Lessons from 31 Days of #DrawingAugust

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There’s been plenty of knitting going around here. I finished a sweater, put a few feet on a scarf, and worked on a few designs. While it feels great to have made progress and crossed a few things off my knitting list, August’s main project was #DrawingAugust. #DrawingAugust is pretty simple - draw every day and show your work. Thanks to the previous habit-building 212 days of #yearofmaking, drawing everyday was pretty easy. When I missed a day, I caught up on the next day which means I have 31 drawings tucked away in my sketch book. 

The hard part of this challenge wasn’t the drawing. It was showing my work. There were a few sketches that I was really proud of, and I couldn’t wait to post them to Instagram. But there were also a few that I would have rather hidden away. I’m a firm believer that once something goes online, it’s always online. The possibility that someone’s first impression of my work might not be the “perfect” one I want is rattling. Even though I’ve posted the less than perfect sketches this month, it didn’t get any easier. Here’s the thing though: I’d didn’t start #DrawingAugust with the intention of creating perfection. There’s no way I could have finished 31 sketches or even started the first if I had. #DrawingAugust was about the process, about learning, and about doing the work. I wasn’t chasing perfection; I was just trying to get better at drawing. 

31 days later I’m happy to say that my drawing skills did improve. I’m certainly more confident with a pen. I’ve also gotten past the idea that all of my sketches had to 100% accurate. That rule had been floating around in my head for years, and it wasn’t until I let it go that I realized how much it held me back. I knew I couldn’t accurately reproduce an object so there was no reason to try. Beginner or not, the idea that you have to chase perfection and achieve it every day can be the biggest stumbling block. You have to give yourself permission to fail so that you can keep trying day after day. 

Also, 20 - 30 minutes every day adds up. The bulk of my sketches took about 20 minutes from start to finish. Some might have only taken 5 and some might have take 45, but 20 minutes was the norm. 20 minutes a day might not seem like much, but that’s over 10 hours of work spread across the month. It’s time well spent.  

Now that it’s September, I’m moving on to a different daily project, but I’m not packing away the sketchbook. I was getting bored doing straight line drawing so I’m going to experiment and try different techniques and styles. Maybe I’ll have a full sketchbook by the end of the year.

223 Days of #YearOfMaking

Read more: Lessons from 50 Days of #YearOfMaking

Way back on January 1st when I started #yearofmaking, my goals were simple. I wanted to make something every day, learn new things, and improve my skills. To keep myself accountable, I’d post a photo of the day’s work to Instagram. Day 223 looks a lot different than Day 1. 

Over the past 7+ months, I’ve spun yarn, knit a lot, cooked many dinners, taken photos, written thousands of words, made videos, baked cakes, and doodled. I have photos and logs tracking everything I’ve made. Seeing those chains grow has helped me keep going. Sure, there are days that I didn’t make anything, but those days are rare. 

Making something every day is now a habit and I get a little fidgety if I haven’t done something by the end of the day. That’s not to say that I’m finishing something everyday. There’s no way I could keep up the pace if a project had to be complete by the time I went to bed. If I only knit 2 rows on sock, it counts. Building the habit of making is what was important. 

I’ve gotten a lot of good from #yearofmaking but it was starting to feeling like I was just going through the motions in June and July. Then Tour de Fleece happened. To get ready I set goals and picked a skill to focus on. After 3 dedicated weeks of spinning, my forward draft and handspun were much improved. I was even able to check “make sock yarn” off my spinning bucket list! Seeing that improvement put the excitement back into daily making. 

When Tour de Fleece ended, I went looking for something else to focus on. When I read about #DrawingAugust I knew I’d found my next goal. I’m now drawing every day and keeping the sketches simple so I can finish them in 15 - 30 minutes. Some drawings I’m really proud of and others I’m embarrassed to show, but they all go up. It’ll be nice to see how I’ve improved at the end of the month. Plus, this project has also been a good kick in the butt to finally watch all those online classes I’ve bought and never gotten around to watching. 

Instead of being separate projects, Tour de Fleece and #DrawingAugust brought intention back to #yearofmaking for me. At first, just making something every day was enough because I was building the habit. Once that intention was “complete”, I was still making things but I wasn’t learning or improving my skills. I needed a new intention to keep going or I was going to find reasons about why playing video games was a perfect use of all my free time. This month, improving my drawing is my motivation. These smaller goals are what’s going to keep me making to the end of the year.  

