slow down

When you start feeling overwhelmed with something you’re drawing or painting, you need to slow down and pace yourself. Every step of the procedure has to be deliberate and in the moment. From the beginning of opening up your sketch book, to grabbing a pencil, you must do it with a sense of presence and give each step your awareness and time, for no one step is more important than the other.

Nothing breaks focus faster than trying to rush through something with a sense of trying to get it ‘done perfectly’. Achievement is great, we all strive to be better, but sometimes we just want to create a finished piece just to stroke our ego or upload it to the internet for praise or approval. Because that’s what we think will make us feel complete in the long run. Sure those ‘likes’ are nice, but you have to remember the ego is never satisfied because it always wants more.

Ever upload something, have a good response, felt warm and fuzzy on the inside and then have that feeling dissipate and then have you back to where you started emotionally? It never ends, that feeling is temporary and if you strive for it then it paralyzes your ability to be creative and productive. Don’t chase the carrot.

figure 2

Charcoal on newsprint life drawing, 20 minutes

Being slow doesn’t necessarily mean working slow. You can work fast and be in the present moment as well by having you slowing down your mind

As you should be for quick gesture sketches. Sometimes you’ll find that your 30 second to 1 minute gesture drawings have more ‘life’ to them when you’re at the stage of doing gesture drawings for the sake of the process. As Sargent would say ‘make haste slowly’, meaning working with speed but in a state of awareness. Your haste could be different to mine and different to Sargent’s, but you make it slowly with what your mind has to say.

I see people doing gesture drawings with a sense of trying to ‘complete’ the figure. Sure they’re working slow, but by the end of it, all they have down is a face and a few features. Because their mind was working too fast, trying to get to an end goal of getting the drawing ‘just right’.

When you do a quick gesture drawing, the aim is not to look back on your work and commend or fail yourself on how it turned out, but to be completely process orientated by expressing the lines and action of the figure before you with a disconnect to the ‘final’ piece.

For warming up I like to do a few 30 second figure poses without even looking at the paper, and throwing it out when I’m done. This exercise helps me loosen up and reaffirm my mindset to be process orientated and to not rely completely on the outcome of the drawing.


30 second gesture sketches from life

Notice your mood when you’re not feeling up to draw or you can’t get any ideas out, or you just can’t focus

Artist’s block is a symptom of trying to get from A to Z as quickly as possible. Its because you’re too focused on the end result, which paralyses you.

Even as I try to write these blogs out, I have feelings of doubt and question myself. ‘Is this good enough?’ ‘Are people going to get value and help from this or am I just pissing in the wind’ ‘I’m not even a writer’. That’s because I’m focusing too much on the outcome. My intention and aim are off, and I’m thinking too much about achievement rather than process. My goal is to write to myself and to others about mindsets on the practice of art, despite me not having any previous blogging experience. Just because I’m not a ‘writer’ per se, doesn’t make my story any less true or of lower value.

These posts are here to help me as well, because I too still need to remind myself of these principles because I stray off course. Everyone does and that’s okay. As soon as I start projecting my idealized future self and comparing myself to others, trying to get traffic, etc, my creativity and drive diminish. Similarly, that’s what happens when you’re staring at a blank piece of paper. Your mind starts wondering about to other places or artists rather than the ‘now’. You lose that child like naivety of experimenting in the process and not worrying about how it will turn out.

figure 1

1 minute gesture sketches from life

Be clear on what you want to work on and give your complete awareness and attention to it with no finish line

Forget about the story of the turtle and the hare. There is no race, no finish line. With art, you’ll never get to a point of completion in regards to your skills and abilities. Be completely comfortable on where you are right now in terms of your skills and know that each stage you go through has to happen in order for you to improve.

Focus on something today that you’re ‘not good at’. Is it drawing the face? The figure? Tonal Value? Pick something and work on that for just 15 minutes, and nothing else. If its something you’ve been avoiding because you feel you aren’t good enough in it then it might feel painful. Work through that resistance as you would be working through a set of resistance exercise. Working against it will only strengthen the proactive muscle.

Set up a timer, tell yourself you’ll only work on it for the allotted time and you will turn off all judgement of the drawing in this time, and then you can go ‘back’ to judging after your time is up.

Emotional intelligence

Frustration and impatience are you not being happy or accepting of your current level. Of which you think if only you got to a certain level, then things would be okay. Getting better takes time; do you want to be in this state for months or years of feeling inadequate. It’s torturous.

It’s also being a slave to your emotions and acting on them, or in this case, procrastinating and not getting work done. Your emotions will always fluctuate and if you base your practice on them, then you taking action will always fluctuate. You will be inconsistent in your practice for days at time and not make any progress. Even at your lowest low in terms of your state, take the action, the smallest one possible, like just opening up your sketchbook and then see how trans-formative being in the process really is.

Learn to praise the process and be comfortable where you are now and know that you will improve if you are putting diligent and focused effort every day.


If you’ve liked what you’ve read, please share, comment, follow and help me spread the message to other artists and creatives  who are facing the same obstacles



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