I draw every day for at least an hour. The practice is not a burden or a chore but a necessary part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth or exercising. I guess you could call it a compulsion at this point. Though I feel a need, there is also a deep desire that makes my drawing time a place I go to find peace and calm. In other words, drawing is my meditation. The practice fully represents life in all its ups and downs—sometimes it's fabulous and I am so pleased, other times the work is awful and I think I should close up shop for the day and try again the next. The quality of the work I create is dependent on my mood, the amount of sleep I got the night before, the news, the energy my children emit in our home, the confidence felt after a morning run, the insecurities experienced after an awkward conversation with a client, or the hugs I have received from my husband and kids. These feelings come to the surface through my pencil and pen. The practice is a constant reminder that my world is not perfect, that I must work through all of the good and the bad, and that great things can happen as a result of perseverance—and making mistakes. I am also reminded that just like in real life, I can forgive and forget, I can deal with any difficulty, and I can make something ugly into something beautiful.
Throughout my career as an illustrator and artist—terms I have only allowed myself to embrace in the past five years—I have made a consistent and conscious effort to stay true to myself. My work is not perfect, it is not created on an iPad or in Photoshop, and it is not "camera ready," so to speak. It is gritty and real—an interpretation of the world around me. I draw my world in my way—and I love to encourage others to do the same. I don't make up fantasies when I draw but rather I draw the people and things right in front of me. I find the challenge of translating something onto paper a literal everyday rite of passage.
Today it will be an apple; tomorrow, a building. The next day I will challenge myself a little more and draw my son. I'll drink water and coffee while I draw and then I'll draw that coffee and water. It's not so exciting when you think about it, is it? But on the bright side, when you draw what's right in front of you, there isn't any time for artist's block. In fact, I find it very rewarding to draw the same thing every day. And by doing so, each day I see that thing a little differently. The drawing of that same subject not only changes and evolves because of practice and skill but also alters depending on how free or tight my hand is—again, reflecting a direct relationship to the state of mind that comes with that day.
In Giovanni Civardi's Figure Drawing, A Complete Guide,
he writes, "To be able to draw means, above all, to be able to 'see,' to understand rationally, to feel emotions, and to master the techniques which allow us to fully express our thoughts and moods." It is important to understand exactly what the term "mastering" means. It is a scary term for any artist because the idea of mastering something implies pursuing perfection. While I do believe that learning and practicing traditional techniques are very helpful when beginning a drawing practice, it is not about mastering these rules but mastering our own interpretation of them—owning our personal style. Arriving at an individual artistic style is a process that can take years. And once we think we have come to that happy place that represents us, we then strive for another level—it's a never-ending process and evolution. Early on in my drawing practice, I realized this reality, and it helped me greatly. We grow, we change, we always want more for ourselves, and therefore there will be a feeling of accomplishing that unattainable "mastery" only in small moments. As the world around us shows, we can go backward, then we go forward again.
In my previous book, Draw Your Day
, I stressed the idea of drawing as meditation, relaxation, and a time to yourself—an opportunity to reflect on the details of your day: capturing your memories through a combination of writing and art making, intertwining the two, working your writing into the artwork on your journal pages. In Draw Your World, we go both wider and deeper. This book is not limited to journaling— any drawing, painting, or creative surface would work. You will still see some lettering and playful type in the artwork I share, but this time we will be focusing more on an art-making practice; whether you choose to incorporate words or not, anything goes. This book is designed to help you think about what to draw or paint and to teach the skills that can help get you there. If you are reading this book because you need motivation to create work, then my first bit of advice would be to purchase or pull off of your shelves a small sketchbook and put it in your bag or your jacket pocket, along with a pencil or pen of choice. If you have a sketchbook with you, you will always have the opportunity to sketch. You never know when that longed-for motivation will strike you. It might be on a subway ride or on a walk with your dog. Knowing that the sketchbook is there will also simply help you to see the world around you with a different lens. You will look for things to draw, and the intention is that eventually you will draw them. The more you look around you, the more you will notice details that may ignite that creative spark, and your sketchbook will be there for you.
It is important to understand, and I will emphasize this greatly throughout this book, the significance of the drawing process in relation to seeing. By drawing something, whether it be an object, a building, or a person, we see the subject in an entirely new way. Seeing something as you pass by it is very different from seeing something as you draw it. When you are drawing, you are seeing the world with different eyes, with a lens that gives you more understanding.
Let's take a simple coffee mug on your desk. You see it. You know it's gray and has a curved handle. You know it's round and comes in a bit on the sides. But if you were to draw that mug, you would suddenly see the reflections and shadows it creates on your desk as the light shines in from the window. You would notice that the handle has a little thumb dip at the top where it meets the side of the mug, and that the bottom curves in just a little bit before where it sits on the table. And so on. Suddenly, there are so many details about this mug! Drawing brings us to the present moment and allows us to observe things just as they are.
I am excited to teach you what I've learned in my years as an artist through lessons, trial and error, and persistence. After teaching hundreds of students in my workshops and dozens in one-on-one tutorials, I have come to realize that I do have a lot to offer, and Draw Your World
is an opportunity to share it all with you. I will discuss drawing from life, from photo reference, and from memory, and how all three can be valid, beneficial, and essential to your artwork. I will remind you many times throughout this book that drawing is a muscle skill that anyone can learn through practice. If you can learn to write, you can learn to draw! In fact, writing is a variation of drawing—when we are children we train ourselves to draw the letters of the alphabet, and we practice writing each letterform over and over again until we can draw them without effort. Yes, it takes more time and patience to learn to draw a bowl of fruit just as it looks on your table, for example, but drawing your world is accessible to anyone compelled to translate the outside world onto a flat surface.
When we see our subjects clearly, or with new eyes, as we draw them, we can also decide in what way to translate them onto a surface. It's up to you to decide what this looks like. Maybe you see all of the nuances that you missed at first glance but you only want to capture some of them. Or maybe you want to exaggerate a certain detail. Making these decisions will help lead you to your own personal style. There will be sections in this book that will speak more to those of you who would prefer to draw literally, but some of you may want to skip to sections that are more about ideas, motivation, or collage and experimental drawing. I stress, again, that your creative practice is correct, valid, and wonderful in its uniqueness and that there is no right or wrong way to draw your world. Remember as you are reading through this book that I am not here to teach you the "right" way to draw, and my way might only spark inspiration as you find your own way. My goal is to share ideas that I have come up with and techniques that I have learned over the years to help people feel more inspired to make marks and drawings and achieve small daily or weekly victories. And to inspire a greater understanding of yourself and your whole world. In this book you will find chapters about tools and materials, continuous line drawing, light and shading, perspective, and composition. Then we will move on to subjects in nature; travel sketching; and prompts and ideas for keeping a travel journal; urban sketching; drawing from life, from photo reference, and from memory, and the benefits of all three; and experimental drawing and collage. Plus, fun drawing challenges and step-by-step skills are included throughout. I am extending an invitation to explore together: you can take in bits and pieces at a time, or read it through from beginning to end. When you get to the end, my hope is that you feel free and empowered to draw your world in your own beautiful and unique way.
Let's get started!
Copyright © 2021 by Samantha Dion Baker. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.