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Posts Tagged ‘drawing

Find Work Where You Can Draw Your Own Lines (Shop Talk #10)

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Color inside your own lines

I’ve had several conversations lately with people looking for ways to bring writing into the rest of their lives. Some want to make a living as writers. Others want to flesh out a particular passion that been dormant behind the demands of their day job.

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In each case I suggest drawing their own lines.

What I mean is to look for opportunities where you can define the problem yourself (or in collaboration with a few). When you define a problem yourself, you set the focus and you begin to take ownership. Then your brainpan starts spinning in a fresh orbit that lets you locate resources to help solve that problem. Defining the problem is a way of looking at the topic of your passion and finding what about it that excites you and where that might be a problem/solution for others. Inevitably you want to send your topic out so others can begin to care as well—or perhaps you send it out to find those other few who care.

Writing something is a way of drawing your own lines.

I know this from (literally) drawing lines of definition: over at Dumb Sketch Daily (currently at dumb sketch #152) I’ve been trying to learn to draw. I’ve found that an ink pen does a kind of definition work that my eye longs for. Sometimes I wonder if ink is a crutch: outlining before filling in detail with color or graphite. Do I really need those lines? But then I think

I don’t care.

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I’ve got your precious Brussels Sprouts right here.

Because there is something about the crisp line that yields a bit of loony joy. Yes, it is true, that line does not exist on the edge of my Brussels Sprouts. Not really.

Still.

Seeing something clearly feels worth that particular fiction.

What definition work will you do today?

Where will you draw lines?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

See also: “Can 78 bad sketches change your life?”

Written by kirkistan

June 1, 2015 at 9:41 am

Seeing may be the trickiest part of drawing

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Instinct and childhood definitions make poor interpreters of everyday life

Take this dumb sketch (Exhibit A). I made it while sitting in the lobby at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Those green trees? Utter fiction. Apart from a few pine trees, there is very little green in Minnesota right now. Green won’t even think about appearing for weeks.

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Exhibit A

Yet here we have green trees. I threw a dash of green there because trees are green. Except they weren’t green. They were brown. And scratchy and barren-looking. I commented to a drawing friend that my instinct said “green” from long use of my childhood definition of “tree.” And that slap of green was on before I even thought about it.

The gap between seeing and responding is the troublesome bit. If instinct drives my seeing, I miss pylons and electrical wires and gasoline tank farms and wireless telephone towers. All that industrial accretion I’ve seen one million times—all of it invisible. Even though it is really odd-looking stuff, jutting up into the sky at bizarre angles, like nothing in nature.

I don’t see people too: the clerk behind the counter. The janitor with the broom there, off to the side. I try to become practiced at not seeing the homeless man with his cardboard blessing at the end of the ramp. But that never works.

Mrs. Kirkistan and I volunteer at the Children’s Theater Company. It is simple duty: handing out programs. I was surprised this time by how invisible I became to children. Despite being squarely in their way so they must actively move around me to get into the theater. And when I verbally offer them a program, they twitch, suddenly surprised to see a human directly in front of them.

It’s not that I’m diminutive (I’m not). It’s because the entrance to the theater is awesome, like nothing a kid sees anywhere else. Walking through those double-doors into the dark red cavern with hundreds of seats stretching down and up into space and very strange objects akimbo on the stage—it’s hard for anyone to look away. All of that is purposeful on the part of the theater and adds to the experience.

It’s odd being invisible. And that makes me wonder how many people I miss in the course of ordinary life, simply because I have acted on instinct rather than actually believing the data from my eyes.

Instinct and childhood definitions are poor interpreters of everyday life.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Give Your People Presence

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Is Drawing a Spiritual Discipline?

Betty Edwards, in her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999) calls for a different way of seeing as a beginning point for drawing. In my 60+ days of producing a dumb sketch daily I can say with certainty that my seeing has been altered. I’m open to and actively looking for much more detail in ordinary life. In particular, in the back of my mind I spend my days looking for scenes or objects or people I can reproduce (badly) on paper. And I see far more detail in buildings and structures and postures and faces than I did two months ago.

Starting to see differently feels like a small victory.

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Edwards has a long section on brain functionality, how the left brain works versus the right brain. I have a growing skepticism about the neatness of those two categories. I think there is some truth in the distinction. And the distinction works well for release from our typical analytical state into a more meditative zone of creativity. I’ve long depended on that zone for more creative writing assignments. But the research citations feel a bit dated and frankly I’m always a bit skeptical of forced black and white interpretations of complex physiology.

But this notion of sitting with stillness before a scene to observe, capture and (potentially) understand—it feels like a life skill that could and should translate into all sorts of different settings. Slowing to see and hear has begun to awaken all sorts of new thoughts in my brainpan. I find the practice encroaching on normal conversations, on meetings, on writing, on driving and even as I pray.

Especially as I pray.

I cannot help but wonder if learning how to observe, capture and (potentially) understand is a step toward being more present with all the beings in our lives.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

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