100 lessons from 100 drawings


“Life imitates art” but art imitates life too.

(I read that as ‘art irritates life’ just now. Also true) 

 

100 daily drawings taught me a lot more about drawing, more than I realised I didn’t know. Drawing techniques, practicalities, possibilities, and all that comes along with steady daily practice.

But there seemed to be bigger lessons showing up as well.

These were observations I heard over and over again in my thoughts, page after page. Of course many of these revelations aren’t really about drawing. They are about everything.

In no particular order, these are the top 100 realisations that accompanied this project.

  1. It’s been an exercise in letting go of expectations, of ideal outcomes, and the accompanying paralysis of progress.
  2. I’m learning to let go of ‘finished looking’  – being finished – being a ‘piece of art’ (whatever that might be).
  3. Letting go of what other folks think, a neediness for approval or validation.
  4. Letting go of the rules. This is my book: my rules. Rule 1: there are no rules.
  5. ‘Drawing every day’ isn’t even a rule.
  6. Drawing for 100 days doesn’t mean 100 consecutive days.  Don’t make up excuses to stop. Pick up and start again. Keep doing this. Just get to 100. 
  7. The photo is only a guide, a suggestion, a jumping off point. This isn’t an exercise in copying. A drawing can’t be wrong.
  8. It doesn’t have to have the same colors, same shape, same perspective.
  9. It doesn’t have to be the same every day – the same time, the same ‘style’, the same anything. Just another day, another page, another drawing. Keep exploring the other-ness
  10. Some days have a flow to them – some days have an awkwardness – some days are fuelled by imagination – some days are an uphill slog.
  11. Some are bits of all of these and flit and flicker between.
  12. Some pages have words – information – data – facts – important-to-remembers.
  13. Some page’s words and rememberings are from another day and don’t make sense any more. And that’s okay.
  14. Some days are unfinished. They will stay that way. I don’t have to go back. (there is no real ‘finished’).
  15. Some days get lost and forgotten.
  16. Some days are just made for catch ups.
  17. Some catch ups are liberating – rejuvenating – expansive – explosions of imagination.
  18. Some catch ups are uncomfortable and riddled with angst.
  19. Some catch ups are a cold hard slog and bring up all the WHY???s


  20. Sometimes it feels like a trajectory that cannot fail.
  21. Sometimes it feels like losing footing – in slow motion – in the dark.
  22. Sometimes it feels like treading water – waiting – waiting – waiting….
  23. Sometimes it feels like falling – sinking – drowning.
  24. Some drawings take on their own life with unseen meaning.
  25. Some drawings take on their own life with an energy that didn’t come from me.
  26. Some drawings have their own momentum – I watch them take shape with the curiosity of an outside observer.
  27. Some drawings just don’t care. I could learn the most from these.
  28. Some drawings have to be inched out slowly.
  29. Some drawings surprise me by the reactions they evoke from others.
  30. Some drawings surprise me by the feelings they evoke in me.
  31. Some drawings overwhelm, some disappoint, some pass unjudged.
  32. Some drawings have stories that let out secrets.
  33. Some drawings are stories that hide more than they reveal.
  34. Some stories are universal, everyone recognises a little bit of it in themselves.
  35. Some stories are so deep they are unfathomable.

  36. Some projects are way larger than the sum of their parts. This is certainly one of them.
  37. Some projects are a stepping stone to a place I never knew existed before I started.
  38. Some projects are meant to be finite. Done is done.
  39. Some projects are meant to be repeated – reiterated – revisited.
  40. Some projects are not supposed to be finished. They hang….
  41. Some projects are so deeply enmeshed in a life, we are one and the same.
  42. Some projects are fun to watch – to join – to play along.
  43. Some projects never escape the confines of my mind, jammed up in the mechanism of the mental rotadex.
  44. Sometimes the purpose will shift and change midway through. Over and over. The act of shifting becomes the purpose.
  45. Sometimes the purpose won’t show itself until long after it’s over.
  46. Sometimes the purpose is only clear to others.
  47. Sometimes the purpose is only clear to me – and that’s all that matters.
  48. Sometimes the purpose is unique to everyone who witnesses it.
  49. Sometimes the purpose is unique to the season – or to the day.
  50. Sometimes the way it seems, is the way it is. Sometimes it’s not been close.
  51. Sometimes the way it seems is only a clue. It’s a seed, or a plan, or part of a bigger pattern.
  52. The more I look for patterns the more I see them.
  53. Patterns can be visual, patterns can be habitual, patterns repeat.
  54. Patterns within patterns fascinate me most.
  55. It’s ok to get stuck in one color for a while, the other colors will wait.
  56. It’s ok to use all the colors – or none of them – or not care which.
  57. It’ll never be finished, so keep moving forwards. 
  58. It’ll never be perfect, don’t ask it to be.
  59. This might not answer the questions you thought it would.
  60. This might not answer any questions. It might lead to more questions…
  61. This might have no meaning at all – right now – or ever. And that’s okay too.
  62. If a meaning wants to show itself to you, it will find a way.
  63. Whatever is underneath, showing through, is part of what is now. Let all the elements become parts of the whole. Allow the merge.
  64. Describe the drawing in words –  this is where the metaphors hide.
  65. Describe the drawing out loud,  it’s subtly different.
  66. Shift the emphasis foreground to background, positive to negative space. Dance in between them.
  67. Choose which details to use, which details to ignore, and which to make up.
  68. Choose the image from within the image.
  69. Find the art inside the photo.

