Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

Lessons From A Year of Drawing

Biiiig pile!

This year I drew! A LOT! in September of 2022 I committed to drawing daily and learning some technique. This year I stuck with it, finding time everyday to sketch.

A year ago, it was life changing to be making music regularly - having a new voice to express through. I realized that you don't have to have "The Gift" to compose. You just... do it!

Same has been true for drawing, and it's been equally life changing!

first sketches

A Space to Nurture Intuition

With music, I've always been learning to listen, but composing and improvising taught me to listen to intuition. The same thing has happened through drawing. I've been really intentional about making time to just doodle everyday. Not worrying about the end result, I just wanted to have an idea and get it out the page.

Being able to do that with drawing is a game changer – to see an image and then at least have a rough idea of it on the page is like nothing else!

I have to say, music writing is fantastic because it expresses what otherwise is really difficult to express. It's almost other worldly.

Art is thrilling, because it can capture things that do exist. Or things that could exist - in a vocabulary that's part of the daily vernacular: shapes and color.

Once you know the building blocks - anatomy, spheres, boxes, cylinders - and you can build with that, the real fun comes with drawing something that isn't in front of you. True invention, and it can be accomplished in just a minute if it's a sketch.

Pair of Pears

Learning to See and Loving How You See

Even when drawing from reference, especially drawing people, there's something so satisfying about capturing life, just from moving the pencil across the page.

Miranda and I spent a few nights this year throwing reference images up on the screen and drawing together. Miranda took some art classes in school, and has art parents for parents, so there's a little more technique for her to work with. But the most stunning thing about drawing alongside her is what she sees and what comes through in her drawings.

If we put aside the difference in technique and experience, my drawings are largely contour and shape driven, while Miranda's are tonal and value driven.

I love that contrast! Not to say that we won't incorporate either in our own drawings, but it's stunning to me that Miranda's eyes are so highly attuned to the way light and shadow play in an eye or on a still life. These are details I simple gloss over typically.

And all the while, when I look at drawings I admire, I find shape and line very exciting! I'm interested in the directionality and energy of motion.

Whichever the focus, drawing is a way of slowing down and paying attention to what's in front of you. It's a way of celebrating life and soaking in the details.

Even more so, as our comparison demonstrates, drawing is a celebration of how you see. This is inherent even in figure drawing, where you're commonly advised to "push the gesture" beyond the reference, exaggerating a stretch, bend, or twist to further capture the spirit of a pose.

Almost more interesting than the subject to me is how people can see the same references and chose to highlight different qualities in the image.

Keeping It Light

Once I started learning some technique, one of the biggest challenges in my drawing was to take time to just doodle. To essentially "improv" on the page.

When I got started, I could do it all day. And some of my first posts show that I had no trouble here, no matter the result!

first sketches

But once you start learning about right and wrong, good and bad, staying loose gets tricky. Yet, it's essential — for experimentation, for practice, and most importantly for me, for keeping it fun!

Later on

Two things helped: Exposure therapy and automatic drawing. Forcing myself to draw no matter the result helped me realize that nobody died if I quietly drew something poorly in my sketchbook, never to be seen by anyone (shocking, I know!) And, on the days where coming up with anything to draw was challenge, falling back on automatic drawing helped me reset the bar down low. On those days, usually something more solid formed, like flowers or an idea for a character drawing.

So Yeah

I kind of love drawing now! I'm excited to keep exploring.

A women saw me doodling a couple months ago and payed me the kindness of a compliment, followed with "That's so impressive, and looks really hard!"

I told her what I'm so excited to tell anyone who will listen: Anyone can do this.

If a guy like me, who's just been goofing around on this for a year, can draw and reap a lifetime of satisfaction from it – so can you!