Starting a Landscape Drawing I

I always think it’s a good idea to warm up before starting a prolonged study. Before beginning any drawing we want to ground ourselves in the moment – get ourselves here rather than remain in our heads about what’s already happened today. Warming up is also good for the connection between our eyes and our hands. Much the way a singer or athlete would play scales or drill with the ball to refresh their awareness of technique, its important for an artist to reconnect with self, and tools at the start of a drawing period.

In the exercise above I ask my students to pick three different textures of the landscape to draw without looking at their paper. We call this a Blind Contour Line Drawing. Looking closely and intensely at a set of leaves, or dead branches, move your eyes along the edge of the form. As you move your eyes move the pencil to record exactly what the eye sees. Move your pencil at the same pace that your eyes move. Make sure the pencil records in real time what the eye sees, as though the pencil is feeling the edge of the leaf or branch. Don’t look down at your paper to see how it’s going. Trust that you are drawing only what you see. Try to develop the conviction that the mark you make is the same edge that your eyes are seeing. Find a few different textures to record.

This is also a great way to get around those uncomfortable moments in a drawing when you’re faced with a tree full of leaves. I never want to draw all of the leaves that I see. That feels like a huge job and one that will spoil my enthusiasm for a drawing. But I want to draw some of the leaves and I want them to look real. If I can get the true essence of some of the leaves, or branches, then I remain happy in my drawing and I still get an authentic mark.

Melissa Weiss