Monday, March 7, 2016

Mark Crilley: "10 Ways to Get Better at Drawing"

Mark Crilley is an author/illustrator of manga and children's books based in Michigan. I recently came across this 20-minute video of his advice for artists and found it to be helpful and insightful.

After the craziness of 2015 kept me away from studying art with any level of seriousness, I'm returning to it now with a fresh approach, as well as the wisdom that comes from having applied myself to it for several years now (I still can't believe it's been over 3 years since I started this blog and this journey!). In looking back over the blog, the various experiences I've had and things I've learned from, I'm realizing that certain pieces of advice that I've been hearing all along are hitting a new level of resonance with me now.

1. THE IMPORTANCE OF MINDFULNESS - When it comes to practice. You can't just decide "I'll draw 25 horses, and then I will understand how to draw horses forever." If that's your approach, then you'll rush through each drawing just to get it over with and get to that final destination of having done the drawings and thus having the 'knowledge' - which of course is not how it works at all. You have to be deliberate with your drawing, analyzing what went wrong and what went right and how best to move forward.

2. THE TOOLS DON'T MATTER - I see it all the time - the #1 question from aspiring artists to professionals is "What brush/pen/pencil/program/paper/etc should I use???" Mark hits on this in his video too - it really doesn't matter. You just have to try to make art with whatever you find, and keep experimenting with different materials. What works for one artist won't work for the next. Your favorite tools will introduce themselves to you over time.

3. PATIENCE - Mark touches upon this in the video with his #9 point: 'Don't expect progress to occur in a matter of weeks, or even months.' This is the most significant thing that I think I've truly come to understand recently. Some of the first books I picked up when I started wanting to improve were Andrew Loomis's books on figure and head drawing. I'll always remember reading the introduction and coming across this passage: "May I add one suggestion? Whatever your motive, try not to be impatient. Impatience has probably been a bigger stumbling block in the way of real ability than anything else... Skill is the ability to overcome obstacles, the first of which is usually lack of knowledge about the thing we wish to do... Skill is a result of trying again and again, and applying our knowledge as we gain it. Let us get used to throwing away the unsuccessful effort and doing the job over. Let us consider obstacles as something to be expected in any endeavor: then they won't seem quite so insurmountable or so defeating." I read that, way back in 2012, and thought: Yes, I will remember this! And I will never be impatient with myself. Oh, past Gina... you're so cute and naïve.

4. FUN - It has to be fun. Otherwise why are you doing it? Studiousness is all well and good, but the study of art is something where I think the motto 'work hard, play harder' applies very well. The study should be in service of all the great creations your playful, imaginative, creative self wants to bring to light.

I wanted to share one last quote from Stephen King, whose part-technical prose manual, part-memoir 'On Writing' I read sometime in the past year, during a period when I was often feeling frustrated with the lack of time I had for art due to our wedding planning, family obligations, traveling for friends' weddings, or what have you. In the memoir sections of the book, King had a number of passages devoted to his family life, and one in particular really touched me. For years, he said, he’d dreamed of owning an amazing writing desk, a ‘massive oak slab that would dominate a room.’ He finally got one and he put it in the middle of his study, and used it during the worst years of his alcohol and drug addiction, ‘like a ship’s captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.’ After he sobered up, he gave that desk away and put in a living room suite where it had been, where his kids would hang out sometimes. He got a smaller desk and put it in the corner, under the eave. “It starts with this,” he says:

“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

© Gina Florio 2016

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