Wander the Web 9

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This past week I’ve been getting reacquainted with my yoga mat thanks to DoYouYoga.com and the 30 Day Yoga Challenge. The daily sessions are short, 13 - 20 minutes each, but still manage to leave me pleasantly sore and energized. I’m looking forward to the remaining 25 days. 

In the meantime, more link goodness.

I found thisiscolossal.com through @dcorsetto on Twitter. It’s a combination of amazing art from reflective six-legged fox sculptures to a yarn bomb of the Williamsburg Bridge to twirling cake zoetropes. It’s been my eye candy all week. 

Also, @dcorsetto, otherwise known as Danielle Corsetto, writes and illustrates the hilarious and sometimes poignant Girls with Slingshots. I liked it enough to follow it for years before it had an RSS feed. 

Knitted Hammock (with pattern if you want to make your own)

Yarnbombed Squid Tree - Really wish I could see this in person. 

Videos of Marcello Barenghi’s hyper-realistic drawings - Watching him render a fried egg is incredible. 

Drawing Incrementally: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started.


I can only take some many “artful” photos of sketchbooks, erasers, and pencils to cover up a lack of progress on the sketching front. Last week I sketched exactly one thing, a self portait, and didn’t pick up the pencils again. Thankfully, August is has 31 days and I’ve got one more week to accomplish something. Let’s see if I can pull this off.

Any hints and tips to keep me motivated during the home stretch?

Drawing Incrementally: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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How many weeks do you have to do something for it to become a habit? I’m voting for 3 since, at 2, this would become the day I’d have to fess up for not making my daily goals. Last week, I owned up to doing all my sketches at the last moment. I waited because I wanted to learn something and get better instead of just filling up my sketchbook. In 14 drawings, there was no progress but I wanted to keep going. So, what happened last week? Nothing. Didn’t even flip open my sketchpad or sharpen a pencil, however, I did do some research and added something new to my toolkit.

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It’s not new pencils or a kneaded eraser even though I did buy both of those things. It’s a workbook called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. The reviews were good, the results look amazing, and the book is in its second edition. What convinced me to try this book though was how straightforward the author was about learning to draw:

“Drawing is always the same task, requiring the same five perceptual skills that, with practice, become integrated into the whole skill - called a “global skill - drawing.” - Betty Edwards

I’ve always had “the practice.” I’d sit down in front of an object with my pencils and paper and start sketching. The finished drawing looked like what was in front of me but wasn’t quite right. The proportions were off or the shading blurred out the detail or the perspective was jumbled. I thought it I just practiced enough I could solve those problems. Learning to draw isn’t just practice, practice, practice but knowing what to practice and focus on. Seems simple but the simple things can easily be over looked.

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So I’m starting at the beginning of the book with the 3 drawings meant to gauge future progress and skills. I managed an okay drawing of my hand and the corner of a room. Haven’t gotten to the self portrait yet but I will. It won’t be amazing and I’ll probably just embarrass myself but it’s a start.

Drawing Incrementally: Week 2

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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What do a spaghetti fork, a fork, a bottle of italian seasoning, a straw dispenser, an olive oil pitcher, and a jar of preserves have in a common?

The answer, I drew all of them last night and at the last minute. So much for drawing everyday.

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At least I managed to pick up the slack. The only sketch I managed to do close to on time was “Monday’s” sketch of a knife block that I actually drew on Tuesday afternoon. Why the shirking of daily drawings. I could caulk it up to waiting till the end of the night only to decide I’m too tired. What really happened was that I didn’t feel like I was learning anything or getting an better. Where’s the progress that’s supposed to keep me motived? I just wasn’t seeing it. So, I slacked off and drew 6 things at the last minute because I said I’d draw 7 things from my kitchen. Accountability, what would I do without you? 

