Two Lessons from a Week of Drawing

Black line drawing of 2 carrots and 1 onion

Motivation and Building a Habit

I’m more than half way through the Drawing August challenge now and it’s interesting to notice the things I’m figuring out about my drawing and about myself.

Joining this drawing group has given me the motivation to draw every day so far in August and I’ve found that I can usually do that, even on the days when I’ve felt quite tired.

It feels good to be slowly building a daily creative habit and I’m realising how drawing every day affects, and is affected by, my energy levels.

Slow Down and Don’t Panic

This week has taught me a couple of things about drawing and energy.

The first thing I’ve been reminded of is something I learned from Danny Gregory’s The Creative License. Even with small subjects like the vegetables that I drew on Monday, the details and textures can seem a bit overwhelming at first.

I remembered how Danny describes the tiny details on the surface of an object as ‘stepping stones’, tiny ‘landmarks’ for you to map, as you look at and really see what you’re drawing.


Black line drawing of a Moleskine notebook with elastic holding it closed

This helps me to slow down and really notice what it is that I’m drawing rather than what I think I can see.

It also helps to stave off the slight panic I feel when starting to draw certain things, which in turn, stops me from giving up and choosing a less complex subject.

Being Realistic

The second thing I’ve learned is that if I am going to complete one drawing each day this month then I have to be realistic about what I choose to draw.

On Tuesday I decided to go out to draw but instead ended up having a long walk and taking a couple of photographs to draw from when I got home.

Line drawing of Andrewes House balconies on the Barbican Estate

I was quite tired after the walk so it probably would have made sense to draw something small or simple to compensate for the huge amount of energy I’d used walking around.

Instead, I attempted quite a complex drawing using the photographs I’d taken and it took me over an hour to finish it. Just getting the basic shapes and lines down was quite tiring and the whole thing still felt like a rush so I didn’t feel like I’d done the drawing justice.

Black line drawing of an eye looking straight ahead

While it’s nice to draw complex things sometimes, it can be tiring. Even if your energy levels are a bit more reliable you might be short on time so it probably makes more sense for that kind of drawing to be an ongoing project, rather than something to squeeze into a spare 20 or 30 minutes.

Black line drawing of an open padlock

Drawing something smaller and simpler means that you can have the satisfaction of getting your drawing finished without running out of time or using up too much energy.

Black line drawing of the palm of a hand

I can usually draw the outline of a smaller or simpler object quite quickly and then I can choose whether or not to spend more time adding shading, texture or other fine detail.

Black line drawing of an ey looking down, behind frame of glasses

I’m hoping that, rather than pushing myself too much too often, I can use these things that I’m learning this month to help me build a regular creative habit that is sustainable.

7 thoughts on “Two Lessons from a Week of Drawing

  1. Milo Reply

    These are great! The hand in particular is very realistic, love the textures.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Thank you! I’m having good days and bad days with my drawings. Today was a very bad day but when I drew my hand on Saturday it was a drawing I got quite lost in for a while, which is usually a good sign. Thanks for popping over here :).

  2. Tamara Epps Reply

    I haven’t yet participated in a 30 day challenge, though I often think I want to try one at some point. I think that I would probably end up trying to do far too much, so for now I’m just focusing on trying to do a little something each day, and perhaps in the future try some challenges as obviously I don’t want to take on more than my health can manage just yet.

    Love looking at your drawings, as Milo says, the hand in particular is very impressive, but I also am really drawn to the padlock.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      I actually like the idea of a 365 project but have avoided them for the same reasons as you. This month has been quite tiring at times and I don’t know if it’s just due to the daily drawing or how I would have felt anyway but I’m heading into the home stretch now so hopefully I’ll manage it.

      In the past I’ve had a tendency to overdo things like this so I’m trying my hardest this time to scale down my drawings and keep things simple so I can avoid wearing myself out. I think you’re wise to hold off from signing up for a challenge if you’re not feeling up to it. I’ve found some short online courses that have been more gentle and allow you to participate at your own pace. I think maybe I should focus on that kind of thing in the future in preference to a ‘must do something every day’ kind of thing but, that said, I have enjoyed giving this a go :).

  3. marigold Reply

    Well done for keeping going and thank you for sharing your drawings. I’m enjoying seeing your work and it’s interesting to know what you are learning from it.

    Every time I do an “every day for a month” type challenge I (re)learn that every day challenges don’t suit me 🙂 . That said, I do think such challenges have their uses either to kick-start a habit or simply to give myself the sense of achievement when I complete them and I do one or two each year.

    Generally though I mostly do challenges of N days per week rather than every day and I keep them private until completed, because I feel less pressured that way.

    1. Cathryn Worrell Reply

      Thanks Marigold. I don’t think everyday challenges suit me all that well really but as you point out, it can be useful to kick start a habit. I certainly don’t think that a 365 project would be for me but a weekly or monthly one every now and again isn’t too bad.

      Like you, I usually aim to do certain things regularly, although not necessarily every day. It’s nice to have the motivation from a group doing the same thing as me but far less tiring to do things at my own, slightly steadier pace. 🙂

  4. […] I’ve also noticed that I’m developing a preference for the materials I use for this proj...

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