I just came back from a wonderful, superb—and therefore too short—holiday with great friends—hi, you-know-who-you-are!—in Normandy. I had taken several books with me with the plan to copy from them.
I find that holidays are more relaxing if I don’t force yourself to draw the surroundings. You need to sit for long periods, and that’s just not something you can do if you are with other people.
If you visit places with other people, you tend not to be there long enough to draw something, which is not a problem!
I tend to take books with me I intend to copy from. I took the two Morpho books on anatomy with me. These are great for traveling because they are small, and I love their focus on constructing anatomy from volumes.
I had also taken a Moebius graphic novel with me.
But then we arrived at the house where we were going to stay, and there were many great Franco-Belgian comics albums! The owner was a fan. He had many of the greats: Tintin, Francois Schuiten, Hugo Pratt, and many more.
So, naturally, I drew from these!
I love working from reference images from a book. One significant advantage is that you can just prepare your drawing session beforehand. You can place your sketchbook and drawing tools on the table where you intend to draw tomorrow, together with the book with reference. All you have to do the next day is sit down, open the book with reference images, open your sketchbook, and start drawing after you secured some coffee, of course.
It’s great to start the day with, to get your drawing practice done early. It feels nice to have already done the thing you wanted to do. It leaves the rest of the day to do fun things with family and friends, like visiting nice areas near where you are staying during a vacation.
You can see some of the drawings I made during the holiday. I also made a drawing of the castle in Dieppe, on location, as the group graciously agreed to give the two artists some time there! The cropping of the peak of the castle, was not, shall we say, an artistic choice. I started too high on the page, and, well.
What was an artistic choice was to add a lot of detail to the right part of the castle and less detail to the left part. A vignette, with the focal point of the drawing on the right. Your eye should be drawn toward it. This is a fun thing you can do when you draw directly with a pen.
Interestingly, this is the only drawing I did without an underdrawing in (color) pencil and which I did directly from life, and it might be my favorite drawing of the bunch. Something to explore in the future.
Drawing on location is the best. But if you do a quick drawing session in the morning, you can also relax and experience the rest of the day together with friends and family.
Today, as a challenge, find a book with beautiful imagery. Place it on a desk where you want to draw tomorrow and lay your drawing tools there too. Make sure the area is uncluttered. Ideally, you would not have internet there either.
Tomorrow, walk to that desk and seat yourself down. Open the book with beautiful imagery, and open your sketchbook and start drawing when you feel like it. Copy the art you see, or draw in the same style, or anything you feel like drawing, really. See if that makes it easier for you to start drawing tomorrow.
There are several things here that make it easier for you to start: first, looking at beautiful imagery tends to make you want to draw. Secondly, you don’t have to think about what to draw. Just copy the beautiful things you see in the book with images. Thirdly, you already laid out your drawing tools in an uncluttered area, so it should be easier to start without any distraction.
If you can’t find a space like that in your home, put the book, sketchbook and drawing tools into a bag and head over to a place where you can do nothing but draw. A library is great for that.
Seinfeld uses a clever trick: he will seat himself behind a desk, with his writing tools in front of him, but he does not have to write. He’s just not allowed to do anything else.
Ergojosh has a great YouTube video about the benefits of copying great artists and how you learn about their thought processes by trying to recreate their works.
Next article: What artists can learn from making YouTube videos
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