Why keep drawing if I’m not seeing any progress? One, two weeks of sketching isn’t going to make me a master. I need time and I need practice. Lots and lots of practice. Two, I’ve got to start somewhere. Three, I’ve wanted to be able to sketch and render and doodle for as long as I can remember. I want to record what’s important, tell stories, and make art. Four, I’m inspired. In Reader, I have an Art folder which follows the blogs several artists. I see their work and want to develop my own style to tell my own stories. A few of my favorites in no particular order:

  • Yuko Ota - I’ve followed her work for a few years and her art manages to be both cute and badass at the same time. Also, Johnny Wander rocks.
  • Donovan Beeson - She posts regular sketches/journal combos to The Intangible Blog. The images are wonderful, almost daily snapshots of her interests and adventures.
  • Abigail Halpin - Cute, whimsical, and fun. Her work makes me smile.
  • Lucy Knisley - Comics! about food and travel and daily life. The occasional Harry Potter reference doesn’t hurt either. 
  • Marc Taro Holmes - His blog is a combination of watercolor and sketches that focuses on documenting the spirit of place.
  • Kate Bingaman Burt - Simple, biographical drawings of her daily purchases. I like to wonder at the stories behind her spending. 
  • Genine D. Zlatkis - Fun, colorful, and expressive watercolors, paintings, and sketches. Also, really awesome hand carved stamps.

Drawing Incrementally: Week 1

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental.Read up on how it all got started.

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It’s officially Monday and I have sketched 5 different objects. On Day 1, I waited until there were 8 minutes left in the day before finally putting pencil to paper. I kept putting it off because it had been so long since I’d tried to draw anything and I was pretty sure I’d screw it up. Plus, what in the whole wide world was I going to draw. In those last few minutes, I just picked something on my desk and got started. If it was horrible, it would just have to be horrible. Half an hour later, I finished. Did it suck? Well, it wasn’t great.

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Here’s the thing I have grudgingly come to terms with, nothing I do will ever be perfect the first time or after a long bit of inactivity. Constant practice and refinement is absolutely required. I will not be amazingly talented and skilled at every single little thing I try my hand at. Doesn’t matter how much I wish it were true. The truth is that I will make mistakes and I will have to practice and both of those things are totally okay. It’s fine to make mistakes in the beginning so long as you learn and improve because of them. Don't give up because the first attempt wasn't everything you thought it would be. 

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And that whole question of what to draw? I picked a theme. Last week the theme was: Stuff On My Desk. I know, original, but it got the job done. I drew my glass of water, then my mouse, my favorite pen, my hard drive, and my phone charger. This week’s theme: Stuff In The Kitchen. Maybe I’ll start with the knife block or the pots I use most. Drawing a whisk sounds fun too. I’ll probably still wait until the last minute but one problem at a time. I’ll let you know how it goes next Monday. 

The Incremental Project

Tour de Fleece got me thinking about the small things, about daily effort, and about progress. How one small thing done everyday can lead to big things. For those not in the know, Tour de Fleece is an annual event that runs alongside the Tour de France. Everyday that the Tour rides over the course of three weeks, people spin and make yarn. Since I was a new spinner (does four months still count as new?) and up for a challenge, I decided to join in. By the end of the Tour I had gained/refined skills, played with a lot of great fiber, made 5 skeins, and spun 1,040 yards. 1,040 yards! That number still makes me happy since I never dreamed or dared to set such a grandiose goal for myself.

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After I stopped squeeing for happiness, I wondered how I managed this great thing I didn’t think I could do in the beginning. The answer is simple: incremental progress. Every day of the tour, I practiced, I researched, and I just spun yarn. Some days I only managed a couple minutes and other days a few hours but it all added up to something good that I wanted but couldn’t imagine doing. One would think years of knitting one stitch after another and making hundreds of items would have taught me the true meaning of incremental. The light bulb just didn’t turn on until the last few days.

So, here’s the plan for something I’m calling The Incremental Project

  1. Pick some skill/goal that I’ve been meaning to improve but just haven’t gotten around to yet. 
  2. Every day for a month, take the time to practice, practice, practice even if it’s just for five minutes at a time. Small steps add up after all. 
  3. To stay accountable, post about your progress once a week. Maybe on Monday?
  4. Rinse and repeat next month.

Who's with me? 

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This month I’m focusing on getting back my drawing fingers. Drawing is something that I’ve always wanted to do and have done from time to time. Time to get doing again and clean up my rusty skills. My goal is to finish one drawing or sketch a day. I’ll let you know how it’s going in a week.