Hahahaha – see what I did with that title? No? Rats…
Sketchy art humor aside (hahahaha – I did it again!), drawing helps me look at the world more closely and in a different way. And please notice that I said “drawing”. Not “drawing well”. Not even “learning to draw”. Just drawing. When I see something unusual or beautiful or just interesting, I’ll think, “Could I draw it?” The answer, for me, is usually “absolutely not” or even just a mental snort. But whether I actually try or not, I’m observing in a different way. I’m paying attention – and that’s no bad thing for a writer.
Art was something I had fun doing as a kid, which I think is true for most of us. Finger paints and play-doh. Paste-soaked papier-mache. Crayons – the big box, not those crappy eight-packs. However, I became aware that the fruits of my labors were not measuring up to my aspirations. Even a six-year-old can only be asked “what is that?” so many times before twigging to the fact that maybe the talent wasn’t innate.
Did that make me dive in, learn the tricks of the trade, practice every spare minute until I got better? Quite clearly not. In fact, it made me quit altogether, something else I think is true for most of us.
Somehow though, I never really lost that secret desire to be able to draw. In my twenties, I cautiously took a “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” course. I enjoyed it and got a bit better, but what was I supposed to do with all those smudgy, wonky drawings? I stopped again. But then two things happened: one of my daughters introduced me to digital art and Covid came along. I suddenly had a new toy AND a lot of spare time.
Digital art was like art, but better. Can’t draw a straight line? Hold your pencil down long enough and the app straightens your wobbles for you. Can’t draw a circle? Ditto. Make a mistake? Click undo. No ideas and/or no clue? YouTube has literally thousands of free tutorials that walk you through step by step, teaching you the app AND the art skills at the same time. It’s like frickin’ magic.
And every single drawing, even when just following a tutorial, felt like a huge, colorful, glorious accomplishment. I DREW THAT MYSELF! And I can tell what it is!!! There was no mess, no storage issues. In fact, I started sticking my pics out on Instagram (the mother of all refrigerators). I used a pseudonym just in case (you have no idea how fragile my ego is), but it turns out that the vast majority of other artists are kind and supportive. And soon I started branching out and making fun little drawings with bits of humor or twists on a theme. Weirdly, without trying, I developed a style all my own. I have no illusions about my skill level, but for the first time since I was six, I was expressing myself using art.
I started looking for things to draw. I started taking photographs to use as references. I started looking with intent. “Can I draw that?” My life is immensely enriched because I ask that question, whether or not I follow through. But even without setting pen to glass screen, my gaze has sharpened, I see more, and I care more. That’s no bad thing for a writer…or a human being.
You don’t need an iPad or iPencil to draw – a sketchbook and a couple of decent art pencils are all that’s necessary. But, in case you’re interested in digital art, here are some links to stuff that I love. No disclaimer required – I get absolutely zero in kickbacks or advertising. This list is not comprehensive in any way – there are so many other apps, tools, and tutorials. At the very least, check out the tutorials and have fun.
- Art with Flo. Her “You Can Draw This” tutorials are perfect for beginners using Procreate. This toucan tutorial is the first one I ever did. Even if you don’t have the app or tools yet, watch it just for fun.
- Procreate app (At last glance, this was $9.99, and it’s like magic.)
- iPad and iPencil – no links needed.