Show Your Journey

Remember in math class how the teacher said you had to show your work? The scribbles that demonstrated you knew how to arrive at the answer. I ask you today, do you have the courage to show your work? Do you hide the journey, the marks of how you arrived at your answer, so the finished piece looks pristine, or do you let your scribbles show through?

As a drawing instructor I watched with delight as a student learned to render something with precision. They moved from the mindset of I can’t draw a straight line to knowing they could depict something realistically. They continued to hone the craft of drawing. The next step was to up the game and challenge them to add their own voice.

I remember when my instructor in art school gave us an assignment to draw an object 100 times! I wondered why, especially since we were to use a scroll of paper and a pencil and continuously draw the item over and over. I discovered that after about 20 perfectly rendered iterations I began to take liberties in my drawing. I began editing and learning a form of shorthand to express the image. I let my freedom of expression and editing expand. After about 50 drawings she had us stop, but some of us continued, caught up in the joy of creating the poetry of drawing. Just as a poem consolidates an image or a story with concise language, the editing process of drawing allowed my visual voice to create in a fresh way.

As a drawing instructor, I could usually spot a new artist by their precision in rendering every detail. As the artist created more and more work, I witnessed their voice coming through. They learned to edit what they saw and place the marks with a greater freedom. Their vocabulary of expression and confidence grew. They allowed their process to show.

What you decide to edit, what you omit, gives rise to what you see as important. The focus of the work begins to speak. Trust in your process, feel what you want to express. The marks will convey the emotions. Strong heavy marks talk louder than delicate flowery lines. Challenge yourself to explore various emotional mark-making techniques. Really move your body and try using different tools.

Then when you have found your voice, it is time to be even more courageous. Let go of the precision and let the viewer witness your process. I carry this expression into my painting and use the brush as my pencil to express my marks. I even use the other end of the brush to draw onto the wet paint. I love to see the freedom of mark making, but this isn’t a style for everyone. Photo Realistic painters will not employ this technique, at least in their finished piece. But it can be a rewarding way to warm up and others may find this process transformative. I know artists that use a loose under drawing and then paint on top. The work shows the process, and I can feel that freedom every time I look at a piece like this.

Michelangelo, Rembrandt and DaVinci showed their work. Their expressive lines enhanced the work. I love Picasso’s drawings as well for the variety of marks. Leave a trail that shows the path of your discoveries and your art will show you how to find and express more freedom.