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Posts Tagged ‘make good art’

Ten years ago Neil Gaiman gave a brilliant commencement speech which became knows as the “Make good art” speech. It’s on YouTube. It is thoughtful and funny and wise and not just for artists. Go watch it.

But he was talking to graduating art students who are presumably already good at making art. They just need to go forth into the world and keep doing what they already do and get better.

What about those who are just starting out and who are not at the point of making good or even consistent art?

Last night I watched livestream of the countdown to the end of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter.  For a good part of the two hour live stream, the artist Steve Argyle was the special guest.  He is the artist for one of the books included in the Kickstarter, and he spent a fair amount of time talking about process, and much of what he said doesn’t apply only to drawing and painting.

Someone asked for advice about learning to draw when you can’t even draw a straight line.  I was not surprised when his recommendation was to just draw.  Accept that it will be frustrating, but just start drawing.  Do a little bit each day.  If you try to do some big marathon session, you will only be discouraged and quit.  He also recommended drawing the same subject – person, object, pet, landscape, whatever – over and over and over.  If you do, you will keep discovering new things about that subject, which I thought sounded really cool (as well as making a lot of sense).

Someone asked about reference, and he mentioned that insects were some of his reference for armor drawings.  He wanted something more organic.

Then he talked about about figuring out how to draw something in the first place — how to even get started transforming the idea in your head into lines and shapes on the page.  He referenced the artist Iain McCaig as the source of this approach.  McCaig has some YouTube videos but also interviews and classes.  His particular art isn’t quite my thing, but his enthusiasm definitely appeals to me.  He reminds me a little bit of knitting designer Stephen West as far as making challenging undertakings fun and accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing to take the chance and put in the effort.

Argyle recommended breaking down what you want to draw into components.  Write all of those down.  Then look around the room (or wherever you are) and pick out random objects.  Write those down.  Take elements of those objects and apply them to the thing that you want to draw.

For example, say you want to draw a dragon.  What does your dragon need?  Horns?  Wings?  A breath power (which I am assuming means fire but I am sure could mean other things)? Tail? Scales? Four legs?

Great.  So you look around the room at random things – a fish sculpture, a can of energy drink, a lamp, a coffee mug.  Then you take elements from each thing and use those to make a part of the dragon.

The fish sculpture is curved and smooth but kind of scaly and iridescent, so you use those elements for the horns.  The horns don’t look like fish, but they are iridescent, smooth, and curved, with a bit of scaled texture.  Maybe the scales are only at the base of the horns where they meet the head of the dragon.

Then the textured looking graphic design on the can looks like shark skin, and the font looks kind of torn, so maybe the wings are a little worse for wear and have more of a thick, heavy skin than any scales.

And so on.

I think there are lessons in there for writing stories.

It was all fascinating. I would have happily listened to Steve Argyle for two hours.

Click this link to visit his web site.

Be inspired. Start drawing. Even if you can’t draw a straight line. ESPECIALLY if you can’t draw a straight line.

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I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  The way I see it is that any day is a good day to make a change for the better, make new plans, start something new, finish something old, make a habit, break a habit, whatever strikes your fancy.

I did have a thought that “more life, less work” would be a good plan.  It went right out the window on January 2nd.  So much for that idea.  January 3rd fared even worse in that regard.  Third time was apparently the charm because I managed to stop working fairly close to five o’clock.

Will I now magically stop working on time every day from now on?  No.  Of course not.  But I will keep trying, and maybe eventually I will come out on the plus side.

In addition to increasing the ratio of life to work, there is the matter of quality of life.  What do I want to do with all of this time I will have once I stop working so much?  I will strive to live my creative life, pursuing activities which support my knitting and spinning hobbies, with potential to expand into photography and return to writing.

In addition to continuing to follow my passion for knitting, spinning, and things fibery in general, I want to read more, for certain.  I used to read voraciously when I was younger and didn’t have grown up responsibilities or the great time drain the Internet.  My reading appetite increased and decreased over time, and my tastes changed.  I moved into a house I had to share with another person, so I got rid of a lot of my books.  Then I started knitting with greater focus and frequency which led to greater skill and the discovery of fabulous yarns, so my disposable income went into yarn rather than books.

Last year, and it may have started in 2017, I started to rediscover books and their enchanting possibilities.  What I have not as yet rediscovered is my reading attention span.  I worry that reading takes away from my knitting (and now spinning, which I picked up last year), which it does because I can’t really knit and read at the same time, but I need to not worry about it.  I knit for pleasure and to learn and create and as meditation, but I read for those same reasons, too.

I used to read almost exclusively fiction, but now I find myself interested in the stories of people who were or are participants in and observers of history, as well as novels by and about people who are different than me — live in a different part of the world, speak a different language, or have experiences I will never have (for good or ill).  I want to learn more about my chosen hobbies of knitting and spinning, try new techniques and improve overall.  To that end, I have set myself the goal of knitting my way through Milarrochy Heids by Kate Davies.  She has also written a memoir, Handywoman, which is on my reading list, as is the memoir of Jane Hawking, who was married to Stephen Hawking for thirty years.  If the film The Theory of Everything is to be believed, without her there would have been no Brief History of Time.  I am embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me that he had been married and that his wife would have been his primary caretaker, facing all of the challenges that responsibility would entail.

There are plenty more titles I could add to the list, along with movies to see, podcasts to explore, and music to hear, but they could (and probably should) merit posts of their own.  Or I will post sidebar lists.  Or both.

How this writing thing is going to work is still a mystery, but I am to keep writing because writing is writing.

 

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