Sphere from Life & building confidence that your drawing will be okay

I’m finishing up charcoal studies with Anthony and found this early shot of my pretty rough lay-in for the Sphere from Life exercise. Nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but it doesn’t look great, either.

I remember thinking numerous times while working on this exercise that I would need to start it over, or that I’d picked something needlessly difficult to render. I wish I had more “in between” start/finished shots, because I know there were many times where it looked like a lost cause to me, and a drawing that just wasn’t going to come together the way I’d hoped it would.

An important thing I’ve learned mentoring with Tony is when it’s okay for a drawing you’re working on to look like ■■■■. The answer being, way more often than you’d think. Learning that you’ll be able to fix most things that go wrong and that it’ll all be okay if you have patience and put in the effort is half the battle.

Before I studied with Tony, I tended to give up on drawings that weren’t “working,” if they weren’t working within, like … a few hours of starting them. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to spend days or weeks taking the time to get something right. I figured if I couldn’t get it to look right within a few hours – or if it seemed like it was getting worse instead of better, as I continued working on it – then I should probably start over. “I just didn’t lay it in right,” or “I got too sloppy after a while,” or whatever I might tell myself. Why continue working on something I was clearly running into the ground and making worse?

The need for “a fresh start” is an impulse I empathize with and am tempted by a LOT, but it’s an impulse that can compromise meaningful, lasting progress. The experience of building a drawing (at least in this methodology) is rarely “it looks rough – it looks better – it looks good – it looks great – now I’m done!” It can work that way, but in my experience, it’s more the exception than the rule.

For me, it’s usually more like “it looks rough – it looks better – it looks worse – it looks okay – it looks better – it looks awful – it looks ok – it looks awful again and I’ve surely ruined it – it looks ok but not as good as before – it looks awful – it looks pretty good – it looks just ok – it looks a little better – …” – and then suddenly at some point you realize “hey … wait a second … I think it’s actually finished.”

It can feel like a bit of a magic trick that you accidentally pulled off, or like you’ve been climbing through some Escher-like maze of stairways, and suddenly find yourself at the actual top.

This applies especially to individual sections of a drawing you might work on, but also in a more general way to the whole project.

So push through with the exercises and be patient. They can take a lot of time to render well, but the biggest difficulty is usually not some deficiency on your part, but simply learning to accept that it’s okay for your drawing to look bad at many points along the way until it’s actually done.


Great post EE!!! Thank you so much for sharing this!!! :clap:t2::clap:t2::+1:t2::heart:

Very well said

One thing I do when I work on a piece is to notice anything that catches my eye when i glance at it quickly. To me it will either be something that is awesome and a focal point or you’ll notice it because something is wrong. Then I’ll go through all of my fundamentals knowledge and figure out what is wrong and why. then fix it. Most people don’t realize that it’s more important to learn how to ‘see’ as an artist.

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