A series of drawings I did by chance

Sometimes, you can rely on chance. It can give structure and meaning to an art exercise.

Start with something

Every art project needs a starting point. This one started when I decided to do something with all the beautiful leaves falling off our ficus plant. They seem to drop about once a month, one by one - and bright-green new ones pop up on the top of the plant once the older red ones have fallen on the bottom.

When they do fall, it’s about one per day - so I felt like I could document each one with a quick drawing. The plant gave me a schedule I could not control, but that worked for em - one drawing a day, for 3-4 days in a row, then a break.

 One of the first drawings I did for this series. It looks pretty choppy compared to the smoother lines and color gradations int he last one :)

One of the first drawings I did for this series. It looks pretty choppy compared to the smoother lines and color gradations int he last one :)

The rules I invented gave me structure.

On top of this schedule (draw when a leaf falls) I gave myself some rules to make the drawings relate to each other.

  • I matched real leaves - each drawing has individuality. It reflects the blemishes and weird discolorations exactly as they are.
  • I kept the size as-is. My sketchbook pages are large enough to give each drawing room to breathe. I was glad I kept the leaves no smaller than 100% size but no larger than they are either.
  • The colors are limited. I started with pencil colors to match the first leaf I drew, and then continued on the series with the same set of pencils.
  • The subject stays the same. In practicing drawing, the biggest question is often what to practice. By limiting my choices for the series, I made this decision easier and eliminated a potential chance to get discouraged by choice and quit.

Structure keeps me going, because it eliminates enough decisions that I can focus on just drawing. At the beginning of a project like this, I just have to promise myself that I’ll keep going long enough to make, say, 10 drawings. Then, I’m not allowing myself to reconsider whether I’ll be doing the leaf drawing until I reach ten and can evaluate the results.

Because I kept going, I now have a bigger result.

Series, due to our natural tendency to seek out a pattern, look better than an individual drawing might by itself. I can treat the result as a group of drawings - or, examine where I improved and pick one or several winners among this set. Either way, a series can give me a stronger result for my effort.

Struggling to complete a bigger thing? Make a series of smaller ones instead.

I often get frustrated when a drawing exercise takes too long to complete. Without a repetitive format organized into smaller “leaf sized” chunks I might quit much earlier.

And, in the end, I saw this comparison as well. The real leaves fade in color and then dry up - and my drawings will stay. What a neat allegory :)

Maria Matveevasixth-9