Monday, June 4, 2007

Encountering the Blank Page: Part 3

Another way to begin pages without much thought is simply by drawing. As soon as some people hear the word "draw", they tighten up and say, "I can't draw a straight line." But the truth is that everyone has the ability to draw, and once people can accept that and accept the fact that it doesn't need to be a photo-real type of drawing, drawing can be fun and easy. Besides, many people can draw better than they think, and as with any skill, the more you practice, the better you become. As with all art, it is best to suspend judgement and enjoy the process. Use pencil, pen, marker, or crayon.

Below are several ways to begin drawing in the visual journal and to take the fear away from the blank page.

Random Lines

Without thinking about it too much, divide the page into several large areas by drawing several lines so they cross the entire page in any direction. Fill a page with a variety of one shape or multiple shapes. Simply “take your pencil for a walk” around a page by allowing your hand to slowly meander around the page allowing your lines to overlap. Set up a little game with yourself by setting limits to the types and amounts of lines and shapes you use. Do not worry about using a ruler or compass. Simply draw freehand, and turn off the inner critic that calls for you to do it right and perfect. Find the joy of making simple marks.

Tracings and Stencil

Tracing is a very simple way to add drawing to a page. Trace your hand. Trace your foot. Trace flat, interesting objects like scissors, tape rolls, and wooden spoons. Trace letter and shape stencils. Trace tools such as protractors, triangles, and French curves to draw particular shapes.


How often have you found yourself doodling while talking on the phone, sitting in a meeting, or waiting for someone? Doodling is a great to use in the journal. Its unconscious nature is a unique way to begin a page, and you can keep a record of your unconscious thoughts. The images and words that emerge while doodling can spark more complex ideas and pages.

Blind Contours

Blind contour drawings are done by looking very closely at an object and without looking at the drawing. Your eyes stay trained on the object looking very carefully at the edges – edges of the object itself and edges of features and elements within the object. Place your journal on a table, turn your chair away from the table so that you can put your drawing hand in a comfortable drawing position slightly behind you, and hold an object in your other hand. Look carefully at the object for a few moments focusing on the edges – the contours. Pick a spot where it makes sense to begin, and place your pencil or pen on the paper. Begin to trace the edges of the object with your eyes going very slowly, and allow your pencil to follow along recording the movement of your eyes along the object. Go very slowly allowing your eyes to follow the contours of the object and allowing your hand to move along the paper. The key is not looking at the drawing. You are training your eyes to observe very closely and your hand to record those observations. Keep going until you have “traced” all the contours of the object and within the object. If you find that your pen or pencil goes off the page, simply place it back on without looking at the page. Once you are finished, look at the drawing. If you have gone slowly and not looked at the drawing, your drawing should not look like the object you were drawing. Since you did not look at the drawing, you had no way to judge size and proportion in your drawing, and that is the way these drawings are suppose to look. Some people are horrified at the results because it doesn’t look like the object. Yet these can be wonderful and beautiful drawings when you accept the process. Silence the inner critic that says that these drawings are bad or ugly or “messed-up.” The purpose of this type of drawing is to look very closely at the object and to train yourself to really see the object, and in turn improve your observational drawing skill. Try several of these on one page perhaps turning the book every time you begin with a new object. The overlapping lines make for a great basis for a page.

Continuous Contours

Continuous contours are done by sitting normally at a table so that you can see your journal page and the object you wish to draw. Setting the object in front of you is probably the easiest way to begin. Look carefully at the object for a few minutes to begin noticing the contours or edges of the object and within the object. Pick a spot to logically begin, and place your pen or pencil on the page. Allow your eyes to follow the contours of the object slowly, and allow your pencil or pen to follow along on the paper. However, this time you are able to look at the paper, but not pick up the pen or pencil. You will make judgments about length, size, and proportion, and if you do pick up your pen or pencil, put it back down where you left off. Look more at the object focusing on the contours. As the drawing progresses, you may find the need to back track along lines already drawn or to create a “bridge” to get to a feature within the object. These are both necessary since you are not allowed to pick up your pen or pencil. Continue until you have “traced” all the contours of object and within the object. Your drawing should look more like the object then the blind contour drawing, but it will not be perfect. Since you kept your pen or pencil to the paper and could not erase, the drawing should be a little “off.” Again, accepting the process and not the end results allows you to see the beauty of these drawings. As with the blind contour, the continuous line contours help you train your eyes to really observe an object and hand to record those observations.

Modified Contours

Modified contour drawings are drawings where you are allowed to look at the paper, to pick up your pen or pencil, and to fix your mistakes. But as with the continuous contour drawings, the key is to carefully look at the contours of the object and within the object and to record those observations. But try not to get caught up in making it perfect. Draw what you see. If you are interested in more drawing exercises there are many resources available. We highly recommend to books – Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Robert Kaupelis’ Experimental Drawing.

1 comment:

steve said...

Great post Eric! "Experimental Drawing" is a very good book too--thanks for introducing me to it.