Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Art of Scribbling: Using Simplicity and a Sense of Play

It is entirely possible that I am someone who needs to pay more attention to giving myself permission to play.  It’s possible but the more I ponder it, the more I think it’s really a matter of understanding what my version of play actually is.  My play can look like work while many things that others think of as fun are a chore to me.  Still, being immersed in a specific, cultural definition of fun and play means I can begin to take my play too seriously and turn it into work and that’s, well, that’s not fun! 

                                   Freaky Fish?

I am more creative when I do not take the results or myself too seriously, and while that seems a bit like a no-brainer, or perhaps a lot like one, I think that many people who are creative for an income take their creating seriously.  Structured times and spaces and a daily routine lead it all to be called work.  You hear phrases like “I worked in the studio today” or “I worked on my latest project” and they sound like normal and natural phrases.  Perhaps nobody wants to admit that they played all day.  Or perhaps there is a fear of not being taken seriously if we call it play rather than work.

That last perhaps is something I can imagine myself becoming entangled in.  I like to be taken seriously because usually I am serious, so I wish to be read accurately.  I am serious about practicing and improving my creativity, I have goals and desires around what I wish to achieve and as a perfectionist I am of course never reaching them.  But dissatisfaction, when not overwhelming, is what pushes us forward and makes us strive for more, so long as a little dash of success is mixed in.  

I am not  highly skilled at realistic drawing because I don’t practice enough and I’ve not taken any formal lessons.  One or the other or both would result in significantly more skill than I have but I’m not driven in that direction.  I admire highly realistic art, specifically the sort rendered with seemingly simple strokes, but I don’t create it easily if at all and perhaps because of this I will never think of myself as a true artist.  I am stuck with a definition of true artist as being someone who is trained or gifted with incredible natural talent, drive and passion, which enables the reproduction of deliberate line, light and texture, so as to produce images that are remarkably life-like.  Such an artist may not choose to create in this manner, she may be an impressionist or an abstract artist, but she is capable of creating in this precise, realistic manner.  I must also acknowledge that I know of many who can do this and yet their creations lack something, seem stiff, lifeless and either uninspired or too contrived.

Whenever I am really dissatisfied with what I am producing it tends to be due to forgetting to play.  Trying too hard to get it right, be exact, reproduce exactly what I see, usually results in something I want to tear up or paint over.  My self-assessment is probably mixed, probably sometimes accurate and other times not, but what drives me is my own desire to create my vision and if it doesn’t match that vision I generally can’t tolerate it.  Whenever I find myself longing to paint but not painting, it’s because I am locked up in fear that I cannot create what I desire, that I will only disappoint myself and demonstrate how lacking in talent and ability I truly am.  We all know that this means not doing anything at all and thus not getting any better, so a self-defeating behaviour if ever there were any.

I bought a sketch book that was so beautiful I was afraid to ruin it.  Clearly the solution is to only use loose paper, but I am highly attracted to books.  A simple pad of paper is a better idea but eventually I just plunged in, allowed myself to draw in it, hated some of what I drew and was reasonably satisfied that other drawings were  something I could grow from.  My happiest drawings were not realistic.  Despite wishing to check that accomplishment off on a list, it’s not where my passion lies and passion is important.  Does that win the prize for understatement of the year? 

 I gave myself permission to play with line.  With black ink I began making lines on the page, aiming to create scribble drawings, unbroken lines by not ever lifting the pen off the page at all which is quite difficult because the instinct to lift is so strong.  When I did lift, I simply noticed it, put the pen back down and kept going.  I didn’t aim to create anything in particular but let my imagination and the pen do the work.  I let the lines happen in the moment, sometimes with a bit of a thought such as 'oh, this looks a bit like X', which would suggest the next move, but not always.  Sometimes I set out to scribble a simple flower, my basic doodle strategy, and this worked as a sort of break in between the imaginative line making.  

