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Expressive Drawing

Circles, Squares and Triangles

Our first exercise is both simple and complex

What you’ll need

At least four sheets of paper: In workshops, I usually have participants use paper that’s roughly 14 inches by 17 inches, but legal (8.5 by 14) or even letter size (8.5 by 11) will do. Alternatively, you might draw directly with your mouse either online or in a computer-based drawing program. And try to keep your assignments horizontal — this will make things easier for us if we decide to feature your work on the website

Drawing tools of your choosing:
Workshop participants most often use black acrylic paint and a 1-inch bristle brush, but any drawing tools (crayon, charcoal, pencil, pen, ink and so on) will do.

What you'll do

Expressive drawing is about describing how things feel, rather than describing what things look like. It refers to what’s inside of us: energy, emotion, psyche, the sense of the body. Since we can’t actually see these qualities, the drawings that you make function as metaphors for them.  Think of your artwork as visual poetry! In other words, your drawings will make the invisible visible; they’ll express energy that comes directly and uniquely from you. And since you are part of nature, your drawings will evoke the sensation of what nature feels like; they’ll convey a sense of aliveness.

A great place to start is by drawing a few simple shapes that share a space (your drawing surface). So here’s your challenge:

Tape, pin or staple three drawing surfaces on a wall in front of you (if this is not possible, place them on a table or on the floor). Do this now, without thinking, worrying or planning.

On the first surface, draw one of the following: a circle, a square or a triangle. Take that in for just a second.  Next, introduce a second shape. Very quickly, take in how the pairing of those two shapes feels together and immediately place the third shape into the space. You’ll now have a drawing in which one circle, one square and one triangle are present. And your drawing is finished.

At this point, please resist the urge to analyze the drawing; don’t judge it. There is no correct way to do these drawings; no right or wrong.

Next, repeat this procedure two more times on two more surfaces. Remember, don’t think, don’t worry, don’t plan. When you’re done, you’ll have three finished circle-square-triangle drawings.

Finally, to complete the hands-on part of this drawing challenge, tack up your fourth drawing surface and repeat the process one more time — except do the drawing this time as quickly as you possibly can. That is, fast, fast, fast and even faster than that!

Now, with four finished drawings on hand, place them in front of you so you can see them all at once. Be still with them for a minute or two (or even more than that). Enjoy them. Then, should you wish to take things a step further, ask yourself the following questions about each one (you may even want to write down your observations):

What is the overall mood elicited by the drawing?

What personalities do the individual shapes have, and what do you think makes them feel the way they do?

Describe what you sense as some relationships that have formed between the shapes. For example: Which shape feels dominant? Do two shapes join together, leaving the third in isolation? Does one shape feel threatening to the others? Does one of the shapes feel supportive of another? Do some shapes feel like they are sitting still while others feel as if they are in motion?

Now it’s time to post your drawings for the online community. Give others the opportunity to enjoy and respond to them. While you are there, please offer your responses to drawings by others in the community. I’ll see you there!

A note on sharing: We’ll put more information about that in the online community. Essentially, there are two ways to share:

Create your drawings with a computer program, save them in the “jpg” format and upload them to the gallery.

Create your drawings on paper, take photographs of them and then upload the photographs.

And remember, if sharing your work is just too complicated technically for you, ask advice from others in the online community about how to upload. If all else fails, comment on the work of others, and seek out comments about your drawings from people involved in the world of art who may see the work in real life.

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