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Time Lapse of Summer Cabin

Undirected Drawing Step-By-Step​​​

  • Find a paper you like.  I like 11x14 drafting vellum and Bristol 100 lb drawing paper because they stand up to a lot of erasing.  You will be erasing.  Tape the corners to a light, portable, smooth surface.  I like to draw with the board in my lap, sitting in a comfortable chair.

  • Begin by tracing a light rectangle or square in the center of the paper, leaving a wide clean margin so the composition is free to spread outside the rectangle in any direction without running off the edge of the paper.

  • Remember you are not thinking about this as a conventional drawing based on a preconceived image, photo, thing or concept.  You are discovering something that doesn’t exist yet, setting something free no one has seen before.  This is a gradual process, often covering multiple sittings.  Take your time.  Forget about being critical.  In the beginning everything’s permitted.  Here's an example from blank page to finished drawing to paintings.

  • Lightly fill the inner rectangle with scribbles or a random pattern of lines.  Feel free to change hands with the pencil and hold it in unusual ways.  These lines will serve as a skeleton or structure for subsequent drawing.

  • Once you’ve covered the rectangular area with lines, begin lightly filling in some of the closed spaces.  Try going from light to dark within each cell (not too dark yet).  Do not keep any objective in mind:  no image, no color, no goal, other than to cover most of the drawing area with graphite.

  • As you do this, work for a while with one side toward you, then rotate the drawing board so another side of it faces you, and continue filling in cells and intersections without going too dark.

  • Keep in mind you’re not aiming to create a finished drawing in the conventional sense.  Think of it as a carpenter’s template that you will use for a finished drawing or painting.  Imagine you are drawing on a shoreline that will be washed away.  This will keep you loose and put off the Critic who wants everything in its place.

  • As you fill in and rotate the sheet, what’s in front of you will begin to remind you of something.  You may see a bird’s beak, a face, a building.  When this happens, jot down a temporary title for it along the bottom edge of the paper, then rotate the sheet again and continue filling in areas from light to dark.  It’s okay to leave areas white too.

  • Continue filling in, rotating, filling in.  Write down temporary titles in the margins close to the paper's edge.

  • After most of the cells are covered in gradations of light to dark, stop drawing and look at the drawing four times, once from each ‘bottom’.  Which orientation looks best to you?  Look at the titles for further inspiration.

  • Once you’ve decided on a favorite interpretation, keep the paper in that orientation for the rest of the experiment. 

  • You now have an oriented drawing with a temporary title that should tell you what the image is about and you can start to be more critical.  Begin refining the image by darkening the darks and erasing areas that don’t feel like they belong.  It’s still okay to add completely new elements where there’s something missing.  If it helps, do some light scribbling in the ‘missing’ area and fill in some of those cells.

  • Put the drawing away, out of sight for a day.  Pull it out again and look at it with fresh eyes.  More than likely you’ll see something that doesn’t look right.  Erase, add, move – do whatever you need to do to further define your interpretation without making it too literal or photographic.

  • Put it away and pull it out several times until you’re satisfied.  You are the judge of what looks good and when the piece is done.  Are your surprised?  Does it please you?  If yes, you’re done.  If not, put it away for a longer period of time and you’ll know what it needs the next time you look.


When the drawing is complete, you'll have gone through a five-step process of Discovery, Refining, Balancing and Production, resulting in an Invention.  

Summer Cabin

You have in your possession a unique product that could only have come from your imagination and yours alone.  It is not derivative of any one else's work.  It reflects your personality and only your personality, learning, knowledge and yes, your baggage.  It's as good as you can imagine.

See all three Summer Cabin paintings on the Abstract Realist gallery page.

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