One of the challenges of Project Megasketch was finding enough subject matter to sketch from life during the winter months. One great solution was the trio of manikins that resides in my studio. If you don't have a manikin, you're missing out. They are fabulous for many different types of studies, such as basic shapes, foreshortening, cross contours, perspective, proportion, motion, dramatic light and shadow, and so much more. Even a great model can't hold an action pose for as long as a manikin!
Set up your manikin in as natural a pose as possible. It can take awhile to find something interesting, that looks like the way a person might actually move. Once you find a pose you like, instead of changing the pose for each sketch, rotate the manikin. Draw the pose from many different angles.
One of the most important goals in my 600-page Project Megasketch was to develop line quality, and move away from chicken-scratchy type sketches that destroy the flow of beautiful lines and graceful forms. It's difficult to place a line exactly where we want it as it curves around a form, or moves straight across the page. We compensate by trying again, and again, and again. What we end up with is a hatchet-job of a sketch, created with lots of small lines in an attempt to correct what we didn't do right in the first place. Even if one of those many lines is correct, the sum of the parts is not pleasing.
I searched online to find a process that would lead to an improvement in the quality of my line work, and came upon Draw A Box. I think it's one of the best free resources for drawing on the internet. Don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of it! If you've decided to take on Project Megasketch, I'd highly recommend that you make it part of your Megasketch journey.
You may get tired of drawing lines and ellipses after several days of it, but the eventual payoff is huge. Don't skip over it. I stopped counting the pages toward Project Megasketch that I spent on the lines and ellipses because there were so many of them. I found them invaluable as warm ups. A couple of months later, I pulled out some vases, pots, pitchers and bottles to sketch. I wanted to see if it helped as much as I hoped. I found that I could draw them directly with ink in just a couple of minutes, and even if they weren't perfect, the improvement in my ellipses when applied to drawings was dramatic.
If you're an artist who doesn't like winter, maybe this post is for you! I used to hate winter. If you live in a cold climate and you're a plein air painter, you probably know what I'm talking about. One solution for the Winter Blues is to give yourself a special winter art project to break free from your own mold.
Last winter, I embarked upon a drawing/painting/sketching challenge to see objects in a different way, and learn to capture them faster. My hope was that when I ventured out again in the spring to paint, the drawing/blocking in stage would be quicker and more accurate. I wanted to tackle subjects that I found difficult, or required a lot of maintenance and practice, such as perspective, drawing straight lines and round elipses, and being able to sketch a portrait likeness in just a few minutes. I wanted to improve on capturing the elegance and directions of tree branches, the graceful movements of animals, the bustling activity of people walking, and copy some works of the masters to explore their methods. I experimented with mixed media, and broke out all those fun art supplies that I rarely have time to use, or that have been sitting on the shelf untested.
I dubbed this venture Project Megasketch, and began it last November. I finished in April. Maybe it can help you get through the Winter Blues this year, while venturing into new art territory. For those who want to give it a try yourselves, or just follow my project along for ideas, stay tuned. Yours may have different subject matter and goals, but you can create a project that will benefit your art with the development of skills and exploration of techniques by following the process. I'll post regular prompts and examples from my project to help get you started and inspire you in the weeks and months to come. There aren't many rules to follow.
Project Megasketch Rules:
- Complete 600 pages, minimum size 9x12"-11x15", in any media. (Or set a different number of pages and size if that's too overwhelming. Make the challenge your own.)
- Fill each page. No cheating with half-empty pages!
- Work for sale or publication doesn't count. (More about this below.)
- Set dates to start and finish. It's okay to adjust that later if you have to. Life happens!
- Challenge yourself, but have some fun too.
- Trust the process.
Having read this far, if you're still interested, get a few sketchbooks the same size, or one enormous
Well for one thing, you end up with a heck of a lot more time. I logged about a thousand pages of sketches and paintings during the year, experimented with a whole host of media and subjects that I can't wait to tell you all about, spent more time socializing and painting with friends, took on a bunch of artistic challenges, played more music, and the list goes on. But I also missed the online associations. I didn't get Facebook notifications when it was somebody's birthday, and missed hearing about important events in my friends' lives. Thanks to all of my real life artist friends who I see on a regular basis, I never felt like I was in an artistic vacuum, but I didn't get to see all the works that used to travel by on my news feed on social media.
I also removed my work from the public eye for a year. I retrieved my paintings from all my galleries, did not enter any shows, and posted none of my 1,000 new sketches and paintings. Overall, I have to say that the experience was very freeing! Since nobody would see my work, I wasn't concerned with whether or not it was marketable, or if anybody would show up for show openings. I was free to explore subjects that challenged me, work on drawing, experiment with line work, study anatomy and perspective, copy paintings of the masters, practice constructive drawing techniques, play with abstraction and mixed media, and use whatever I wanted for reference without worrying about copyright restrictions. As a very self-motivated individual, I ended up painting and sketching more than ever, with the time I saved from my self-imposed removal from online interactions.
Now that the year is up, I'm ready to see where this online reincarnation takes me, and how/if it affects the way I've been working for the past year. The sketch above was done in an old, large format music book. It's a watercolor from Muscoot Farm, where my favorite vantage points always end up being smack in the middle of the farm road! The music writing on this page seems to work out well with the composition of the sketch. I got excited about doing the whole book this way, but some other sketches didn't fare as well. After fighting with those, I found it generally better to knock back the music notation a level or two with a thin application of gesso, although that posed some other problems! As the days go by, I'll take you along on my recent art journey. Perhaps you'll get some ideas for your own sketching process too.