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Notes from Vannotes: Drawing is Hard

I don't know if you have realized this fundamental truth of drawing, but it turns out that all the old masters were right: drawing is hard.


I've just purchased a real drawing board after working on a shoddily constructed drawing board that I had to plunk on my desk and it felt like a breath of fresh air. Yet still I struggle to get lines on paper and find myself running into old ghosts and the knowledge that some of my finer muscle movements are lost to overuse in college.


For those also struggling, here's a few of my tips for getting back into the artistic groove, that I should work on following better myself.


A person in their underwear reclines on a chair. The painting is colored green with blue and white as accents.
This piece was painted over three hours at the Catalyst Arts Collective.

1) Figure Drawing

I've recently been going to figure drawing classes that are held an hour away and finding myself filled with joy at grappling with the complexities of depicting the weight and eccentricities of the human body. Live drawing away from the desk is meditative and in this most recent session I went to, I even tried my hand at painting. While figure drawing I can feel my muscles relax, breath deepen, and mind focus on individual strokes rather than my troubles.


2) Don't View Other Artistic Endeavors as Detracting from Drawing

This is one of my great dangers. As a writer, as well as an artist, I often find myself treating the two aspects of creative life as hungry baby birds, vying for the same worm...which is my time...the metaphor's a little wonky. However my most holistic approach is often found when both are operating in conjunction or I allow myself the grace to pursue both without thought of the impact on the other.


3) Drawing Your Passions

I'm currently working on a series of drawings of Marvel Silver Age characters. I initially started it as an Inktober exercise, but fell off midway through October. I'll be launching into it again after the holidays, but returning to my happy place - the Kirby and Ditko drawn adventures of ridiculous costumed characters - has never failed to reinvigorate me. How can you not have fun drawing the bulky and goofy original Iron Man costume.


4) Drawing That Isn't "Drawing"

This is another area where I have to offer myself some grace. I often work in different modalities - painting, calligraphy, etc. - that I don't necessarily feel are "drawing," because they aren't penciled comic pages, finished in ink, colored, and bound in a comic book. Yet am I not constantly using these methods to produce other worthy creative outcomes. Reconciling the disconnect of thinking carefully rendered calligraphic strokes as worthy enterprise is another growing point for me.


5) Keeping an Unfinished Drawing on the Board

This one has mixed results as an unfinished drawing can present an insurmountable peak after a certain waiting period, yet I've found as a short term stimulation, this approach can keep momentum going once you've built some steam. Right now I have a half-way finished Black Panther drawing that keeps calling to me as I anxiously finish addressing my holiday cards.


If you too are struggling my dear fellow artist, know that you are not alone.
 
This time I'm actually reading the back matter.
What I'm Reading - League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

I remember trying to read this series as a teenager and being turned off by it's engagement with racist tropes and sexism. As a more discerning reader, I'm fascinated by how Moore seems cognizant of how vicious these stereotypes are, yet can't seem to keep himself from committing them to paper. It's a bizarre dance, that I can't come to a firm conclusion on. Now arriving at its finale The Tempest, the series has become clear as a series of experiments rather than a traditional narrative, seemingly aligning with the artistic direction of Jersusalem (which I haven't had the chance to read). When the books turn to prose it is DENSE, but I do find it ultimately enriching.


What I'm Watching - Playing It Straight

There is a level of homophobia in media that reaches such a majestic heaviness that you feel like you're in a sugar coma. That's exactly the feeling I experience while watching the short lived show Playing It Straight where The Bachelorette-esque lead is picking off homosexuals in succession so she can find true love? If you too enjoy witnessing atrocious early 2000s era homophobia, I thoroughly recommend this show.


What I'm Listening To - Nymphowars

How to describe Macy Rodman and Theda Hammel's whacky little podcast escapades? To be honest, nothing I type will capture the madcap improv/discussion/long haul trucker radio show that's emerged since the podcast's returned. Improvised segments that are initially cringeworthy become absolutely transcendent. I mean its impossible to describe how hilarious the transphobic ghost of Ann Dowd has become over the last few episodes, a character totally unhinged from reality.


What I'm Playing - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

To relax at the end of the day, I've been having a beer and playing 200cc Grand Prixes while listening to a podcast, letting my mind go blank and giving into the hypnotic lull of turns and blue shells. I'm not a fantastic Mario Kart player, but the rhythms are soothing and playing against the computer makes me feel better about zoning out than when I play Splatoon 3 on autopilot. Of the new courses in the latest DLC release, Merry Mountain, Peach Gardens, and Maple Treeway come away as the most charming or braintingling.

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