  70. Notice how some images repeat, return and revisit.
  71. Notice how some characters keep showing up.
  72. Notice how some character’s expressions are the same: the face that asks: you still trying to draw me?
  73. Notice how color schemes repeat.
  74. Notice the themes of facing pages match unconsciously.
  75. Notice how time concertinas in and out when you count the days.
  76. Notice how the seemingly simple is really complex. And how the complex can be divided into manageable size bites.
  77. How complexity presents a challenge, then the victory, the good enough level of mastery.
  78. Balancing good enough against keep trying.
  79. Knowing when to stop, knowing when to keep going.
  80. How it’s all a freaking metaphor (and that’s all of these too).
  81. The bravery to pursue a doomed drawing, to trust it to turn around and turn out good, or just okay.
  82. The bravery to post a picture I didn’t like, and the ones I did.
  83. The bravery of sending these out into the wilds of the internet. It can be cold out there.
  84. The revelation that others might like what I didn’t, see a beauty I can’t.
  85. The revelation of turning the page, not looking back for a few weeks. How what’s on the page ‘gets better’ when it’s left to rest.
  86. The revelation of drawings I hated, that hold no strong feelings now. And drawings I loved.


  87. How much a background wash or splot of paint makes adds to a drawing.
  88. How much a patch of color shifts a mood.
  89. How much the character of the drawing is from the colors.
  90. How much a drawing style develops over time, but can’t be seen from such close quarters or day to day.
  91. How much a drawing style develops through simple repetition.
  92. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. How much simple repetition is the key to it all. 😉
  93. How ideas will hide and evade when called for, then descend en masse when it’s too late (and how it’s never really too late).
  94. How some ways of making are so ingrained I don’t know there are other ways.
  95. How chasing the other ways is part of the learning.
  96. How finding other ways leads to new kinds of learning.
  97. There are always going to be new ways of learning!
  98. The journey is a spiral. The path isn’t re-trodden, next loop around looks familiar, but the view has altered.
  99. The journey keeps going. Keeps going.
  100. The mixed emotions at the end of a project, the end of an adventure, the intangible closure.

 


Catch more of my musing and artings in my monthly-ish newsletter delivered right to your inbox: clickety-hop aboard my email list right here.

(and I’ll send you my ebook A Year full of Color as a thank you for joining)

YearFullOfColorbyPennGregoryR2017_Page_01

Your email is utterly safe to me. It will be wrapped up snug and nestled with a hot water bottle & a kitten until the spring arrives.   

stream of consciousness


I’m so enjoying this book, it’s a book without rules or boundaries.

IMG_7238

Previous art journals have always had a Reason

IMG_7239

Or arbitrary parameters to guide the content.

IMG_7246

Often it was based around a time frame: a page a day , a colour a month, a spread a week

IMG_7247

But this book is finding its own natural rhythm.

IMG_7250

It started a few weeks ago and seems to be averaging a page every 2-3 days.

IMG_7245.JPG

I date them, but that’s really just for me-in-the-future to look back and reflect on if she so wishes.

IMG_7252Only things going on here are a bit of a brain bump, whatever colours, media and materials that are to hand, some words I hear, some images I find.

It’s all a stream of consciousness.

the ‘because’ of art journaling


 

I’ve got old journals – the ‘dear diary’ variety – dating back over decades. Of no interest to anyone but occasionally me, I see what me-in-the-past was up to on this day however-many years ago.

