Category: New Work


What I really need to learn how to do is to shade my illustrations in a convincing way. That’s a large part of why I wanted to learn how to draw properly. Today I did two drawings of a felted bowl I have. They are not very good, but it got me motivated to keep working at it.

After the bowls I did a free journal drawing and then tried to shade it– at least the dog part of it. What I really need to learn is how to shade these invented characters. So much of what the drawing books teach you is to draw what you see, but I don’t actually see these things before I draw them. I think I need to learn how to imagine them more clearly in a three-dimensional way with light hitting them.

More Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I’ve been stalled a bit with my drawing exercises for Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I’m supposed to be drawing the portrait of a real model, and I’ve started to sketch my daughter Carle twice now, but we always run out of time. Today I decided to move on to light and shadows, even though I need a lot more practice drawing portraits. This is actually the main reason I wanted to do this curriculum– to get to the light and shadows part. I want to move my drawings out of two dimensions into three.

I actually enjoyed making this drawing (copy) more than any exercise so far I think. Betty Edwards is always talking about getting lost in right brain mode and losing track of time, but I find the exercises feel very slow and difficult. Playing with shadows and light, however, I found that time really did pass by quickly.

The assignment was to copy a self-portrait by Gustave Courbet. I mistakenly copied a copy of the drawing that is also in the book. Here are the three drawings: the original, a copy by a drawing instructor, and my copy of the drawing instructor’s copy.

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet, 1897
Copy of Courbet Self-Portrait by drawing instructor Brian Bomeisler
My (mistaken) copy of Brian Bomeisler's drawing

Ha! I don’t know if Courbet would appreciate this progression. I’ve given him a pretty strange mouth. I did that part last and was running out of patience.

After I did the exercise I made a journal drawing to let off some steam. It’s a mountain goat on top of a mountain.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I am also trying to learn how to draw in a realistic way. I have so many line drawings that I’d love to flesh out. To add dimension, shading and complexity. I have never taken a drawing class before, mainly because I thought I couldn’t draw. Every time I tried to draw realistically the result was horrid, and I honestly thought you either could draw or you couldn’t.

I turns out I was wrong. You can learn to draw! I have been reading/following the exercises of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I started to do this years ago, and didn’t make it too far, but this time I am determined to get to the end of the course.

Here are two drawings by Vincent Van Gogh, which are in the book to demonstrate that even Van Gogh couldn’t draw without learning. One before he mastered drawing and one after:

Carpenter, Vincent Van Gogh 1880
Woman Mourning, Vincent Van Gogh 1882

The main thing Drawing on the Right Side emphasizes is that you need to turn off your analytical, symbol-making left brain in order to see things properly and then draw what you see. Edwards is saying that people don’t draw poorly; they see poorly. And she has some really interesting examples of that. One is actually above. We don’t see how much head people have on top of their faces so untrained artists often chop off the top of their skulls in their drawings– see the carpenter’s head.

It’s funny because I think my strength as an artist is in being able to draw without thinking. At least not thinking about drawing. Yet I have never seen things properly. When it came to drawing realistically, I was using my left brain along with everyone else (except the good drawers). So I’m going to show my learning process- learning to draw what I see. And juxtapose it with my journal drawings in which I just draw whatever comes out.

Edwards has you start by making a self-portrait and then hide it from yourself until you’ve finished the whole course– at which point you make another self-portrait and compare the two. She also has you make several copies of drawings that are in the book. This is my second real-life drawing, after the self-portrait, along with the journal drawing I did on the same day.

Drawing of my hand. March 07. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercise.
March 07 journal drawing

May I say something?

I am trying to learn to paint. One of my favorite artists, Yoshitomo Nara, makes these delicious backgrounds that have so many colors in them, but it’s very subtle. I have been trying to figure out his technique, which seems to involve layering lots of colors:

I’ve been making a lot of drawings in my journal this year. Many are posted on my Instagram account. I just start drawing and see what happens. But now I’m wanting to stop being such a wimp and start making bigger pieces. I’ve made a few big works, but I’m so scared of screwing up on a large scale that I play it safe. Recently I’ve played it so safe I haven’t painted anything big.

So I thought I’d start small going larger, and I made a drawing on a 9″ x 12″ sheet of 140 lb., hot press watercolor paper. Here it is:

May I say something?

It actually looks better digitally than it does in person. The white crayon I used over the background to try to tone it down looks much cruder. Plus the paper’s all curled up. That’s a bit of an issue with paper…