On making practice fun. ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ ͏ ‌     ­ This newsletter is about drawing. It goes out every Friday. Want to draw? Then check out my free workbook!

#50 - Games And Systems Can Be A Great Way For Creatives And Artists To Come Up With New Ideas

On making practice fun.

Warm-Up Drawing Exercises

some of my sketchbook pages
Sketchbook pages of my doing Peter Han's excellent Dynamic Sketching course.

FREE Drawing Exercises Workbook

Recently, I was reading “Creating Comedy Narratives For Stage And Screen” by Chris Head—it’s surprising how much you can learn when reading non-fiction books about subjects adjacent to creating art—and one great insight from it, for me, is that comedy writers will create little games that help them generate comedy ideas.

An example is the famous Monty Python sketch where a customer tries to return a parrot to a pet shop. The customer claims the parrot is dead, but the shop owner doesn’t want to take the parrot back and refuses to agree. And so the game became for the customer to come up with as many ways as possible to say the parrot had died, gone to meet its maker, pushing up daisies, has ceased to be, et cetera.

And it struck me that the approaches to learning to draw that work for me often have “game” components.

For example, I like to do drawing exercises that help me slow down and draw more accurately when warming up. It’s one of the things I struggle with. When programming, it works to be on an adrenaline rush, and since I have been programming for so long, it is a natural state my mind is in. But for drawing, I have to slow down to become a meditative mental state. And so I do these warm-up drawing exercises until my brain stops resisting the calmness and I start getting into it.

Anyway. So. The drawing exercises have a component that I can verify by sight how well I did. I draw lines from many angles to one point without rotating the page, and I can see when the lines missed the point. I can notice at which angles I need to practice more and practice that. I can practice perfectly tracing a line I already put down on a page. I can try to draw lines that are perfectly parallel to each other. I can attempt to draw long straight lines. I can draw lines going exactly from one line to another without over-shooting.

With all of these, I can kind of immediately see where I didn’t do well and practice that more. It’s a little game I like to play as a warm-up exercise.

Another one is drawing from memory: look at a reference image, put it away, draw it from memory, and then use the reference to correct my drawing. And then do it again. The game being me being able to draw the entire thing from memory in a satisfactory way. And if I succeed, find harder, more complex reference images to try it on.

I don’t mean “gamification.” Gamification has this cynical aspect of getting people to do something by making it irresistible fun. I’ve seen anthologies get artists to create comic pages for free through gamification. “The challenge, should you choose to accept it...” Barf.

Gamification does have its place. When I want my daughter to put on her shoes, I’ll race her. She finds these challenges irresistible, and I think it’s arguably acceptable in that case; something fun for her to do with her dad.

On a side note, I am thinking of turning the exercises on practicedrawingthis into drawing games instead. What do you think? And as for Youtube, I haven’t produced videos in a while but I was thinking that Youtube is better suited to creating videos where people can hang out with me and do these drawing games along with me?

My Favorite Drawing Exercises

As a “Game” (that word again!) today, try to come up with games you can play to practice the things you want to practice. Find a way to practice that thing where you can easily verify how well you did to aim at improving, at getting that “higher score” somehow. Make it fun and measurable.

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