drawing of landscape in Fão (Portugal)
Fão, Portugal, 30.05.2020
drawing of landscape in Fão (Portugal)
Fão, Portugal, 30.05.2020

It is always a difficult decision to make in the iPad… with or without color. On one hand I love the linework. On the other hand, the color has this great capacity to group elements giving the image a more understandable look and feel.

There is a third option. To ignore the line and show the color alone. Like that we go to a more (also interesting) abstract expression.

I have a love/hate relationship with this characteristic of the digital media. This big amount of options to choose from. It sounds good, and it is, but on the other hand, it is much more easy to fall in that deep hole where there is no end for the artwork because of this feeling that all the options are still open for debate and reflexion.

It is more easy to put an end to things when I’m on paper or with other physical media. Less options, less undo, less going back, and this feeling that “I’m missing something that could make this even better”. Well, there is always something that could make something better… Something to think about.

Advice on drawing ordinary and uninspiring environments

A very common problem people have, when they start to draw, is about not seeing something they consider interesting enough to draw or something that could potentially result in a good drawing. I want to talk a little bit about this and I will start by mentioning the work of an American photographer that I like very much: William Eggleston.

drawing of Ofir, Portugal
Fão, Portugal, 28.02.2020

Eggleston photographed the mundane, ordinary, world. His everyday life. And he photographed not in B&W but color film. Those times, color photography was not being seen as an artistic media, comparing with black and white. In that sense, Eggleston was an important contributor to opening this door bringing color photography to the galleries and museums. But it is not just about using color. It is also about working with the everyday, ordinary and mundane life as a subject matter. If you don’t know his work already, I recommend you to do a little pause right now and take a look at his photographs.

Nowadays, this approach to photography, is not something unfamiliar. Take, for example, Instagram.

Eggleston was living in a very, very ordinary, mundane, American city. According to this documentary, one of those that no one really cares because, in its appearance, there is really nothing to see or appreciate. Although, in that environment, he did amazing photographs…

So, why I’m bringing Eggleston and his work to this discussion? Because I want to give you an example on how to approach an environment that you find ordinary and uninspiring. I want to show you that your environment doesn’t have to be boring and without interest. The point in here is that you are seeing it like that. The value of your surroundings is in the way you see it. Not in the things attached to themselves. Let me to suggest you an exercise. When you see yourself in a place without knowing what to draw because everything seems dull, boring and without interest, pick your phone and open the camera. Then, look your surroundings through the screen of your phone. Don’t take any pictures. The idea is to just use the camera to find interesting frames of the things around you. Go more close or more far away from an object or scene. Look around through the screen and I’m sure you will find nice frames of the things around you. Then, draw that specific view that you are seeing on the screen of your phone.

Stop seeing your environment as “ordinary” and “uninspiring”… because that is something in our heads. And there is another thing in here. Eggleston made his surroundings beautiful and interesting for a lot of people not just because of the subjects he was choosing but because of the technique he was using too. The images work because he shoot color and he was very interested in the printing process. He was printing his images with processes that made the colours pop. He wanted them very saturated. According to his point of view this is how they were beautiful and interesting.

What I want to say with this is: It is not just about choosing the subject matter. Personally, I would say that it is more about the way you draw and compose and not so much about the choice of the subject in itself. This is a very personal view… Some people see my drawings and they ask “how can you draw something that doesn’t have any interest so beautiful and nice?”… a lot it is about the way you draw it. The codes and rules of visual communication, the contrast, the composition, etc. More about this in the future…

So, one final advice. Keep experimenting with different materials. Eventually, of course, you will have a preference, but once in a while pick something new. It can be a new brush, a new pencil or pen, a new color, etc. but keep experimenting. You will be more excited and interested in the process of drawing and the final results.

5 tips on choosing the best sketchbook ever

There are so many sketchbooks out there! Cheap, expensive, with different kinds of paper, small, big, light, heavy, etc… What to buy?! Well, it depends. In this article I will share with you 5 tips on choosing the best sketchbook if you are starting out (well, I’m not starting out and It still is the best one for me!). If you prefer the video format, feel free to check this one on my youtube channel. If not, skip it and continue reading the article.

I will not talking about any particular brand but, instead, I’m focusing on 5 characteristics that I think are essential in the moment of buying a sketchbook for drawing.

First, the best sketchbook is the cheapest one you can find. Because you will draw much more without worrying about spending paper or feeling the pressure to do a good drawing. A Portuguese artist friend of mine once said “you have to loose the respect for the sketchbook”. And he is so right… you cannot respect your sketchbook. The more you do it, the less you will use it because you will be afraid. Afraid of waisting paper, afraid of doing a bad drawing, afraid of damaging it, etc. Stop it. You will not learn anything and your evolution will be extremely slow or, even worst, there will be no evolution at all. The sketchbook is for you to use and abuse freely. So, buy the cheapest one you can find. Remember, the more you draw, the more fast you will evolve.

Second, plain paper. You want it to be plain. Without lines or little watermarks, or whatever. You want a clean blank, plain, white piece of paper. Without any marks that can distract you or interfere with the decisions you make while drawing.

Third, the sketchbook should have a hardcover. There are a lot of advantages in this. The most important one is that the cover can give you support. Can work as a table. If you are drawing standing up, for example, you will hold the notebook with one hand and draw with the other. If the cover is hard, it is much more easy. Otherwise, the pages will bend as soon as you start putting the first marks on the paper.

Fourth, it should be little. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the drawing, the more detail you will have to put on it in order to make it look good. And you want to make a lot of drawings and not spend a lot of time with just one. So, my advice is: pick an A6 or A5 notebook. My favourites are the A6. They have just the right size for the drawings that I like to do. Big enough for 10/15 min drawings. When I go A5, I always spend more time in each drawing because of the detail I have to put on it in order for the final result to please me… This rule is not always like that. Of course I can make a big fast drawing on an 100x70cm piece of papel. But, if you are starting out, my advise is to keep it small.

Fifth and last tip: the sketchbook should open well. In the store, test it. Open the notebook in the middle and make sure it can open completely horizontal. You will treat the double page as if it is just one page. So, in order to do that, you can’t have the middle of the sketchbook bending the pages.

I hope this information can be useful for you. If you want to be notified of new blog posts, you can subscribe it via email or use the RSS feed. You have both options on the right side.

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