“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Kurt Vonnegut
The ritual of sharpening pencils preps me with anticipation for drawing. Those of you who feel as if the talent fairy passed over you – stop long enough to sharpen a pencil and practice for half an hour per week, and most likely you will spend much more time in communication with your pencil and paper! An extra benefit is blocking out distractions and getting in touch with your true self!
Choose a forgiving subject and sketch the main areas, make very light notations for dark and medium shading, and be very careful around those light areas! Let the bare paper represent the lightest lights. For those of you who are celebrating holidays, try sketching an ear of corn or a wad of firecrackers, then shade the negative space that surrounds them! (Are firecrackers still allowed in the USA?)
The absence of erasers (while drawing) disciplines me to be careful and to think ahead, and the drawing stays fresh. I also use a second sheet of paper to cover my work. If there’s no available sheet around, I’ll use a paper napkin or a thin board – anything to avoid smudges! Students often spend as much time erasing as they do drawing; learning to sketch without the crutch of an eraser will reward you with drawings that are not overworked.
Pencil drawing allows you to stop at any time and resume later. Little by little, the sketch evolves into a stronger work of art. Trees are my favorite subject to sketch, and after working from life, I can complete the drawing days or weeks or months or even years later! Many times my preliminary sketch is filled with notations so that I remember where the lights, darks and middle values are located.