Weeks 5&6: And now for something completely different!

Weeks 5&6: And now for something completely different!

(I use the word “technique” in the text below to describe a way of thinking, of describing, or a mental tool, a mindset. In short: what I call here “techniques” could be considered to be anything but. If you don’t know what to get me for Christmas, get me a thesaurus! lol)

Funny how things don’t change for weeks, even though you try hard, and suddenly you relax and…. you see progress in your work.

All artists have faced this: the harder you try, it seems, the less you progress. Of course it’s only an impression. Only hard work makes you progress, but hard work demands lots of attention, and attention means tension (no pun intended). And when you are tense you are not flexible and can’t change, bend, go with the flow.

So it’s often that, after weeks of intense work you give up, saying “oh I’ll never get it” and you let go – “who cares anyway” – and suddenly all the efforts come to fruition: without your even knowing it, you brain goes into “newly acquired technique” mode and tada! sudden progress!

It’s what I felt when I did the drawing included in this post. For weeks (months, semesters….) I had been trying to get the “going around the form with the pencil” that is at the core of the great masters’ drawings, and that Glenn Vilppu teaches so well.

I felt like I banged my head against a wall for so long, but did not “get” this concept, and could certainly not use it while drawing. I had improved other aspects of my draughmanship, but this one seemed to elude me, which was quite vexing.

About two months ago I had an epiphany: I suddenly could understand and identify what Glenn meant by “going around the form”. I “got” it in my brain, but how did one apply it? No idea. Understanding something intellectually is of no help as long as you can’t use the technique while working. You have to understand something before you can apply it, of course, but with understanding does not automatically come application!

Following this intellectual epiphany, I worked even harder, concentrating on this important and elusive issue. I spent hours drawing, studying masters, biting my tongue and going “gnnnnnn…. gnnnn……” while drawing one stroke at a time. I’m sure I looked completly mental, seen from the outside, but I wanted to break through this concept and be able to apply it.

Nothing, not a little improvement. I finally threw my pencil away, exclaiming “oh I give up!” and decided to relax a bit before working on some other aspect of my drawing that I wanted to improve.

Relax, relax, draw while humming… and when I suddenly looked at my finished drawings (yes I did them in parallel) I said out loud “what the hell is happening? This is not my drawing? it doesn’t even look like my way of drawing! yuk!”

I then looked closer, showed the drawings to a friend. Indeed the drawings felt alien to me – and for a good reason: I had applied the “going round the form with each stroke” technique for the first time ever!


The problem when you do something right and you don’t know what or how you did it right, is that you don’t know how to do it again!

It took me a bit of introspection to realise what I had done differently.

I had drawn less lines, no “noodling” at all, I had drawn very slowly compared to my normal silly “if I draw fast, I’ll draw more things today!” way, and I had analysed and described with each line the form I saw. I did not draw, I explained, each little line as being a way of saying “and then here the shape goes like this… curvy in this direction, but it stops there, where the other little lines-set starts”.

I never thought I would need ¬†explaining, even become verbose while drawing – but I sure felt verbose while drawing the right guy’s back of pelvis.

I was in more than a bit of shock. I also noticed that I was drawing much lighter than ever before (I had to darken the lines in photoshop in the image here included or you would have seen nothing).

I only really made sense out of the experience when Glenn did the critic of my work. What did he say? Well, read above…. I did not manage to understand what had happened technically or psychologically before he dissected my work. The weekly two-hour live chat made once more all the difference, since I was able to heap question upon question, and Glenn patiently – and obviously (now!) – demonstrated what I used to do, and what I had just done.

I finally got it.

Drawing while looking at the whole image, with a good gesture, and keeping a “we have got all the time in the world” attitude is the way. But the danger is to become precious, become to tense, afraid of mistakes, and fall in love with each line. Don’t become attached to your pencil strokes, erase them or better: draw others over them. If you consider that you’ll spend the rest of your life drawing, then each line is really not precious – you are going to draw so many things that parting with a set of lines is really not a big deal.

And if you get something right, move on! Don’t try to reproduce it. You did it once, fine, it’s part of you, walk on, don’t stop to study in wonder the miracle that has happened. Chances are that the first time you applied the new technique you were so surprised that you spotted it at once “wow look at THAT!”. But now that it is part of your set of tools, you wont spot it particularly – don’t try and reproduce the “wow” sensation you had the first time: you won’t have it again, not for this technique anyway!

Draw draw draw!

and be safe!

See you soon


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