Monday, October 13, 2014

Inktober, Inkdulgence, Inksanity

So Debbie posted about one of those monthly artistic challenges, you know, like NaNoWriMo and such. Only this one was for doing a drawing a day for the month of October, in ink only, called #inktober. I never do these things because I never have enough time and energy to commit to something like that for a whole week, let alone a whole month. Except this time I just sort of slid into it without a whole lot of thought as if it were a comfortable pair of handknit socks.
I've always enjoyed doing ink sketches; my sketchbooks are filled with lots of ballpoint pen drawings, fountain pen sketches, that sort of thing.
Pen has the advantage that it's more permanent and doesn't get as smeared over time as pencil. The big disadvantage, of course, is that you have to be honest; you can't erase. So you need either a lot of confidence, to be bold and just make the strokes and to heck with it, or a way to draw the initial lines lightly, and then go over them later with more confidence once you have your basic shapes laid in. Both ways are valid to me, it's more a matter of your mood and the particular tool you're using; a decent ballpoint pen is pretty forgiving and lets you do light lines and subtle shading, where the fountain pens and flowing ink pens are very decisive.
A big part of this challenge is that you have to post the results online to keep yourself accountable. So in the process of getting the drawings into the computer I had to photograph them and take them into Photoshop to convert them into a reasonable format to post them online. And once in PS, a side effect of my process resulted in a nice grey background which looks oh-so-temptingly like tinted Canson paper. I love using Canson paper with colored pencils, and there's a wonderful push-pull of lights and darks you can do with tinted paper. So I went ahead and added lighter highlights to the drawing as if it were tinted paper, just using the burn tool to lighten a few areas. Now it's not strictly an ink drawing anymore, but I don't really want to get constricted by rules for this whole challenge; my purpose is to get myself to draw and keep drawing.
I love drawing people, but they have a lot of built-in drawbacks; we are so hyper-attuned to faces, searching for every nuance of meaning and mood, that we are hyper critical of drawings of people, especially realistic ones that aren't obviously caricatures or cartoons. The slightest imperfections of proportion or anatomy in a realistic drawing pulls the entire drawing down into a downward spiral of criticism. Drawing people and then putting the drawings up for anybody to see takes a thick skin or a fool. I decided to opt for the latter and just go ahead and enjoy drawing some interesting people. There are tons of amazing historical photos on the Library of Congress' Flickr site, so I went and found people I liked there to draw from. I like to use the drawings to look at, as a point of reference for faces and body proportions and details, but the drawing always seems to have a mind of its own and comes out quite different from the original photo it was based on.
It's harder when you're trying to draw someone you know because then you have more expectations and preconceptions about what the person looks like. With this drawing of Casey, I turned my reference photo upside down to try to just draw the actual shapes of the face. It's a common lesson used in drawing classes, to try to trick yourself into letting go of what you think your subject looks like and just drawing what the shapes really are. It's always an interesting exercise to see what comes out. 

At least in this case, I found that I still was too connected to Casey as the subject matter and it really constrained how I handled it all. Even drawing upside down wasn't enough to remove me from the attachment to the subject matter, and I could feel myself getting tight. There's a frustration and pressure with doing drawings that are 'supposed to be good', and the end results always show it. 

I think that unpleasant sensation of realizing that your lines aren't behaving the way you want, the pressure to 'get it right' is what makes a lot of people just give up and say they can't draw. Little kids don't feel that sort of pressure, but develop it as they get older, with a few rare exceptions. At some point we go from being happy just making crazy pictures to expecting ourselves to render things perfectly. And nobody is perfect. Most of us have to learn to let go and just allow ourselves to do a 'bad' drawing. So yeah, I'm still struggling with those pressures and expectations. That inner critic is really harsh. That's when a stream of consciousness drawing is good, just sort of letting things out. An idea can just sort of develop and I can let myself just enjoy shapes and textures more.
Money Tree
So here it is the middle of the month already and I'm finding it harder to find time for the challenge, harder not to tighten up in the face of my own expectations, so I think I need to find some ways to loosen up more. I don't know if other people have such a harsh inner critic, but mine is pretty daunting. It can be a voice that spurs me to work to get better, try harder, but it can be a really destructive voice that paralyzes me and makes me just give up completely. 
 I figure I'll switch things up a bit, do some color ink stuff, more doodles where I can just let go. The challenge of posting the drawings online is facing what people might think; it adds another dimension to that inner critic. I fortunately have a lot of very supportive friends, so it becomes a source of external support, but it does make it harder to go ahead and post the drawings that didn't come out as well. ;) 
Ah well, onward.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Instadoodles - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

What I'm finding: the more I draw for work, the more important it is to carve regular time to doodle purely for the fun of it. When I don't, my work stagnates and I don't experiment nearly as much.

Sometimes I doodle on my own, but I also love community doodling. Today, I posted the following:


 I'm taking a break right now from work to check what people have posted, and I LOVE the doodles so far! You can see what people have doodled today by checking #inkydare on Twitter and #inkydare on Facebook (for the latter, you'll only be able to see public posts or posts by people on your FB Friends list).