At art school I began to keep sketchbooks, filled it with thoughts and plans, doodles and scraps. Mainly visual references and test grounds for techniques and materials. And they’re as rich in memories to me as the purely wordy versions that preceded them.

Last year I experimented with Julia Cameron’s morning pages in an on-again/off-again fashion. Not every morning has the space to accommodate all those words, but a bigger block is that part of me resented the paper it required for long, one-way streams of consciousness that I shouldn’t want to revisit. And the thought of scrawling longhand every last niggle and fuss didn’t sit comfortably either. I get the ‘better out than in’ motive. But I didn’t want to hold volumes of this in my life thought; that seemed to be merely displacing it from my head to another place of permanence.

 

Three things about things I do in books.
Without much connection beyond my voracious consumption of stationery.

Until I read this blog post by Deanna Jinjoe where she speaks of the power of transformation in burying words, thoughts, sentiments into the soul of our art we can transform them into a new beauty.

So the art journal I’m working through now is starting to embody this essence. With traces of the therapeutic brain dumps that keep my mind clear, intertwined with the doodles and splatterings of colour that keep my spirit buoyant.

a nest of nests (44/52)


As this week progressed I was listening to the audio book version of Tim Ferriss’ 4 hour work week. IMG_6125

His finely tuned systematized out-sourcing structure is a few bounds further than I will stretch, but I’m finding  workable elements to feel more productive before they even manifest out of the theoretical.

IMG_6124

One rule is ‘Don’t multi-task’

This is a truth I already get.

It’s just a way to do more than one thing simultaneously, less efficiently, with added confusion, and slower. And don’t get me started on all the associated women vs men BS.)

I totally get the point of not multi-tasking

IMG_6123

So being reminded made me smile…

…as I witnessed my self simultaneously fail at several tasks, as my inner rebel will neither listen to her own advice, nor that of the instruction she’s currently agreeing with.

I mean – the whole audio book thing –  is surely a vehicle to enable the doing of too many things at once.

Sure I can read an actual book, I’d enjoy that. Oooh, but what if I could distractedly miss chunks of the content while concurrently doing just a few other things….

IMG_6122

Y’know, so long as you can appreciate the irony, and it makes you smile.

IMG_6121

On the theme of streamlining efficiency, being less time-wasteful. Bullet-journaling has bobbed up on my horizon a few times.

I’m a long time journaler, diary writer, and exhaustive lister. It’s the best kinda brain-dump, and as a bonus  I love to read over the thoughts of a previous me, comparing a today from another year, another era.

IMG_6105

I’m drawn toward bullet-journaling cos I find so many notes and lists are repeated in fragmented form over years. I can round them all up in one book, once and for all. Resisting beginning with a list of lists, this looks like it could be a solution.

IMG_6120

From the start of December I’m going to utilize a variation on this system. At the time of writing, I have over a week before it begins for proper, but I’ve already acquired a new notebook, noted some notes, listed some lists.

I’ll let you know how it pans out.

What the eye-fish?


It might look like I’ve been deliberately obtuse about the eye-fish thing
IMG_3617
What can I say, they appear in groups of three, and so far 2 of the 3 weeks of this new year’s book have hosted a set.
IMG_3655
Yeh, really, they aren’t eyes, they aren’t fish. Eyes and fish are quite different things, and tbh, this one looks like it’s sprouted backward facing legs with which to march, tail first into the unknown.

But that’s just my drawing style –  everything piled up on each other style. It’s really a trick of perspective. The eye-fish is, in actuality, some way off in the distance, and hugely bigger than the foreground scribbley yogini attempting to master Warrior 1 pose.

But if you know me at all, you’ll know, it’s not in my nature to be cryptic. So this is as baffling to me as it is to you.

Here are the facts as I understand them to be:

  • I draw what arrives in my head when I stop thinking.
  • Eye shape and fish shape are largely interchangable to me.
  • I think that thinking about the word Focus has had a bearing on my subconcious. (This doesn’t account for the fish)
  • They hang out in threes, cos having drawn the traditional arrangement of two, I have to (recent compulsion) add a third. I’ve been getting a lot of dreams involving third eyes (more on that another time).
  • The third eye is a thing. I didn’t make this up. It’s just not a literal viewing hole in the face (mostly anyhow)

So there we are, more info and less sense. It’s all a big brain-dump. Making sense is an improbable ask.