WordPress somehow keeps track of search terms folks used to get to my blog. One of the most frequently searched terms is fear of sketching in public.
I’ve been working on solving this problem, because one of the things I really want to be able to do before I die is sketch freely in public, with no shame. If that’s your goal too, here are some suggestions that have helped me.
- Take some classes to improve your skills. This is top of the list. I’ve studied figure drawing with Rob Anderson at the Atelier School of Classical Realism for 3 years. It’s improved my skill level to the point where I can sketch people and have them look like people. That has allayed my fears incredibly.
- Plan your sketch trip as if it were an expedition to an exotic country. Expeditions are hard. They are arduous. They can be dangerous. They are adventure that takes a lot of effort, so think ahead. Select your materials with care. Decide where you’re going (make a map if it helps you). Know how you’ll provide for your basic needs (what you’ll eat, where you’ll be able to go to the bathroom.) Once you’re on your expedition, be curious, look around you, document the expedition with sketches to describe the customs of the natives.
- Choose places where you can sketch in obscurity. At first, it helped me to sketch in large public places like parks, where I could sit on a hillside with my back against some bushes (so no one could creep behind me and look over my shoulder at my drawing). I drew people who were far away, so they didn’t get self conscious that I was drawing them. I could have been drawing them, the view, anything. And I did draw them, the view, anything.
- Pretend you’ve got no choice. When I went to the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass festival, I pretended that I was on assignment for a brutal editor and had to come away with ten sketches. I just didn’t have any choice. I had to do it. The sketches didn’t have to be particularly good, but there had to be 10. That worked for me, as I’m used to deadlines and assignments.
- Keep it simple. Don’t try to create a masterpiece. That’s way too much pressure. Draw stick figures if you must. Anyone can draw a stick figure. Try just to get the action or composition down using stick men as shorthand. Stick figures are amusing, and a low commitment for the artist. Later you can hang skin and clothes on the little figures in a place where no one can look over your shoulder and criticize. Same with a landscape. Just try to get the bones of the landscape. Don’t worry about drawing every bush, tree, or leaf.
- Remember that people don’t see your work the way you do. We artists tend to be our worst critics. We see flaws; others see beauty, or effort, or the coolness factor that you’re an artist. They may even be thinking, “gee, I wish I had the courage to do that.”