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2022 January Jade Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing of a Jade plant

Happy 2022!

The month of January can feel bleak, but the contrasts between architecture and leafless trees against winter skies can be a dramatic scene to sketch. The other day, the mother of a delightful and sensitive student of mine reminded me of how our colorful Colorado light is an artistic gift. So, I took that to heart, and took the pressure to start this nothly art blog. In order to find the light (which can actually be pretty washed out here), look at the shadows. This time of year we have a lot of negative space, a design treasure. The below activity plays on positive and negative space in an exagerated, but helpful way. 

Looking out your window, you may see roof tops, or look up at trees or at a pasteural field. Depending on where you live, you may stare out at a brick building with windows, or just a blank wall. I've become bored with our view, which is nice, but still with sort of cookie-cutter suburban-esque pseudo-perfection. We're close to wildlife; there are beavers living in Westerly Creek just a hop, a skip andjump away from our home. Our direct neighbors are so kind, responsible successful and fun professionals, and our rabbi! The entire neighborhood is comprised of many healthcare workers, because of our proximity to a conglomerate of medical facilities, as well as IT people and lawyers, and  as Denver's positive, socially responsible, fun and ambitioius (and very many times aggressive) collection of fitness-obsessed (and styled) Colorado transplants and natives.

So, with everything since before the pandemic, and during the coronavirus, I yearn for a view with either nature or urban interest, but I'm caught in-between, in uninspired artistic purgatory. Don't get me wrong, my neighborhood, now called Central Park (previously known as "Stapleton", named after the airport which once stood on this ground, after the indigenous people and buffalo/bison roamed here. But from the beginning, many wonderful advocates warned that the namesake was also a former KKK member. Our community, rebuilt in 2004 on the old Stapleton International Airport, using the airport runway to rebuild vast walkways, llined by fields of native grasses. Every architectural style from Georgian to Gothic Revival to Prairie to many Modern. Several  "town centers", with bauhaus-inspired office and retail spaces, with urban-style apartments upstairs with gtass and cement ampitheaters that have giant yoga festivals and movie/theater performances. They mix condos and duplexes with mcmansions, so there's an inclusive feel... but not really so much... There are enormous public art projects, responsibly and sustainably envisioned by the best landscape architects, and visionaries to create a famil- friendl y utopia full of Karens and anti-Karens. Grant-rwriting galore creates programs for all, and innovative businesses, restaurants and a train ride away from downtown denver and the newer DIA (Denver International Airport) with and rebuilt aviator factories with hipster shopping which now has many of Denver's best schools and pools in a regenerated park-like neighborhood sandwhiched between Denver and Aurora, COis wonderful, and as my sister-in-law called it a "social experiment" when we first moved here in 2011 I know, wah wah, poor me! I literally have nothing to complain about in my privileged hood, but I even crave urban decay and buildings and people who don't all look like Lulu Lemon models. But I'm grateful to have a roof over my head, water, heat, etc. etc.

Whatever your view, try this classic drawing activity, which will sharpen your skills. Or, it may be something inside your flat. A big part of drawing or sketching is looking! This is a wonderfully meditative activity, which will relax you and you may really like the result. This will eliminate perfectionism, and the goal is the opposite of accuracy and logic, but seeing and creating from the "right side" of the brain. Sometimes, these imperfect drawings are the best ever. 

fWhen I get stuck with a part of a drawing or painting, and ask, "how do I do this part?" I'll resort to this practice, and it seems to do the trick. This is called a "blind" contour, because it's important not to look at your drawing. Looking at your drawing causes scrutiny, erasing, and logic. It should actually be about looking and seeing each bump, and not thinking about what you're drawing, but how the curves/contours look. It's solving a problem, and that's part of what the right side of the brain does--that's creativity!

Blind Contour Drawing:

Step 1: Find an object with a lot of curves (Ie. your hand--relaxed/not opened up; a tree; a curvy plant; a still animal; a human--including you! If you're fortunate enough to live where the buildings have architectural intersest and swirls, go for it. Here in most of CO, other than the gorgeous Victorian buildings, we have a lot of straight lines in our architecture. A lot of Denver gorgous, and has a mining, wild west, industrial vibe). 

Step 2: Get a pencil and paper (nothing fancy)

Step 3: Start drawing the object from top to bottom. Remember not to look at your paper, but only at the object. "Trace" each hump and bump--the outline/contour--without thinking, but simply looking. Slowly draw each line until you finish the whole object

Step 4: If you'd like, go ahead and look at your picture to regroup and get your pencil repositioned. You'll notice the proportions are a bit absurd, and sometimes, you've drawn off the paper completely. At times thoru

Step 5: Do this whenever possible, whether for one minute, or 20 minute drawings. When I get stuck on certain pieces (especially portraits), I'll resort to the blind contour. Regular contour drawings can be fun and helpful as well, when you are allowed to look at your paper, while focusing mostly on the contours of the object. 

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