Getting Ready for Urban Sketching

For many people, the big hurdle to overcome about drawing or sketching is the “inner critic”. This loud, unpleasant inner voice discounts ability and scorns attempts at creativity: “I can’t draw”; “I have no artistic talents at all”; “I have trouble drawing stick-people”. Sometimes that voice is the echo of a teacher or trusted adult who criticized long ago and the wounded inner child cannot escape the recurring soundtrack. One of my goals in the two recent workshops which I ran in the last two weeks as part of my Artist-in-Residence program is to provide strategies to contain that critical voice. It is surprising that even well-established and apparently successful professional artist also wrestle with self-doubt. I picture a large black raven – like the one in Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem.
Here is one of the exercises from the workshop. What you need to do is take your pen. Not a pencil because I am looking for the boldness of marks that cannot be erased. Take your pen and first, draw marks on the paper – half-circles, squiggles, diagonal lines. Draw big and bold and enjoy the sensation of the pen and ink across the page. Drawing is an experience. Enjoy the moment.

The next exercise is similar but perhaps requires a little more of a spirit of adventure. Put your pen in your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, you will draw with your left hand. If left-handed, draw with your right. Put pen to paper and use your eye. I suggest drawing your other hand. It is as if your eye is directly connected to the point of the pen. As your eye travels along the edge of your hand, the pen will follow and mimic the path of vision. The mark on paper follows the line of your eye along the outline of your hand. Try not to take the pen off the page. Try to keep your eye fixed on what you are drawing and not on the paper. Try not to look until you are finished. What you will see, when you look, is a quirky and fun drawing. It is not an exact replica but it captures the spirit: wonky, surprising and probably distorted. Drawing with your non-dominant hand offers a certain freedom. Try it. Enjoy!

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