Jeni On Drawing 11- Drawing on Imagination
A question that I am often asked is “how do you get ideas for your paintings? You must have a really good imagination!”. The answer is that yes, I DO have a pretty wild and boundless imagination, but I don’t work ‘from imagination’. I work from observation, from things I see around me.
I find it interesting that when I ‘make up’ figures for my rare forays into illustration, I do what everyone else does and I draw symbolic figures. Mine might be a little more sophisticated than those by people who haven’t spent the last few decades studying the human form, but they still come out ‘cartooney’. These pictures are from a book I illustrated some time ago “Discover Undersea Malta” * It was a great project, and it took a lot of research to get the details correct. My biggest problem was trying to draw people with snorkel masks on though. My poor daughter was roped in to pose for me wearing a mask while she watched TV so that I could sketch her from various angles! Thank you Bianca!
In my drawing courses the first exercise I give people is to draw three things before I tell them anything at all. This is so that they can compare their drawings at the beginning and end of the first class and see how different their lines, approach and feelings are. Their initial drawing of a figure is a symbolic one. All we can do is pull up our stored left-brain image of a person. It is often exactly the same as it was drawn as a teenager. We all remember writing our names over and over again in our teens, practising our signatures until we came up with an ‘image’ that felt right. In the same way, we build up a set of symbolic images to represent things we see around us. Unless we are artistically ‘gifted’, or shown how to see three dimensional space in an abstract sense, these symbols will pop up every time we are asked to draw anything. So people will automatically revert to lollipop trees and suns with stick-rays, and funny little figures……. and they usually say, wistfully, ‘I can’t draw’.
I can’t make anyone into an instant ‘Artist’. That takes time, study, creativity (which can also be cultivated) and determination. But I have proven over and over again that 99% of people prepared to be shown how to ’see’ differently can improve their drawing skills dramatically in a very short time.
I draw in waiting rooms, airports, buses, trains, lectures…… drawing the world around you connects you to life in a completely different and dynamic way – and there is no need to ever be bored again!
*published by Publishers Enterprise Group (PEG) Ltd. in 2000