Moving an Artist 7 Years in 3 Days – this is What I Do & How I Do it

What if I could show you a way to springboard your Art (Music, Painting, Kung Fu, Formula 1 Driving) ahead in massive steps in a really short amount of time?

Would you want that? What would it be worth to you and your work?

I will admit that uptake for what I offer is not great. “No” is the most common answer I get when I offer to assist someone in delivering a better piece of music. I do understand that as what I do is not as easily defined as simply buying a new compressor plugin.

Art for Art’s sake, Money for God’s sake

If you are one of those confused about how I may be able to help you, this may give you an idea of what is possible. This is what I do and how I do it:

These two images are drawings by the same 8 year old girl only 3 days apart. In that time she did not have any formal art lessons, read any books, or even particularly learn any new techniques (what people call Tips & Tricks).

I’m not super skilled in scanning or photographing artworks. I did what I could so don’t judge what you see by the way I put em into the digital world that makes sketches go grey or washed out.

When I asked Hannah: “If you saw these two pictures and I asked you what ages this person was when they drew them?” She said: “5 years old & 12 years old.” Sounds reasonable enough. That is 7 years difference in ability to make better art in three days.

No this isn’t a pitch for steak knives – oh and a book – simply trying to really get this clear that I moved this girl’s drawing from the one on the left to the one on the right in 3 days with only a little intensive talking (and listening + trust to allow herself to do things differently).

You Show Me Your Heart

For full clarity, Hannah is my daughter. She has come to me with her paintings a few times before and I have given advice on how to make them work better. Hannah has mostly run off and come back a bit later with most of what I said done. She realized that what I said helped. This made her pre-disposed to listening when I saw her drawing leaves and they really were pretty – well not good – like screwed up paper.

Here’s What We Did

Those “screwed up paper” leaves were the ones top right of the first image (the colorful one). I grabbed a piece of paper and her pencil and said, “Not like that, all in one line like it is something you are forcing onto the page. More like this,” and drew a couple of swishes of the pencil to make the leaf shape and then the same for the stem and the veins.

Hannah looked confused so I did it again. Still with the “huh!” She got they looked better but not why. So I drew a leaf the way she was – all rigid like, in one line – and then said “Which is better?” She pointed to the first one I drew and I said “Why?” She came back with “because it seems more alive”. (the Force is strong with this one)

Hannah went away and finished that first picture. She came to me the next day with that finished picture. Then pulled out the new drawing with that central flower thing. I asked “What is that?” She said “A flower”. Ok. She then asked what she should do next. “How should the leaves be?”

I asked how serious she was about making this a much better picture? She said plenty. This permission this is important. If you don’t want it, it won’t go well.

We had a pretty long conversation (esp for an 8 year old) about how when you draw stuff, you aren’t drawing that thing at all. That new flower didn’t look like no flower I have ever seen (well maybe a heliotrope) but it was a bit lively. The stalk was super odd. But it didn’t matter because it was interesting. It had life.

Drawing is not about copying that thing onto paper. Drawing is about expression, the feeling of the thing through your brain onto paper so it can go to the person who looks at that picture.

The next thing I spoke about was how her pictures tended to be all on the “one line”. I showed her the Bayeux Tapestry and pointed out how it is very flat (amazing but oh so flat). I then showed her some other great artworks with depth.

Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry

Hannah mostly got that. So lots got added. We had the main flower and the other plant in front. Leaves were around the stems not stuck to them. I also advised that the two plants have different types of leaves that behaved a bit differently. We were doing well. Massive lift in the feel. So I said add another of those odd flowers down lower on the right. Same thing, only further away.

Forest For The Trees

The next day Hannah came again with more parts. That other flower had appeared but the stem was terrible. Just dead as a dead rat playing dead dog in a graveyard of dead things. The stem wasn’t like the first one (not the same type of plant) and the flow all wrong. All the leaves were stuck to the edge of the stem like Normans axing Saxons on that tapestry.

Now it didn’t surprise me that this happened. It always does. Hannah got excited and felt she was doing mighty fine. She didn’t want to “wreck” that picture. So she did exactly that by worrying more about what was right than what was needed to make the picture great.

We had quite a few back and forth moments with the eraser. You can see the damage on the page. To be honest the stalk never fully recovered but we got there passably so time to go on.

Hannah avoided that picture for a day. I was worried I broke her.

Hole In The World

But it came back out this morning and there was that thing above the main flower. Again with the “What’s that?” A butterfly it appears. Well it sure ain’t that I said. And the little face fell (butterfly obsession). I said, “remember when I said that you are not drawing butterflies, you are drawing life, you are drawing movement?” Tentative nod. “This is movement. It is not a butterfly but it could be a seed.”

We recapped on how all art is about life & movement and showed how much movement we already had. This new thing was more, and actually really nice, movement but sadly her ego was getting in the way.

How could it not be a butterfly!!!!! It had to be a butterfly. Because Hannah likes butterflies.

We had already talked about how the artist was not the God of their Art but the conduit for the art to get from wherever it lives to the page (or Tape if you’re a muso type which I assume seeing you are here).

I reminded her that all the dramas & rework we had over that second flower was because she was fighting the picture, letting her ego/brain get in the way of the life & movement the picture was trying to express.

The light half went back on. I gave the nod and set about working up that seed.

Seedy Films

It was not easy. I kept showing how that seed was curving up as the energy moved to the right so the next seed on the left needed to match/build that flow. I drew two curves to represent the seeds on another page and then a swish that joined em but no dice.

So we did what every artist must, we went outside to have an anatomy lesson. I hacked a leaf off a tree and made her name the parts. I also talked about how this leaf flowed this way. That leaf flowed that way. Seemed a bit dumb at first. Then she started to understand. The light went fully on. Those seeds were like the way leaves flow together only over space.

The second seed got finished right. The flow of life across the image works. It rises in a sinuous way from bottom left-ish through the stalks and the main flower, up & out through the upper seed.

We talked about if it needed other things. Color. Things we could put in that would fit but we both knew this was as far as this image should go.

It was done.

The Great Leap Forward

I then had Hannah compare those two pictures that were only a few days apart. With nothing but some direction on where to put things and some serious adjusting of how she thought about art and making it we had moved her abilities from flat & static to alive.

Hannah now realizes so much more of what she is capable. I’m sure it won’t all be smooth sailing from here but her ability to do the art thing has moved from rigid and childish to alive and fully human (adult). I helped he find her art. Her flow.

My real point in this article is not look how clever Benedict is but that if you can let us work together, as my daughter did in the last few days, we can unlock some of that flow for you and your music. You won’t know it going in. You won’t know yourself coming out.

This is what I do and how I do it.

Leave a Reply