Five ways to start drawing again

As we talked about a couple of days ago, scientific communication, in your teaching and your writing, is more and more about blending images with text (as always, quality = design * content). But for most of us our last art class was in fifth grade (or earlier, depending on how philistine your school district was with the budget cuts). These five suggestions are about getting you to see like an artist again (remember how much fun that was?).

1) Buy Drawing on the right side of the brain. You’re probably beginning the blissful holiday break with the promise of a little more time, charcoal grey skies, and the need to hide from the family every once in a while ;-). This workbook contains exercises guaranteed to awaken your sleeping artist. Sure, my neurobiologist friends cringe when they hear her “right-brain, left-brain” explanations, but, hey, if it works empirically, the theory can still be wrong.

2) Start a clip folder. When you are beginning to imagine what a manuscript or lecture will look like, imagine the illustrations you would like to have, not just the text. So when you’re cruising the web and you see just such an image copy it into this folder (add the attribution to the file name of course).

3) Carry around a cheap camera and use it. Digital cameras not only allow you to build your your photo library, just the act of looking through the viewfinder/screen causes you to work on your composition chops.

4) Organize your photos. If you can’t find ’em, they’re invisible. Google’s free Picasa on your PC, and iPhoto on your Mac are chock full of tagging features. And tag your photos soon after you collect them; add this task to your weekly review (more on that soon).

5) Invest in graphics tablet. Graphics tablets allow you to draw on your computer with a real (OK, virtual) pen. Photoshop and Keynote presentation software is perfectly suitable for most of your illustration needs, and allow you to export jpgs. Graphics tables are a heckuva lot easier than trying to sketch with your mouse. They come in all shapes and sizes, but Wacom has a nice cheap one for about $80.


2 Responses to Five ways to start drawing again

  1. zeladoniac says:

    One more suggestion: get a small sketchbook you can take everywhere with you, and a nice ultrafine sharpie or mechanical pencil. Moleskines are terrific and come in two sketchbook sizes, both convenient. They are bound nicely and have a good heft and great paper feel and make you feel very artistic and official whatever it is you are drawing. The best way to start drawing is to start drawing.

  2. If you ever get a job in academia, you’ll discover that committee meetings, if you are not the chair of the committee, are wonderful times to practice sketching. As I clean out my files toward the end of a career, I find myself saving agendas upon which are some sketches that now, ten, fifteen, thirty, years later, seem to have acquired an aura of authentic art. – JJ

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