I like to sketch.
I like the look of sketches. I like the way they show the idea of something. I like the idea of changing and playing with shape and form and color.
In fact, I generally like sketches more than finished artwork. That's why there's almost no finished artwork on my site. It's also why there are so many characters from my stories in sketches, doing things that have nothing to do with their actual stories, like Millie and Pig hanging out at a tiny Christmas Tree farm or trying to solve a Rubik's Cube.
I often sketch in homemade notebooks.
Don't get excited. They're not all that great. I often use old cereal boxes for the covers and cheap copier paper for the pages but none of that really matters. It's mostly about working out lines and shapes and poses.
Lately, though, I find myself sketching directly onto a tablet which, in addition to allowing me to even more easily play with line weight, shape and color, saves me from having to vacuum up an extraordinary amount of eraser bits that usually cover the couch, carpet, my pants, and everywhere else in a two foot radius around me when I'm sketching.
So here are today's sketches.
I hope you like them.
Anne Ryan (no relation... I think) is one of my favorite illustrators (and authors) and her website is one of my favorite websites! The main page is fine as far as those kinds of things go, but that's not where the magic is. For that you have to go to the Illustrated Notes link, where you are taken on a fascinating and unique journey into her creative process and how she works and reworks her stories and artwork into finished books.
Anne shows not only how she finds inspiration for her sketches, but also how she transforms those sketches to match the tone and theme of her stories. She even has examples of how she re-works, edits, and lays out the text of her stories using an example from her latest picture book "Unforeseen Circumstances", among other works.
I actually find myself more drawn to Anne's rough sketches than her finished art, although her style often incorporates elements of both.
It's something I try and do on this site, specifically in the "Sketches" section, where I show the really rough pencil or ink sketch next to the more finished (if you can call it that) artwork.
There is also a great video about Anne where you can see her studio, which is also one of my favorites of all time.
I mean, seriously, everyone should have to climb a ladder to go to work!
I'm working on a new series of pictures for one of my Meanwhile books, "Meanwhile... in La Crosse, Wisconsin".
This one is the "Sea Captain" character. A fairly inept mariner who nevertheless manages to save the day.
Things are a few things I've learned trying to do warmup sketches using a pencil and paper:
1. Sketches on paper look a lot better on paper than they do on a computer, tablet, etc.
2. Sketching with a pencil involves a LOT of erasing with an eraser.
3. There is no easy way to clean up lots and lots of eraser bits.
4. Sketching on an iPad is MUCH cleaner.
So I am going to stick to my same requirements (two minutes to draw, three minutes to color) for my daily warmup sketches, but I am going to move the process over to an iPad using Procreate, both of which are pretty awesome.
I'm not sure either the hardware or the software will improve my art at all, but at least I won't have to keep wiping little bits of rubber off my notebook, pants, couch, coffee table, etc.
A lot of people ask me, "Hey Mike, where do all of your ideas come from?"
To which I reply, "Your mom," and then I throw in a knowing wink.
As funny as that is to ME each time I say it, it's not the truth. And like the truth, sometimes fiction is less stranger than... that truth... or whatever.
Anyway, back to the voices in my head.
The truth is that most of my ideas, the good ones anyway, come from voices I hear in my head.
Are you feeling slightly uncomfortable about that last statement?
(not about your mom... the other one)
Well you should, but not for the reasons you think.
Usually when I tell people that I hear voices I get stunned looks and slow, backward walks but the sad truth is that most people are either unwilling or incapable of connecting with their own inner voice that talks to them all the time.
This is why creatives are asked the same question from non-creatives over and over again.
"Where do your ideas come from?"
Responses like, "I get inspired by the world around me," or "I ask 'what if' questions," or "I think of a time when..." fall flat because they usually aren't true.
The creative knows it. They hear the voices. That's why they're creative.
The non-creative knows it too. They don't/won't listen to the voices. That's why they're non-creative.
So how can you become more creative?
By trusting the voice in your head.
Hopefully it's your own internal voice. But maybe it's not. Maybe it's ghosts or animal spirits.
Even if the voices aren't yours you should follow them. At the very least you'll be a lot more interesting.
Write, draw, paint, knit, latch hook, glue, bedazzle, and otherwise do whatever creative activities the voices tell you.
Just know this...
When you finally begin to listen to the voices you're very quickly going to shut them out again because a lot of what you create will be garbage. And that's okay!
You were garbage at walking when you were a toddler.
You were garbage at coloring when you got your first box of Crayons.
You are garbage at everything until you spend enough time being bad at it.
And then you'll be good at it.
And if you spend enough time being good at it, you get to be great at it.
There's a universal truth that creatives get past but non-creatives don't:
Creating something bad is still better than consuming something someone else made.
With a little practice and a little time some of what you create will be good, and that's great.
With a little more practice some of the things you create will be great, and that's fantastic because THOSE are the things you can then develop into something special.
I have another secret for you. That voice? It's been with you always. It's been whispering "what if" and "why not" and "kiss her/him" and "don't be so hard on yourself" your entire life.
You voice is your muse and your muse is you. So you should listen to it. Always.
Mine whispers to me to tell silly stories and draw silly pictures.
Yours is the one that's been cheering and applauding and shouting whenever you create something no matter what it is or how it turns out.
How do I know?
Because your mom told me. (wink)
But how do I really know?
Because that voice is the thing that led you here and, if you're willing to listen to it a little more it will take you where you've always wanted to go.
And don't listen to anyone or anything other than that voice... your voice...your muse...
...and of course, me.
Nope. Not good.
It's weird but the sketches look better in my notebook than they do here.
I outlined the pencil with a Sharpie to make the edges more crisp, or at least stand out better. I think that might have something to do with it. Or it could be the specific and limited color pencil palette I chose for this page. Or it's all of it. Or none of it.
Either way, I don't like it so back to the drawing book.
Maybe tomorrow I'll try warm-up sketching with a single subject instead of going for lots of different ones...