“Keep drawing. The more you draw, the better you’ll get at drawing.”
So a friend said to me when I explained that I feel like all my drawings are awful. I was at an international sketching event, full of architects and professional illustrators and graphic designers. I was way out of my depth, and I was feeling it.
I wanted to scream:
“But I want to be good at drawing now!”
I’m impatient. I’ve been drawing on-and-off (mostly off) for seven years. My progress is gradual, and I find that frustrating. Plus, I’m ponderously slow and timid at drawing, and I rarely have an hour or two free for a sketch.
Then I met Tine Klein. We were at the same conference, in a group playing a sketching game together. Tine drew a dog in just a few seconds that had so much energy and life to it:
Tine Klein’s dog.
Tine also drew a couple of portraits that I loved – again really quickly, using a HUGE brush with big splashes of watercolour.
So I asked:
“How do you draw like that?”
By now, the sketching game had finished, and we were standing at a paintbrush stool.
“Why don’t you buy this?” she said, holding up a paintbrush with a bright pink handle that she found in the bargain basket. “It’s only a few pounds, you can try it to see if you like it.”
I bought the paintbrush. Here it is:
My new HUGE pink brush besides the tiny, timid brush I previously used.
I couldn’t wait to use my new pink brush!
But first I wanted to know more about Tine’s drawing style. So I invited Tine to the pub for dinner.
“Your Pen is a Dancing Lady, Twirling”
We sat down over a drink and Tine started explaining her drawing philosophy.
Tine encouraged me to put more freedom and spontaneity into my drawing. “Your pen is a dancing lady, twirling,” she said, “or a bee, finding the next flower.”
“That sounds nice,” I said. “But how do I do that?”
She handed me a piece of card and told me to uncap my sketching pen.
“Close your eyes,” she said. “And draw a cat”.
So I closed my eyes, and drew a cat:
The cat I drew with my eyes closed. Ignore the part-circle with zig-zag scribbles in the top right, this was added later.
“Very good,” Tine said when I had finished.
The cat had eyes, ears, whiskers, two feet and a tail. And it was all wrong. Almost everything was out of place. But it did have a life and energy to it that is often lacking in my drawings.
Then Tine said:
“Now I want you to try doing a one-line-drawing.”
Tine explained: “A one-line-drawing means completing your drawing without taking your pen off the page.”
So I tried it while Tine went to order food.
I drew the salt pot, a picture frame on the wall beside me, and Tine’s cider. And I really liked my drawings!
“Very good,” Tine said when she returned to the table. “And it only takes a few seconds, doesn’t it?”
“Do These Funny Drawings Every Day”
She continued: “Not everyone can give an hour or two a day for sketching. But everyone can give five minutes.
“So now, do these funny drawings every day.”
I promised myself that I would do so.
That night, when I returned to my hotel, I wanted to try out out my new HUGE pink brush. So I took some watercolours, and looked at the kettle in my room, painting the shadows. When the watercolours had dried, I added detail with a one-line-drawing.
Again, I was really happy with the result. Yes, it was far from perfect, but that was okay. I’d found the energy, speed and life that had been lacking in my sketches.
Since then, I have been sketching every day
My daily sketches haven’t always been one-line-drawings, because I’ve been trying different techniques. But when I need to be quick, one-line-drawings are where I go.
I’ve drawn my USB microphone following a conference call:
I’ve closed my eyes and drawn a monkey:
And I did a one-line drawing of my favourite camera:
I even drew my friend’s hazelnut latte while we were out for coffee:
“Your pen didn’t leave the page when you drew that,” my friend said. “What that intentional?”
“Yes,” I replied. Because of course, it was intentional.
How to Get Better at Drawing, One Drawing a Day
Here’s what you can try if you want to get better at drawing – especially if you need help to loosen up:
- Close your eyes and draw a cat.
- Do one-line-drawings. Finish a drawing without taking your pen off the page.
- Remember: “Your pen is a dancing lady, twirling, or a bee finding the next flower.”
- Paint with a HUGE paintbrush. A pink handle is optional.
This post is written with thanks to Tine Klein, who turned my little world of drawing upside down.