After I finished Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism, this morning, I sat down to draw a duck that I photographed on Sunday. I could draw it on paper, but I was using ArtRage. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed the fact that, in Photoshop, I can rework a photo into something that looks artistic. The Artrage interface is much more intuitive for drawing than Photoshop.
Newport mentions the value of craftsmanship and working hard at leisure. When you create something, you don’t have to argue for your skill. This is really important to me. I used techniques to create a painting-like illustration of my house from a photo, but I don’t own the ability to actually paint it.
When I sat down to draw my duck on my Wacom Cintique screen, it really sucked. Drawing so badly is like being on a Grand Canyon trail on an icy day without crampons. You’re not far from ending up in a book about visitors who fell to their death in the canyon.
The challenge is – am I condemned to a life where I’ll never be able to draw as well as I’d like? I realize I’ll never be able to dance, and I can live with that. But to not draw? I think about the art teacher on my my paper route as a kid. I showed him something I’d drawn on a computer, and he trashed it. I think about the fact that Paul Norton used techniques for painting that were criticized by a high school classmate. I think about John Holladay, who is drawing and painting non-stop. I think about John Wood, who retired from being a trails and open space planner to paint. I think about Doug Budde and his duck paintings and pencil sketches as a 6th grader. And I think about trying to draw an airplane or a baseball player. And I think of Steve Weeks, who took up painting at Undine.
Newport talks about how people learn skills using YouTube. I fall into this category. And completing something with the help of a YouTube video is really satisfying. I stopped drawing and found a video about drawing from memory by Florent Fargas. Is my visual memory the barrier?
Farges’ explanations seemed approachable. I liked his exercise of drawing something simple and then redrawing it from memory. And as I was practicing with pen and paper, I realized that the process of trying to do something specific has benefits that you might improve in other ways.
Thinking about my fears related to drawing, I came across Dianne Mize’s YouTube video about people’s fear of drawing and her book, Freedom to Create. I might read this tomorrow.
Sometimes we can start off on a path, put lots of time into what we are doing, and not get to a point of competence.
In an earlier book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport wrote about a guitarist who got really good. He practiced something very specific and kept practicing. I wonder, if I were to put 100 hours into painting this duck, or maybe our house, what would this look like?
This is my approach:
- Observe technique
- Practice the technique
- Explain the technique
- Implement the technique to a purpose
What I’m getting at is that I have a vision for the maps I want to make. So, If I practice the technique both in illustrations and maps at the same time, I might get the results I want.