I love the different interpretations of the prompt, wide range of illustration styles and especially love the found object art doodles. :-)

 I'll be posting more Inkydare doodle challenges in the future via @inkyelbows on Twitter.

 And here's my "Morning" doodle:


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Encouraging Young Artists (Blog Post Series): An Introduction, and Drawing For The Joy Of It

PigtailGirlWriting 600

I've recently become more interested in resources for young artists, so will be posting more in Sketcharound on this topic. I've been having more conversations with other adults about artistic talent and creativity, and whether grown-ups who claim not to be able to draw can learn to draw for fun again.

My mom
But this got me thinking: when we are very young children, we draw with joy and without self-consciousness. Then...we grow up.

We all start out drawing random (random to adult eyes, anyway) scribbles. Some of us get better at it while others give up. While so-called innate talent may exist, I am convinced that a major factor is encouragement or discouragement from grown-ups at home and at school.

My mom liked to draw, and was my earliest artistic influence. She was a housewife and devoted to her children, but I'm positive that she could have been a successful illustrator in another life. She used to spend hours drawing with Ruth, Jim and me.

In the beginning, I remember mostly wanting her to draw princesses: anime-eyed beautiful creatures with sumptuous dresses and fancy shoes. Later on, she would draw part of the princess and ask me to finish the dress.

She'd also do a lot of sketching while we drew our own pictures: mostly sketches of us, which fascinated us. I drew more and more. I NEVER remember her pointing out any inaccuracy, or advising me to fix anything. I just remember the joy of drawing.

Comic I did when I was 16
Fast-forward years later: my sister Ruth went to art school and has now illustrated over 50 books (some of which she has also written). Over the years, I did comics and webcomics for fun as well as posting my doodles online. Then came the summer of 2010, when my friend Beckett (the same Beckett who co-writes this blog!) convinced me to enter the SCBWI Illustration Showcase in LA…and I ended up with a book contract.

There are many who think I just stumbled into children's book illustration out of nowhere. I have no formal art training, after all, and have been focusing on writing. But the fact is that I've been drawing all my life, and mostly just for the fun of it.

From now on, my Sketcharound posts are going to focus on drawing for joy as well as advice and resources for adults who want to encourage young artists. And if you're a grown-up who thinks they can't draw but want to draw: STOP WITH THE NEGATIVITY. Start drawing. You don't have to show anyone. Get a sketchbook and start doodling as often as you can, just for your own enjoyment. I'll write more on this in a future post.

-- Debbie

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creativity and Deadlines

My friend Rob found this video and it so perfectly expresses the problems we have as creative people with externally imposed, arbitrary deadlines. Tight, pressure filled deadlines produce mediocre work because there's no room for creativity.

It's true that many jobs really aren't concerned with getting really creative answers; they frequently just want the job done on time and within budget. Our culture makes it really hard to be creative, honestly; there's a very strong tendency to try to make kids fit their ideas within small pre-defined parameters that fit a standard imposed from some outside source. There's a lot of pressure to conform, to not be weird and unusual and odd. But really, creativity usually involves thinking outside the box, outside the cultural norms, outside the accepted set of answers.

It's really hard to make a living in this culture if you're stubbornly creative, stubbornly original and weird and don't fit into the norms. And that's really sad. Just think of all that we're missing out on. Clocks in your hand. Clocks within a cat. Time caught in a flower. Draw a clock. What does it look like to you?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! | Video on

This is for Debbie and me and everyone else who shakes their head when someone asks to see what you're drawing and dismisses it with a 'it's just a doodle'. Heh. Turns out it's an innate way of thinking and an important way to process information. Well worth watching. :) And maybe we can all just have more fun with our doodles. Thanks to Karen McVey for pointing this one out to me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Non-Digital Sketch

Inspired by the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, I've been experimenting with non-digital (*gasp*) sketching. Paints are a very small/portable Windsor & Newton travel watercolor paint kit that Jeff bought me. The line work was done with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, which was recommended by David Small during the Intensive.

Apologies for the slightly blurry photo -- I was experimenting with the Squarespace app on my iPhone, and I think I jiggled the phone a bit when taking the picture. The monster water container in the back is a handmade pottery piece created by my friend Luisa and painted by me. I have a bunch more one-of-a-kind pottery pieces that we made to put on Etsy; it's just a matter of finding the time.

Anyway, I had fun with this quickie sketch! I'm still way more comfortable with digital but figure it's good to always be learning new skills.

- Debbie

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Everything On It

There's a new book coming out of poems by Shel Silverstein, for anyone who hasn't heard about it yet. NPR books has an article about how it came about.

His family gathered together once a month for quite a while and read poems out loud to each other to winnow the 1500+ poems down to a manageable number to put into this new book. It's being lovingly designed to follow in the look and feel of previous books.
And it will include gems like this one, which you need to read out loud to get the best effect, just like all of his poems:

Italian Food
Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just 'cause how good it tastes
But 'cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.

 My guys have grown up on Shel Silverstein, so they're going to love this one. But they still think Shel was a little scary-looking in his pictures. I told them I saw a picture of him laughing once and he had a great grin.
You are missed, Mr. Silverstein. I'm glad we get to have another book of your poems.