29 April 2000


YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique


In this issue:

1) Summer around the corner: good news for caricaturists
2) The heavy side of Drawing: dealing with frustration

Hi everybody,

Hope you're all having a great weekend! Can you believe it's almost May? We're almost a third of the way into the year 2000 - and in the northern hemisphere that means Summer is right around the corner. I have some unofficial, anecdotal studies that suggest summertime brings more work for caricaturists. Any of you out there have similar experience? There's all the school graduation parties, art fairs, back yard parties...maybe things like outdoor parties is a phenomenon of the more northern countries or states (or far southern - if you're south of the Equator). Tad B., Ohio - do you have any idea?

Ok, on with this weeks communique.

2) Frustrated? Quick review of the basics. I've had several emails recently that suggest to me some first time drawers are jumping way ahead in the lessons - and getting frustrated. I know the feeling - they're excited, they're enthusiastic and they want to see their drawings just take off. And then it's the old "hit the wall feeling". And that's when it's easy to beat yourself up and get discouraged: "I can't do this, I stink at this, why am I wasting my time?"

It's fine to jump ahead, but it's important to realize you're doing just that: jumping ahead. If you do get discouraged, get frustrated - take a break. Sometimes just leaving it alone for awhile gives your subconscious a chance to chew on all the new info. You'll know you're ready to get back to it in an hour, or a day, or a week. (Try to draw a little every week though or it will get tougher to get back to it.)


If you're so frustrated you want to rip up your drawings, or punch the wall, well then do what I used to do: rip up the drawings! (hitting the wall does NOT help - especially if it's your drawing hand...if you have to hit something, find a bean bag or a punching bag.) But if it helps, tear up those nasty pictures, crumple them up, jump up and down on them, stab the pad with your pencil, once I even road over a pad of paper with a neighbors rider lawn mower. Man that felt good! (It took me the next hour to rake up the yard though and my parents sure weren't happy with me...but I was grinning the whole time.)

Throw a tantrum!

It's ok to feel crappy - but it's also important to acknowledge you're feeling crappy. If you're going to throw a tantrum (like I used to) let people know this part of your technique - it's not them. And it's just a stage. It helps you get let off the steam. In a way it's a form of complaining too - and we're not allowed to complain these days.

Psychologist's call the stuffing of all these feelings "Post-modernist repression" or something like that. Maybe so. Whatever you call it, complaining's just not a sanctioned skill these days. I think people turn into chronic whiners when they're not allowed to get out what's bugging them in one clean, cathartic episode. They just hiss it out like a slow leak in tire.


Back a few thousand years, there were rituals for getting dealing with and getting rid of pain, for grieving, and for complaining. Funerals are ritualized grief. "Singing the blues" is a home grown, sanctioned, "post-modern" form of ritualized grief - complaining if you will. It works out that if you don't have a venue for venting, you get stuck. Find out what works for you. I hereby give you permission to complain, throw a tantrum, cry, get negative! - anything if it releases you from that grip and allows you to move on.

If drawing is something you've always wanted to do the stakes WILL be high when you first start. Why?

First, your own expectations might be too high - This (drawing) is something you identify with - you think of yourself on some level you're already an artist - you have all these pictures in your head of what you OUGHT to be drawing like. The frustration and pain come about when your first drawings don't match that pre-formed expectation.

By throwing a tantrum, or complaining, or for some, going for a jog or crying on someone's shoulder helps clean the slate. You get that over that hump of hurt. (And it does hurt. Is it gone forever? Usually not. But at least you know it won't saddle you down for long - next time you'll know how to side step it.)

You ARE an artist

But you know what? You ARE an artist. The fact that you have the desire is proof to me. You just haven't mastered the CRAFT. And it's the craft that takes some time.

Perception skills: the core

Learning to PERCEIVE as an artist - that's what you learn in the foundation lessons - that's at the core of both the art and the craft. When you admit "yea, well maybe this isn't going to happen overnight" you relax. And when you relax a pretty neat thing happens: you're more humble, you're more pleasant, and most importantly, you allow the demanding, driven, compelled part of yourself to take a nap. That's when the in-the-moment, real-time, non-thinking artist brain that's been idling all along there since you were forced to abandon it at some point early in your life - comes back to life.

And that literally can be experienced in a moment. (Remember the vase-face pictures where you shift in perceiving a vase and a face? That's the shift!) Learning to dwell in that part of your brain is what artist's have taught themselves to do: it's not all in the wrist - it's literally "all between your ears".

Seeing as an artist: instantly

People can actually learn all the perception skills in as little as 5 days - and have incredible leaps in their drawings. Betty Edward's proves this all the time - she and her company do intensive classes all through the year. (Costs about 1000 - 1500 dollars for one of her 1 week sessions though - but she proves it time and time again: any one can learn how to draw.) Caricatures are just an extension of those very basic skills.

So how do you get a foot into that "room"? The foundation lessons, (lessons 1 through 9) run you through half a dozen techniques that "trick" your brain into the artist's mode.

Remember that every picture or every three dimensional scene can be recorded on 2 dimensional paper by breaking it down using 5 skills:

1) Perceiving lines, contours and edges;
2) Perceiving negative shapes and positive forms
3) Perceiving angles, perspective and proportion
4) Perceiving light and shadow
5) The "gestalt" of perceiving the whole.

These are all divided up between lessons 1 through 9.

So if you feel like you have "holes" in your drawings, review the basics again - I guarantee you'll have new insight every time you do one of the exercises. Once you start building a repertoire in your drawing approach, you'll be looking at pictures and people, or at ears and noses for that matter and asking "ok, so where's the negative space here? Where are the shadow shapes? What's the shared edge between this ear shape and the head? How proportionate is this chin to the eye? to the lips? And your drawings WILL take off. And drawing will become pure contentment. The frustration/ need to complain? That'll diminish or disappear altogether and you'll look back at those frustrated days not even believing that was you.

More first aid

We got a little heavier there today - especially for a site concerned with caricaturing. But as an art, and the frustration's people run into learning any discipline, well that's a big, big subject - if you need "first aid" in this area I highly recommend (again) Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way", or any of Barbara Sher's books, (like "Wish-Craft"). For guys, both these books are excellent but believe it or not I think Robert Bly's "Iron John" is a fantastic book. Has nothing to do with drawing, but just might give you a whole different perspective on any kind of art...and a whole lot more.

Hope that helps. Keep those questions coming. Keep on drawing!