It’s all about the P.A.U.S.E.

Two days ago I taught my last marathon art class for the foreseeable future.
It was not my last art class, not by a long shot. But I won’t attempt to do another five-hour-straight “everything you need to know to have a rewarding daily sketchbook practice” brain download for a long time.
Instead, starting next month we are launching Sketchbook Adventure Club at Kimball Jenkins School of Art. As a ‘club’, we are counting on folks dropping in more than once, with the intention of learning, sharing, and reconnecting with friends. You will also greet “friends you haven’t met yet”,  but who are guaranteed to be from your tribe because they too are developing a “Look At THAT!” attitude. You can read more about The Club at  this link —- and sign up if you are interested.
In the meantime, I’d like to share the first lesson from the class I taught Saturday, so you can get a head start on your very own daily doodling habit.

First, why bother?

10 21 19 blog post 3
Because in less than five minutes you will be able to create a header like this for the top of your journal page, and instantly will have captured a memory before you even start writing.

“But I don’t want to carry a lot of supplies with me all the time…”

Really. This is it.10 21 19 blog post 1
The fewer supplies, the fewer decisions. Sweet.

And we’re off! Lesson One Begins.

Get two pens: one a ballpoint and one either a felt tip or a gel pen. Avoid fine point pens, you want at least ‘medium point,’ preferably ‘bold’. You will discover that one pen (the ball-point) is water-resistant after a few seconds drying time, and the other is not. The latter is one of those annoying pens that smudges and bleeds all over if a rain storm catches you with your grocery list in your hand. This annoying pen is a gold mine.
Here is your first homework, best done on a early page of your crispy wonderful new sketchbook, but you can also use the back of a CVS receipt. (You will have plenty of room, right?)

Step 1: 10 21 19 blog post 4

Take the ballpoint, and with a very light touch, see how fine a line you can draw with it. Make it about 4-5 inches long if you like, nice and wobbly, and it’s fine if it has some breaks in it. It takes more muscle control than you might imagine, so don’t try too hard just yet. Then, little by little, in the next lines, press down a little harder each time until finally you draw a line that is the fattest line that pen can create. Voila! You now see that you don’t need a whole collection of pens to get different line weights.

Step 2:10 21 19 blog post 5

Go crazy! With your newly discovered skills, plant a field. Or at least the edge of a field. Practice flicking the pen, from grass root to grass tip, at various angles, You will make firm contact at the base of the blade of grass, and then as you flick, the pen will lift off the paper in a very attractive manner. Good job!

Step 3:10 21 19 blog post 6

Heavy Lifting. Now you get to build a stone wall, all by yourself as you sit in your comfy chair. First, lightly draw a horizontal line and then draw a series of wonky circles on top of the line, each circle touching the one next to it but not overlapping. (Remember to vary the amount of pressure you use, you’ll get an interesting line that way.)10 21 19 blog post 7After you have finished your first row, you can start stacking the next row of boulders, wonky shaped yet again, but in a way so that they fit together, somewhat, with the row below. Much easier to demonstrate than describe in writing.

Now do these exercises again with the other pen, making sure it is water-soluble. (If you want to buy a pen just for this, try a Pilot G-2 Bold (10) or a PaperMate Flair.)

Step 4:

This is the really fun part, but you need just one more piece of equipment. Any small watercolor brush dipped in water will do, but in a real pinch you might try a cotton swab that you have dipped in water and pinched into a bit of a point. Now, look at the stone wall you built with the water-soluble pen. Think of where the shadows would be: along the bottom of the rocks and along the ground. Now gently touch the lower edge of each rock with the very tip of your brush or q-tip, and see what happens. 10 21 19 blog post 8Voila #2, you have created the illusion of depth, of three dimensions. Add a few blades of grass (i.e. pen flicks) in front of your stone wall, along the ground, and you have created your first utterly credible spontaneous drawing without even intending to do so!

So here’s the P.A.U.S.E.

Pay Attention: When you sit down to sketch, do yourself a favor and spend as long as you like simply sitting with your sketchbook in your lap, just scanning your surroundings and waiting to see what makes you smile. Then…

Use Space: Zero in, zoom in, so your subject matter is something you can wrap your arms around. I mean literally. No panoramas because you’ll get lost. How about a carrot.10 21 19 blog 8Or a piece of lettuce. Or curly kale if you really want to get wacky. Avoid man-made, symmetrical objects like a vase or a coffee mug because your Inner Critic will have a field day. Organic things are much more forgiving, and if you pick a fruit or vegetable, when you are finished drawing you can ‘kill the model’ and have it for dinner so no one is the wiser. And finally, by far the most important instruction is…

Enjoy. That is the one and only reason to do this. Who needs another way to pick on oneself? Nobody I know. Your sketchbook is a place to explore what your eyes are enjoying. You will discover that whereas photographers just look at the scenes in front of them, you, lucky you, get to look at that AND watch as a brand new, never-existed-before image is developing before your very eyes. It is your Line Dance of the Day. You get to watch your pen dance across the page, make some moves on its own that came as a shock to you, and you get to love it all. There are no warts, just beauty.

And tomorrow we get to P.A.U.S.E. all over again. Lucky us, right??

Pay Attention. Use Space. Enjoy.  10 21 19 blog 9

About Bobbie Herron

I live surrounded by watercolor brushes and paints, fountain pens, sketchbooks, and journals- often wanting more than anything to write and paint at the same time. If you like what you're reading, feel free to share it with others. If you see something that needs correction, please let me know. Thanks for visiting!
This entry was posted in 1- Nuts: Graphic Styles, Pen & Ink, Sketchbooks, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity), Watercolor. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to It’s all about the P.A.U.S.E.

  1. Bobbie this is pure gold. The “nice and wobbly lines” the little flicks, the wobbly circles, a little water – bingo! Totally believable dry-stone wall at the edge of a field on a sunny day. And all those people who believed they couldn’t draw are staring wide-eyed and smiling at their sketchbook murmuring, “Well Look At That!”. 😀 Nailed it. 😊👍🏻🏆👩🏼‍🎨👩🏻‍🎓

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jean says:



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