This is my final piece of writing on drawing in general because that’s all I can think of for now. Well, I can actually think of one more thing, drawing from photo reference, but I don’t know how interesting that is. It’s not really hard to draw from a photo but there are a couple of quirks. Plus I don’t do that a whole lot. But maybe another time I will write about it.

This piece is related to the last one I wrote about Surrealist Automatic Drawing. It’s about one of the main ways that I draw now and have drawn for the last decade. I’ll tell you about my little sketchbook drawings. It was back in January 2000 that I started drawing this way regularly. I bought a 5.5 x 8.5 spiral bound sketchbook to make spontaneous ink drawings in. They are like the automatic drawings that I mentioned last week except I don’t scribble in pencil first. I just start drawing in ink and see what comes out.

I have a lot of good things to say about drawing in ink without any under drawing. Especially in the early stages of figuring things out and especially if you like to find new things in your drawings. I “Think in ink” a lot better than in pencil. With a pencil I’m hesitant. We all have the luxury of an eraser when using a pencil. Therefore I’m always thinking about erasing as I’m drawing in pencil. At least it’s in the back of my mind. “Is this line right? Should I erase it and start over? I’ve go to make this look good or erase it.” All that chatter in my brain goes away when I do the basic drawing in ink. There is more thinking about the line I am making rather than if it should be there. If I make a mistake I just keep going. It’s not like I can fix it so I move on. It’s the way to go for me.

In looking back at that first sketchbook (randomly named “Clipper” by opening a dictionary and pointing to a word with my eyes closed) I can see how I was still working things out. First off it took me about a year and a half to fill the one hundred page sketchbook. I was never much of a sketchbook guy so it’s no surprise it took me so long to fill it but that’s slower than I would have thought. Of course I don’t think I ever actaully filled up a sketchbook before then. Most of my old sketchbooks peter out and end with a quarter of the pages still blank. Not being very good at sketching (rather than drawing) I’d get tired of looking at the mediocre sketches in my sketchbook and get a clean new one. A lot of young artists have that same habit. These days it takes me about a year to finish one of these sketchbooks (or inkbooks as I call them) which is a long time but much shorter than the first one.

I also notice that I didn’t start dating the pages until about half way through on page fifty four. I do that as a matter of course on my sketchbook pages now but it took me a full year, until 1/22/01 to start doing it then. Now that I look closer I do see some dates on the front of the page. It’s now my habit to date the back of pages. I can see by theses dates that the front half of the book took me a year while the back half took half a year. It took time to change the way I drew.

A page from my earliest Inkbook that's quite different from how I draw in them now.

The way I draw in my small sketchbook now is to first draw a small box in the upper left hand side of a page and then draw a spontaneous ink drawing in that box. Repeat this process about eight or nine times a page. All I’m trying to do with this process is pull images out of my brain that are new and different. I don’t decide what I’m going to draw ahead of time and just start. I used black markers, mostly a Pentel Sign Pen, for this part. Sometimes I draw with a purple marker. I just start somewhere in the small box and draw a line. I let that line lead me to the next one and the next one. Somewhere in this process I decide that the drawing is actually of something and work it into a recognizable image. When I make that decision is variable. At times after one line and at other times after ten lines. It depends on what comes out of my pen.

It’s not easy to draw this way. It takes a lot of practice to clear my mind and just start drawing. Plus most of the little drawings are useless. They’re never going to be turned into something other than the boring little drawing that they are. But they have to be done. I have to do a lot of drawings using this method in order to get some good ones that I can make a finished picture out of. Though it is strange how sometimes I can get on a little roll and make a few good little drawings in a row. There have been some pages in my inkbooks where I pull three of four drawings off a single page to make into prints or paintings while the pages all around it are a wasteland of uninteresting little drawings. I don’t know why that is but it happens on occasion.

A page from my very latest Inkbook that's only o couple of weeks old.

In looking back at my first sketchbook I can see my hesitation with this process. I didn’t start out drawing little boxes all the time but used them about half the time. Plus there are usually two or three larger drawings on a page with a lot more black shapes in them rather than the line work I use now. It looks like instead of coming up with a lot of basic images I was finishing the drawings a lot more. But there was no need for them to be finished. It was a different process at first.

So that’s what’s become of the Surrealist Automatic Drawing method for me. It’s my own little automatic drawing method now. I remember being at a barbecue once and I had my inkbook with me. I was describing this process to a person and its relationship to the Surrealist Automatic Drawing method. This person had an interesting observation about the pencil scribbles I used to make to draw this way. This person said that the scribble lines were still there except they were only in my head now. I think there is some truth to that.