My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Due in part to yesterday's comic-drawing frenzy, I started musing in my journal about how often it is that you find yourself unable to draw even the simplest things; things you might look at a hundred times a day. It's partly that old truism (which I first came across via Danny Gregory), that you can really only know things after you've drawn them. Before this fact, what you draw is more likely to be your mind's image of the object: Coffee Cup, Bus, etc. By looking long and hard at something and drawing it specifically, you notice all the particulars that make it unique. Fine. Plenty of validity to Gregory's slow-as-snails contour practices.
But having done a fair amount of these observational sketches, what I keep being struck by is how unnatural each one feels (and looks) after the fact. The lines are always fractured and broken, there is either too much detail or not enough, and it reeks of trying overly hard to render exactly what I'm seeing in precise detail rather than making, well, a drawing of it. But maybe this is part of the exercise? (Ashley, I'm looking to you here).
My eye then wandered over my various notes to myself, and I realized that one thing I am totally comfortable with is my handwriting.
When we're young we're taught how to write cursive and to cultivate 'good' handwriting, and this stays or wears off to varying degrees as years pass. For my part, I went through a very clean handwriting phase, then went off the deep end in the other direction, filling notebooks with completely illegible (I'm talkin' like a heartscan) scribbles. Now I look back at my journals from the past several months, and see that my handwriting has settled into a style that I very much approve of. It's messy and occasionally still illegible, but it's very me. It has it's own character and eccentricities. After all this time, I've found my proper expression with it.
This got me thinking: how do you achieve such a thing in other forms? In my sketches, I still lack any kind of identity. Same thing with songwriting. In both fields I find it much easier to create pieces that imitate someone else than try my own thing (as I may have written prior, each of my FAWM songs was a direct attempt to be like a specific artist), under the premise that through imitation, eventually your own style shines through.

I offer up the following sketches that I did this evening as examples of this dilemma.

The Doubtful Guest

Cat and Girl

Pintsize (from Questionable Content)

My hand can imitate these styles, but I know that none of them are my own, per se. So what does it take? I know the only real answer is that long, hard road of daily practice. But lordy, those contour sketches can really get a boy down. What say you, friends?


  1. I am sorry that you have such a dilemma in dealing with your beautifully rendered drawings. There is much value in studying and imitating the work of others when formulating your own style. It teaches you the physical skills and gives you the tools to build up a visual vocabulary of your own. I also like the juxtaposition of your drawings from yesterday, which are, like your handwriting, so YOU, and those from today, which are also you, but you in relation to other artists. It is all part of the dialogue. To these other artists, it is a great compliment that you are using their work in your study. In relation to writing, is not the best compliment to be quoted? Imitation is a great form of flattery. You know the answer, but i will tell you anyway: just keep practicing.

    and now, a quote to sum things up:

    "I see a flower. It gives me a sensation of the beautiful. I wish to paint it. And as soon as I wish to paint it I see the whole subject - flower - changed. It is now an art problem to resolve."

    ~Georges Vantongerloo

  2. I think you have to make it part of your daily life, to the degree that handwriting is part of your daily life, and then your own style will start to develop. I don't think there are any shortcuts. But it will be easier if you can learn to value where you are, instead of continually asking "Are we there yet?"

  3. I don't know about the whole style thing. There's just so much scary commitment in choosing a style.

    If there's a key at all I think it would be just doing things. Just massive amounts of output.

    And not being afraid of failure or drawing things that end up looking shitty.

  4. I can talk about this for hours, but I’ll try to sum it up:

    Solid fundamentals + spontaneity = an appealing drawing.

    Practice a lot, then practice much, much more. The more you do, and the more artists you study from, the more you will have in your arsenal in which to express yourself with.

    Everyone, especially easy writer, said it well.

  5. I love that you're writing about this. I always learn so much from your experiments in dedication and motivation.

    Sorry that you've been under the weather. Hopefully, we will see you soon. It's been way, way too long.