Don’t Know What You’re Doing? Do It Anyway!


graphite and drawing inks

Yesterday I sat down to draw and I got out these bottles of ink I had been ignoring ever since I had brought them home. I have been using Copic brush markers for months doing simulated washes on my art cards and drawings. I liked using these markers because I felt a sense of control. The markers were clean and sharp. I knew exactly how the color would lay down. I didn’t have to worry about drips or spatters. I could get the look of washes without having to deal with random effects. It felt comfortable. But it was too comfortable.

So I found some brushes, probably the wrong ones, put some inks on a palette, and then stared at the blank page of my sketchbook. Where to start? I didn’t know what I was doing. So I just decided to not worry about it. I gave myself the permission to create the biggest mess I wanted to. I laid down a bunch of blue ink, primarily because I found it a soothing color. I liked the way it looked on the page. Hmmm. What next.

I grabbed a pencil and did some sketching. That soothed me a bit more, so I just grabbed the brushes and went at it. I mentally shrieked a few times when I splattered ink here and there. But I just pushed on until I realized that I didn’t have to push anymore. I was just I was having fun. Some of the washes I did were so thin that they barely registered on the page, but that was fine because each stroke of the brush freed me a little more. I used Windsor & Newton India Black India ink and Nut Brown ink, occasionally mixing them.

So you see the result. Not a masterpiece, but I like looking at it. When I look through my sketchbook I’ll see the date written on the picture and say to myself, “That was the day I got over myself about that!” I have lots of page like that.

So when you want to try something, just go for it. Give yourself the space to just have fun on the page. Get the feeling of the brush, stick, pencil, or pen in your hand. Feel how it moves across the page. You don’t have to know what you are doing. You can always find a class or a book to help you refine your technique later. But always allow yourself the freedom to shake things up, try something new and get a little messy. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Published by Mellanie C

sketch artist, daydreamer Figurative artist specializing in small format art and portraits.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Know What You’re Doing? Do It Anyway!

  1. I’m really impressed. I have now seen a few self portraits of you and would know you anytime – anyplace. This is just wonderful!! And great advice….


  2. i know i’ve said it before, but you are SO FREAKING TALENTED. all of your work has so much soul, which i didn’t know was possible when sketching a sponge, but apparently, it is.

    solid words of wisdom in this post, too. looking forward to your next entry!


  3. what a wonderful post! I have looked at all your self portraits and you are slowly but surely inspiring me to try doing my own portrait. I would probably try sooner if I had more confidence in how I actuslly look right now. and in my actual ability to do a portrait. hum…I may just have to “get over myself” about this and just get on with it. Thanks!


  4. This is very sound advice Mellanie. I have the problem of being a bit too precise in an artistic sense and need to “let go” a bit more but it isn’t easy. Good for you for achieving this. I love the portrait. You get so much character and definition in your work.


  5. Thanks everyone for your responses.

    Shirley: I’m glad you like the self-portraits and enjoyed the post.

    Blaine: Wow! Your comments always give me a boost. Thanks a lot. I’m so glad you enjoy my artwork.

    Stephanie: I would love to see a self-portrait. I enjoy your pen drawings very much.

    Cathy: Letting go is hard isn’t it. Once you do it feels so natural and so right, but it can be a struggle to remember that. I’m so pleased that you like the portrait.


  6. I couldn’t have said it better, for sure (and lord knows i couldn’t have painted it better!)
    Yes, I it’s a great piece to look at. Thanks for sharing your insights. You’re so good at portraits.


  7. Wonderful piece. I am glad to read you had so much fun with the art supplies. It appears that you over came the inner critic during this session..Congradulations! The result IS a masterpiece.


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