Draw like you mean it!
These are the words that go through my mind often as I am working or out sketching for fun. Even in my recreational sketching I am compelled to learn something and truly get something lasting and valuable out of my session. Which leads me to a practice of mine that I'd like to share and invite you to try.
Jam-pack your sketchbook pages! I mean really get in there and use the available space. There are some tremendous advantages to trying this. Here are a my top ten (in no particular order)...
1. You force yourself not to abandon a page because of unsuccessful sketches. Look above to the top page and you'll notice on the bottom that I crashed and burned on a sketch of a kid with a Mohawk. So, in the space right next to it I tried again. Why? Because I don't like it when a drawing kicks my butt like that and I was committed to filling the page.
2. Unusually shaped empty spaces force you to think creatively about how to fill them. Suddenly you become much more observant of your environment and you search for that object, pose, design or idea that suits the space. And why in the world wouldn't you want to be more observant?
3. Mileage! Experience is the best teacher and any draftsman knows the unquestioned value of drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing, sleeping, eating and DRAWING.
4. Kick the crap out of creative block. Barrel through that mental brick wall by filling up pages until your fingers bleed. Sometimes just the sheer and unrelenting commitment to draw copiously will bust you past a road block. How can you stay stuck if you refuse to stop moving?
5. Greater odds of brilliant work. Like many things in life, this too is a numbers game. Do five hundred sketches and you're bound to stack up quite a few winners and some that might even lead you down the path to a delightful finished piece.
6. It keeps you loose. You simply can't fill up page after page with tight, over-rendered drawings. You'll go bananas and it'll take you ten years to fill the book. Sooner or later you'll loosen up and then the world is yours. Quite literally. Fast and loose drawings will leave you feeling absolutely free which leads me to...
7. You'll become fearless! Are you like me, often finding yourself afraid to make a bad drawing? I'm often terrified that I'll mar a perfectly good page with a bad drawing. That way lies artistic death. Live! When you start jam-packing your pages and giving less emotional attachment to every little sketch you are free to create without limits. Now you're cookin' with gas!
8. It will strengthen your thinking. Sometimes I get into a mental rut and I don't even know it. When I start jam-packing my sketchbook pages I'm forced to think differently. There's something about knowing that you're going to pack the page that kicks a different mental gear into overdrive. For example I might suddenly wish to sketch the same person in a series of movements (which I would not normally do). Also the fearlessness I mentioned earlier helps you approach subjects that you might have normally looked right past or avoided and that's a sure-fire way to amp up the ol' mental synapses.
9. Personal gratification and outright motivation. Have you ever flipped through an old sketchbook of half filled or abandoned pages? I certainly have. That's an empty feeling. On the other hand I have also flipped though old sketchbooks just brimming over with work and that feels fantastic! It reminds me that I'm not a total hack (something I have to remember consciously sometimes) and it makes me want to keep the fires burning. Nothing like an avalanche of past hard work and success to make an artist feel worthy, inspired and motivated!
10. The opposite sex will find you attractive. Okay, maybe not but who knows. I mean, talent and highly developed skills are attractive qualities aren't they? At the very least you can be the most talented nerd at the party. And if you want to know how that story ends, talk to Bill Gates.
Just remember, your sketchbook is your playground and by golly you ought to out there playing!