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Don't Be Intimidated by a Blank Page: Just Draw with Lines!

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This chapter is full of ideas that will help you to get past any trepidation and just start drawing.

Facing an empty page can be daunting, even for experienced visual artists. Artist James Romberger explains how one master cartoonist felt about the blank page.

  • “Mort Meskin [Golden Age comic book artist] was known to face an empty page with considerable trepidation, staring at it for hours in a total block. Eventually his studio mates figured out to go over and scribble a few random lines on his page, which he was then able to begin turning into a composition.
  • “According to Alex Toth [American comic book artist and animation designer], later in his career Meskin would shade the entire page with the flat side of a pencil lead, then begin to pick out white areas here and there with an eraser—in this way he was able to avoid the creative blocks that stymied his youth.”

This chapter is full of ideas that will help you to get past any trepidation and just start drawing.

Start by Scribbling

Part 1. Find a piece of scrap paper. Or if you have a drawing tablet, use that. Start scribbling with abandon (try really hard if you’re adverse to being messy or unrestricted). Be as unconstrained by preconceptions about making marks as you can. Scribble over scribbles, making some areas darker and denser than others. Fill the scrap of paper or digital page without concern about representing any person, place, or object.

Critique: Did you use your wrist? Was your arm resting on a table?

Do the scribbles drawn over scribbles look a bit like atmosphere? Did you create the illusion of spatial depth? Did you touch the edges of the page? Does the page look boundless?

Part 2. Find as big a piece of paper or substrate as you can, for example, a sheet of newsprint paper, an actual spread from a printed newspaper, a couple of paper towels, or the side of a big cardboard carton.

Put the substrate on the floor or on a table surface. Scribble. But this time, use your whole arm to make the marks. It’s best if you stand while you do this. Use arm movements, not just wrist movements, to make marks.

As in Step 1, fill the entire surface without concern about representation or making anything other than marks.

Critique: Did using your arm feel differently than using your wrist to draw? Did the scribbles look different?

Line Palette: Assemble an assortment of pencils in varying degrees of hardness, for example, a 6B, 2B, and an H; a stick of charcoal; any kind of crayon; a fine-point marker; a brush plus ink or paint; an unconventional implement, such as a cotton swab, rosebud, or twig; ink or watered-down paint; and paper or this journal.

A line can have a specific quality—it can be thick or thin, solid or broken, continuous or noncontinuous (implied), changeless or varying, smooth or uneven, and so on. Using each drawing implement, sweep your hand across the page twice. The first swipe should be light and fast. The second swipe should be more controlled, pressing with a moderate amount of pressure.

Compare the marks. Can you match each mark with an emotion? An actual texture?

Draw a light, long line. Then draw a scratchy long line.

Determine several types of lines that you can draw with the same pencil; for example, a light, delicate line; an uneven line; a rough line; a smudged or messy line; a dark, thicker line; a staggered line; and so on.

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