Imaginative line making is just doodling with intention rather than while also doing something else and I find it is very freeing.  It doesn't need to be finished or perfect and I like the look of lines going over and on top of each other, re-tracing imperfectly the shape already there. Often I am happier with the end result than I am with anything I seriously set out to do, just as I am when I apply this strategy to painting, blobbing colour on the canvas with an open mind, waiting to see where it goes.  I live my life as a planner for the most part, though not as highly structured and scheduled as some.  I like to have freedom within my plan. Mainly I like to do what I want to do without being thwarted.  That’s my plan.  In art I need to be wary of thwarting myself.

KISS: Keep It Simple Sister

The first time I learned this slogan, sister was not the word of choice, it was stupid, but I’m sticking to this version of the mantra.

I love colour and complexity but I also love simplicity.  I love it when texture is the focus rather than colour or when the simplicity of black lines on white ( or vice versa ) require us to breathe deeply and rest in the image.  Some people speak of tension in the composition as a requirement for good art but  I’m not certain that it is.  Art is usually something I am creating or viewing within the context of my own home and  I don’t want tension in those contexts, though if I am viewing it in a gallery or a public space I can admire tension there.  The lines which I play with might be rounded or sharp but I am not aware of any tension in them.  It is  a personal thing, how and where we see tension and how we respond to it.  This holds for both life and art.


  1. So true.
    You probably don't need feedback, but I like the circle flowers and the hands a lot. I too love line over line drawing. It almost vibrates with energy, but in a good way!
    I know what you mean about artists getting everything perfect but lifeless...the same happens in music. We need to see the artist's passion! xo Jazzy Jack

    1. I think everyone who creates needs feedback because creation is communication-even scribbles and even when we have just done it for ourselves. Thanks for mentioning that about music, I know what you mean there too. It is technically correct but lacks passion. I've been reading some interesting opinions recently about whether or not passion or technical skill are more important or if it's mandatory to have both etc. I am thinking about Bach right now and how technically precise and carefully measured his music sounds and yet there is a sort of barely restrained passion I think which causes a delightful tension.....not that I know anything about music. xoxo

  2. Absolutely agree, we won't be taken very seriously if we speak of our doings as play, and we all know humans like to exaggarate their life accomplishments, so playing does not sound sophisticated enough.
    I do believe as you mentioned, that when you turn stuff into work you steer away from the creativity juices and all the positive aspects of actually doing what brings you joy. Like with me and blogging, I turned it into work and immediately resented it.Screw that!

  3. Lovely sketches! I also doodled recently, which I don't do regularly at all, but sometimes that's just what I need. Writing seems like a lot of work to many, but to us, writers, it is pure play. While some folks love games, I find this activity mostly frustrating.

    I think when we look at kids, we can see that they take play very seriously - they are completely immersed in their imagination and hate interruption. And when they are very little and have not enough words to explain what they need for their play, they get really frustrated and upset. But what is different about kids and adults - kids feel FREE to play and take their play seriously, just as seriously as they fancy. While we adults want to find excuses why we have the right to play - we become too self-conscious about the whole thing. I think to find that inner freedom, to become a kid again, is what I want when I play, whatever it is - writing, cooking, outfits or any my other creations (including the school and cultural center that I created years ago). The secret I think is in giving ourselves permission to not be perfect - be as silly and imperfect as we can. We get better with practice. :)

    Lots of love!

    1. Yes, I agree! I know that I was one of those serious children who just wanted to be an adult and wanted to get everything right. I remember the moments when I realised that my endeavours were 'childish' and lost confidence. I was so focused on doing things the right way it has been a long fight to get back to doing things 'my' way. xo


I love comments; What blogger doesn't? If you take the time to comment, I will take the time to reply.

Over 50 Tall Gamine

Sometimes I reflect on everything I’ve worn over the course of my life.  Does that sound odd or unbelievable?  I have a good memory for t...