Developing a Practice

I’ve decided to look into ideas for building routine, practice, familiarity, and skill when it comes to drawing. Maybe a little practical thinking is good for the artist!

I have been drawing (to greater and lesser extent) for at least 25 years and have noticed a real slow down when there was no structure guiding me. I think it’s a common challenge that students face after graduation, or when the art class is over.

Some kind of exercise and routine is essential for me developing a work practice, and it needs to be frequent, if not daily.

I read a reflection of the value of contour drawing as a warm-up exercise, by Marvin Bartel of Goshen College in Indiana. Contour drawing – with pencil moving slow as an ant – can be done regularly to build confidence and skill, even at a young age. These kind of exercises feel like home.

Here is a short excerpt from Bartel’s writing:

When first and second graders learn observation skills, they are less apt to have a crisis of confidence in the third grade when they begin to recognize the crudeness of their own work. Unfortunately, many children and adults have never been taught this simple secret of learning to draw. Many still think that drawing is an inborn talent rather than a skill that has been learned by practice.

Here is one of my blind contour drawings:

Blind contour drawing of dancing bears
Dancing bears

Flowing Ink, Chicory and Gesso

Last night was the first class of From Drawing To Painting with Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka at the Guelph School of Art.

It felt good to be in the presence of Grazyna. Creativity and understanding of art is radiating from her, in her words as she led the class, and in the art work that she chose to show us at the start of the evening.

We started off using black ink, gesso and a brown mid-tone made from chicory on paper. I stayed in the medium for the first drawing which I posted here. For the next few drawings I resorted to drawing from memory rather than the apple that Grazyna brought in. Needless to say, the apple and the light shining off it and giving it shape and colour was more inspiring than my memory.


Gut Instincts Website

Suzanne Dietrich is a dietitian in the Waterloo Region/Guelph area. She has launched a website for her counselling services:, built using

She got it started herself, then asked me to help with the design. I really enjoyed the process of working collaboratively with Suzanne to make the site work for her needs. It was also satisfying to take what she created as a starting point and take it to the next level of attractiveness and usability.

Gut Instincts Website Screen Shot
Gut Instincts Website Screen Shot

The parts that I contributed included:

  • simple design for the main menu including drop-down menu items
  • consistent text layout on each page
  • attractive background that is not distracting
  • text editing

Drawing Water Ways

Over the last week or so, I made five portraits for Water Ways, a video by Sarah Anderson.

The drawings were based on photos that we found through social media, aside from the pic of Nii Addico taken by photographer Marjorie Clayton. And I took the photo of Hailing. The drawings were done using 2H pencil on paper.

This was a nice project for many reasons. One of which is that these sketches helped me to get back into drawing, re-familiarize myself with my eyes. It was also an opportunity to work with Sarah (my wife), and with my brother-in-law Chris Henschel who edited and animated the video.