Here, for the curious, is the result of yesterday’s plane flight:
And here is this morning’s doodle:
Drawing, particularly in color, is a dicey thing for me. Â Because it’s an unfamiliar medium, I don’t have a lot of skills to draw on, and am thus acutely self-conscious about starting a piece, because I “know” it’s not going to be good. Â (See prior blog post on the gap between excellent taste and nascent skills.) Â As a result, I tend to go blank when confronted with a sheet of paper. Â In fact, I wasn’t entirely certain the pencils wouldn’t explode if I (a novice) actually touched them to the paper.
This, of course, gave birth to the first page of doodles. Â My first approach to something new is to conduct a series of systematic experiments, dissecting it and trying to understand how it is structured, how it works, and how to design it. Â So, to overcome the terror of total blankness, I did a small doodle, then repeated it in different variations – wet pencils vs. dry pencils, wetting the paper after applying the pencils, wetting the paper and then applying pencils. Â For good measure, I repeated the experiment using the second set of pencils.
After establishing that the pencils did not explode (hooray!) , I proceeded to read through my book on watercolor pencils. Â Then I turned back to the pad of paper. Â Zounds! Â Was that anotherÂ blank sheet of paper? Â I tried thinking of something to sketch and drew a total blank. Â I hastily put the pad and pencils away, hiding them in my carry-on, and read a book for the rest of the flight.
This morning I got up and decided to try again. Â I had convinced myself earlier that morning that my inability to draw representational art didn’t have to be a barrier; after all, one rarely sees elaborate drawings of peacocks and elephants on handwoven garments. Â I could do abstract stuff instead, which would be more appropriate to what I was doing anyway.
So I started with a ribbon of red pencil, then a ribbon of orange, then a ribbon of yellow. Â Somewhere along the lines I realized that they resembled the trunk of a tree, so I added a scribble of green foliage and a few scribbles of color in blues, purples, and reds. Â It didn’t come out as dark as I wanted, so I wetted down the paper, and (remembering the results of yesterday’s experiments) redrew the foliage on wet paper, giving much more intense colors.
And there you have it! Â One doodle, a psychedelic tree. Â I like it, though it looks like a child’s scrawl. Â To me the important part is that I didÂ it – and enjoyedÂ doing it – which is, of course, ninety percent of the battle.
So why is this blog post titled “Planning vs. playing”? Â Because my watercolor pencil process Â illustrates something vital: the importance of playing around, especially when taking up a new art/craft. Â As adults, we tend to get very goal-focused, feeling somewhat self-conscious about “just playing around”, but as I wrote in this essay, playing is essential, since at the outset, your skills aren’t likely to be up to your ambitions. Â So I’m deliberately turning off the planning section of my brain and “working on” just enjoying the process.
Mind you, developing skills is important – and I’ll probably do some drawing exercises later today – but for now, I’m trying to let go of the (overdeveloped) planning sections of my brain, and just enjoy doodling.