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Drawing Outside the Box

Your artwork might take shape in an unusual form

Create a new shape of a drawing other than a rectangle

Artwork by Jay Zerbe

When you think about drawing or painting, you probably envision creating an image on rectangular pad or a square board. 

With all the possible surfaces that we can choose from to draw on, why do we automatically think of rectangular spaces instead of venturing outside the box?

In this exercise, we're going to try something different to see what happens. 

What You'll Need

Drawing tools of your choosing such as graphite, colored pencils, conte, watercolor pencils, oil crayons, etc.

Sheets of heavy drawing paper, drawing boards, pieces of wood and cloth in various shapes and sizes.

What You'll Do

1. Create an irregular-shaped surface to use for your drawing. You might cut or tear a piece of rectangular paper or board into a new shape. (No worries about ragged edges; they can be an exciting part of the piece.) Or you can glue or staple several pieces of paper or board together to form a new, larger shape.

See also: Learn How to Look at Art

Or you may want to combine paper, board, cloth and any other material into one piece fastened together. Go crazy and have some fun! (Note: If your drawing surface feels flimsy or fragile, you can reinforce it by gluing it to a stronger substrate, such as heavier paper or a panel.)

2. Step back for a moment to "take in" the surface you've created, sensing the energy and possibility of the space. Be aware of how your shape makes you feel. Tweak if you think the shape can be improved.

3. Begin to draw on the surface as automatically (no thinking, worrying or planning) as possible. As soon as you have an urge to add or subtract something, simply do so. You can't go wrong as long as you respond from your gut. The edges of your shape will no doubt influence your drawing in ways you have not experienced in a strictly rectangular space.

4. Step back for a moment and take in how your drawing changed the energy of the whole piece. As soon as you have another urge to act, do. Keep moving without sitting still for too long.

5. Continue acting and responding until you are satisfied with what you have.

Did you enjoy this way of working? Do you think you arrive at a drawing that is different from what it might have been on a rectangular space? In what way does this shift and possibly bring out the expressive quality of your work?

Once you're finished, don't forget to post your images for all to see. And while you're at it, take a moment to make comments about other artists' work.

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