My best artwork starts out with no intention, no particular goal. In this post, I’ll tell you how I use an intuitive process to create a lot of my whimsical characters so you can try it out yourself.
1. Start with a Scribble
Grab a crayon, a pencil, or a stick of charcoal and make a few broad scribbles on the page. If you’re having trouble making the first mark, use your non-dominant hand. That will silence your internal perfectionist so you can play freely. Yes, this is play. We’re not painting a Rembrandt.
2. Turn It On Its Side
In the case of Martian Man, I used a charcoal pencil to scribble on heavy paper and then grabbed my favourite colours of acrylic paints to fill in the oddly shaped sections — you can see those shapes behind the character. After a few minutes of applying random colours I rotated the paper to see if anything occurred to me. That’s when I began to see a couple of possibilities.
3. Make Up a Story
Remember when you were little — sofa pillows were imaginary rafts on a raging river and chairs were wild animals that snapped at your feet as you floated past. Maybe you wore a beach pail on your head as a helmet. Dust off your imagination as you peer into your scribbles. If you really can’t see anything of worth on the page, go find a four year old. They’ll find your story for you.
In my scribble I saw a face with a pointy head. Everything else evolved out of that initial spark. It’s a lot like staring at the sky and looking for shapes in the clouds (which, by the way, is sure to wake even the most stubbornly dormant imagination).
4. Dump Your Inner Critic
If you’re anything like me, there’s a critic sitting on your shoulder giving you very unhelpful advice. Like this:
That’s not very good.
You can’t draw.
That’s a stupid hand, nobody’s hand looks like that.
Flick that critic off your shoulder. Nothing good comes from that kind of self talk. It won’t improve your work — in fact, it could prevent you from ever starting.
In case you’re still telling yourself that you lack the skills to make a decent drawing, I want to share the story of a man who takes his children’s drawings with him on business trips and makes beautiful art from them. Even if you’ve seen this story before, look at it again — this time with your own drawing skills in mind. I’ve read his story many times and I keep learning how unimportant it is for me to start with a perfect drawing. I’ll put the article link at the bottom of this post.
5. Just Start
So? Open your hand and pick up a pencil. Or a pen, or a crayon, or an eyeliner stick. Make a mark, then another. Connect the two marks… and keep going. Now that you’re drawing, don’t stop.
Here’s that inspirational story I promised you. Can you see the before and after images? I hope you see the same thing I do: A child’s drawing of a bearded man becomes a warm and colourful Santa. The arms are mismatched, the hat is precariously balanced on a lop-sided head, but none of this detracts from the charm or worthiness of the art.
If you have a minute go read the article. The images will show you it really doesn’t matter how well you draw. Art doesn’t require genius or perfection and it can happen anywhere. Click the image to read the article on Bored Panda.