needs to be 100% included. It is kind of exciting when parts of objects fall off a canvas or sheet. This creates a bit of suspense and the illusion that the real scene the artist had in mind is much larger than what he or she has been able to express within the limits of a canvas or sheet.
Ever since corona and ordering from home, delivery services shouldn’t be bothered with taking the elevator to deliver at our door. I kindly offer to put boxes in our elevator and I will call the elevator up to our floor. By now, this ritual has become a routine. But now the spiritual ‘beginners’ mind’ is added to the story.
There I stand waiting for the delivery man to put boxes inside the elevator and waiting for our ever so slow elevator to reach our floor. Out of boredom I try to study the white washed walls of our apartment gallery. There is no smudge to cling to. There is no pot with flowers to empathically worry about. There is no insect trapped in our gallery that I can heroically set free. There is nothing, absolutely nothing. Because I am in a creative mood I feel a need to add wall art to these utterly dead walls. Why? Why should I want that? Why is there a need to add wall art? This need is so deep, so prehistoric, that painting walls wasn’t it human’s first expression or art. Why? As I stand waiting, I remember a mystical remark by a Sufi master. He explained that all we see and experience is Creation creating itself to see itself, to engage with itself, to see itself being reflected back at itself. When I heard this story on creation, I felt puzzled yet fascinated. I needed some time to see Creation as a force that enjoys creating a version of itself (not really outside itself and not even separate from itself but a bit away from itself) to be able to engage with itself, to see itself as a reflection of ourselves in a mirror. The more I think about it, the more I understand God creating the world in seven days; not God’s miraculous and exhausting timeline of creation but his will to create, or his need to create to interact with his creation. After all, what is God without people believing in God?
Back to me standing bored in our apartment gallery. I felt the need to create; an overwhelming need. These dead walls are painful. I imagine to be imprisoned in a white washed cell without crayons and I know that I would grow demented in record time or I would die due to having nothing to interact with.
The Sufi’s cosmogonic myth makes sense to me; creation needs to create. Without this creative force creating itself in order to interact with itself through thousands different manifestations all would deteriorate, seeps or drain away. We need art; we need music. We need to make art and music. Go and paint the umpteenth version of Monet’s lily pond; the umpteenth print of a sunflower. Creating is a good thing.
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.