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Daily Sketchbook Practice: Drawing Every Day for a Month

Art & Illustration

Over the past few years, I've been working to improve my drawing skill and experiment to find a more consistent and comfortable style. However, I tend to get bogged down some days, weeks, and even months with the administrative side of running a creative business, and I don't always find the time to devote to my drawing practice.

So last month, I decided I should start drawing every day. At first, I tried to think of a good timeframe to draw every day, as a challenge to myself. Perhaps for a month, or a few months, or even a year? But they I realized that I want this to be an ongoing habit, so the goal now is just to draw every day for the rest of my life.

I don't know whether I'll achieve that goal, but I did make it a month without too much fuss, so I'm feeling pretty good.

I made the decision to start on March 4, which felt like a very auspicious date. As in "March Forth!" I felt a bit uninspired, but I struggle with drawing poses and clothes, so I just looked up a photo of "Outfit of the day" on Pinterest and drew the first photo that showed the full figure.

I realized right after starting that the weekend of that week was going to be very busy. I considered pausing and restarting after the weekend was finished, but I didn't want to give up that fancy "March Forth!" starting date, so I marched forth.

On the right side of the above page, you can see two very sketchily drawn heads. They were both done at the end of a very long Friday and Saturday, and one of them was actually done at 11:30 p.m. by my car's domelight as I waited for my windshield to defrost so I could drive home. But I did it. Yay, me!

Once I made it through the first couple days, I found that it felt like a habit, rather than a chore or a conscious activity, very quickly. I noticed that I started to feel a lot more creative once I just sat down to draw. On the left, I wasn't sure what to draw, so I drew a head, and then put down the sketchbook to relax and watch some TV.

But then I immediately started getting more ideas that I wanted to jot down. Both the weird wolf creature and the dragon egg felt a bit intimidating to figure out how to draw from imagination, but having already drawn something simple, like a face, I felt much more warmed up and primed to try something more challenging.

As I've been honing my skills the past few years, I've focused mainly on being able to get the form of something down. This generally focuses on outlines, sometimes with a bit of tone, but I never experiment with color.

I found that I almost never even pulled out any sort of color tools until I was working on a Finished Piece, with all the importance that implies. And so I never felt free to play with colors for fear of making mistakes.

But my most recent sketchbook, a Stillman & Birn Epsilon, is supposed to be able to handle watercolors, so I thought I'd try them in here. And it worked! And, even more importantly, with just one page of experimentation, I found I learned a lot about how I like to color the face and what sorts of color combinations I like and dislike.

I have also found that sketching is a good way to relieve stress. By the time I drew this page, I had been in quarantine for a couple weeks, and my anxiety was really getting to me. A prettily-drawn "Shut Up!" helped release some pent up emotions and made me feel rather accomplished.

It's been a lot of fun playing around in my sketchbook and seeing what I come up with. The left page above is some more grumpiness coming out. But it is also me testing to see how well I can draw profiles from imagination. Turns out, pretty well! But I didn't know that before this point. Hands, on the other, well, hand, need some more practice, which is also useful to know.

The right page was just a bunch of fun with my daughter. I had her draw some splotches with finger paints, and I played with the shapes to see what I could make. I never draw with pens without doing some sort of pencil underneath, so this was a good chance to see how I would handle a challenge like that. The mistakes are all of my favorite parts!

I also found that once I started drawing, I was very tempted to just keep going. The left page above I sat down to draw one head, but then I kept saying to myself, "Just one more." And, before I knew it, I had a whole page of heads with all kinds of little changes and adjustments to see what I could do.

The right page above is yet another silly image that popped into my head. Normally, I might have just let it pass, but I needed to draw something for the day, so I went ahead and jotted it down. And it turns out I really like it and am looking forward to turning it into a final painting.

 

I think my favorite outcome of daily sketching so far is that I feel so much more confident drawing from imagination. Most of the images I want to draw are things that don't exist, so there is a lot of imagination that goes into it, but I still tend to feel bound to reference.

But when I'm sketching every day, I often get lazy about finding a reference and just want to get the sketching done, so I can tick it off my list. The result has been a willingness to test out some ideas without feeling like I need to do extra work to find a reference first, which means there's one less obstacle to making some art.

Yes, some of the above images are more successful than others, but I really enjoy all of them and feel that, if nothing else, they at least are legible and convey what I wanted to show.

I will say that the bottom right of the right page is from life, but I was drawing my three-year-old, and she moves so fast, it's basically drawing from imagination anyways. :)

And here's the final page from my first month of daily sketching. I'm doing a lot more experimentation with composition before diving into final pieces, and I'm learning so much from it.

I'm so happy with how much sketching I managed to fit in in just one month. I bought this current sketchbook in the beginning of December, but by the time I started daily drawing on March 4, I had only filled six and a half spreads. By contrast, in one month of daily sketching, I filled 22 and a half spreads, which is an amazing feeling.

I plan to continue drawing every day, forever, and I'm excited to see what new discoveries and skills I come across.



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