I have always wanted to be able to draw, but a very early life experience with a football coach posing as an art teacher had me convinced that I was no artist. (In my early years I went to a school that had all the grades together. The rough chastising that must have worked with teenage boys did not have the same effect on a first-grade girl-child.)
In the last several years in an effort to shake the coach’s gloomy prognostications, I have taken drawing lessons. I found the Pear Tree Gallery and Teri Partridge, an artist and teacher, who is bound and determined to make everyone an artist. (Ask anyone who has passed through Columbia Middle School and they will tell you the same. This is not to imply that I am young enough to have had her as a teacher when I was a student there.)
One of her oft repeated lessons (the one on drawing shapes has to be most repeated) is the importance of shading and shadow. What I came to realize after Teri had patiently repeated it over and over was that where I had thought my drawings were simply terrible, in reality they were simply not finished. I came to realize that there is a world of difference between the first set of marks you put on the paper (shapes, always remember) and the last set of marks you put on the paper (shading and shadow.)
Now, after several years, I can say that I am competent with pencil and paper. My black and white drawings look enough like the real thing to make me think some of Teri’s lessons have sunk in. However, I wanted color and unfortunately it did not want anything to do with me. I simply did not know what colors to use. My watercolors did not mix well, I did not like acrylics and oils did not look simple enough..
Finally, after wandering with much self pity among those many did nots, I came across this quote by Johannes Itten, a teacher of the Bauhaus style of art in the 1920’s;
If you unknowing, are able to create masterpieces in color, then unknowledge is your way. But if you are unable to create masterpieces in color out of your unknowledge then you ought to look for knowledge.
With that unsubtle nudge, I decided to seriously look at how color works. Some people know immediately what the primary colors are and their relationship to secondary and tertiary colors, but I have to plod my way through color theory and keep a color wheel beside me. (The Color Chart blog is packed with information about color schemes and theory.)
I was snooping through Cheri’s shelves one day and found a book called Drawing Lab For Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim. There were 52 exercises to make drawing fun, but the one that really caught my eye was scribble drawings. The exercise consisted of making a scribble, just a random mark on the page and then looking at it every which way until something popped out. An arm, a leg or even an eye would peek at me just like the face and vase optical illusion that tricks you into seeing one and then the other. The best thing was that these were the types of doodles I did as a child (frowned upon by a certain football coach) and I had been seeing things in scribbles for years.
What I did not know was that scribble drawings were my eureka moment to color. They only needed a simple color scheme and with the color wheel I could pick the scheme I wanted before I put a marker to paper. As long as I stayed with the predetermined choices, I could play without the fear of a terrible muck up.
I have named these scribble drawings squiggles because squiggle is an artistic term for the short curves and twists that I end up with when I scribble. The sketchbook pages posted below are the first squiggles I did and I have included three photos of the progression of a scribble to a squiggle. The drawing at the top of the post is what my squiggles are starting to look like now. I add lines and take away lines and use a combination of markers and color pencils to create the shading and shadows. Squiggles are my eccentric way into the world of color and imagination. And who knows? Someday, I may pick up a brush and not muddy the watercolors.