Art, Drawings, Portraits

Wanting Something for Nothing

I quit sketching on a regular and frequent basis about seven years ago.  Since then, I’ve sometimes promised myself I would start up again.  Yet,  until very recently,  I haven’t actually gotten back into it.   As of today, though, I’ve been sketching for an hour or so a day over the past couple of weeks.

At the moment, I prefer doing portraits in a variety of media including graphite, Conté crayon, and carbon pencil.

Now, the big challenge I have at this point is to find some way of getting some results I actually want in only an hour or so of work.   The problem, you see, is that it seems most of the really cool,  attractive art requires a huge investment in time, patience, and energy.  That is, there are drawing styles that routinely consume tens of hours to execute.  Unfortunately, I have neither the motivation nor the patience to pursue those styles.  Consequently, I’m looking for a far, far cheaper way to get a result I will still enjoy.

In other words, I want something for nothing.

There absolutely has to be a style or technique out there somewhere that will allow me to achieve cool and personally pleasing results with only an hour or so investment in each work.  I know there absolutely has to be one because I’m an American and all Americans are born with an inalienable right to fast food and fast art.

11 thoughts on “Wanting Something for Nothing”

    1. Great idea! They are tiny, like Squirrel’s idea; useful; and something my family, at least, would probably enjoy. Plus, when I checked out the art supply stores after reading your suggestion, I discovered I can buy blank greeting cards in a wide selection of papers. Not a bad idea, CD! Thanks!


      1. Truthfully, Paul, I HATE shopping for greeting cards. Most are offensively insipid, others try to be funny and fall flat. It takes me forever to find one that seems appropriate and I wish I had the time and artistic ability to make my own.

        What I’m saying is there is in fact a market for your talent and your intelligent wit. And oftentimes the best card simply has a lovely piece of artwork on the front while the inside is left blank.

        On a somewhat related tangent, I bought a card once that had a picture on the front — 3 men sitting on a couch drinking beer, except they had cat heads photoshopped onto their bodies. One was saying something like, “Yeah, I think it’s the testicles I miss the most.” Now that’s funny! But I haven’t yet found the appropriate occasion to give it away.


      2. I like the idea of doing some greeting cards. I might wait to begin designing them, though, until the second half of the year. The winter holidays are a long ways off at the moment.

        One of the things that makes your idea a very good one in my case, CD, is that I know it would please my family to see I was again doing some artwork.


  1. Caricatures. There are artists who set up an easel at block parties and fairs or on the street and have passers-by sit for quick portraits, just a few lines that capture the face and personality. People pay for them (I know that isn’t what you’re after; I just mean the sitters seem to like the results).

    If you do something well, even if it doesn’t take much time, you aren’t getting it for nothing. You’ve put skill into it.

    And what are your standards for “really cool, attractive art”? Does it have to be complicated, or can it be simple and elegant? “Economy of means” is a phrase I remember from my art history classes in school (mumble) years ago.


    1. I like that idea, SW. In fact, I imagine I would very much like to explore simplicity. For one thing, it would get me away from what I see as a boring tendency to be overly literal. And I believe it would help me think in new ways. That’s a really good idea! Thanks!

      By the way, here’s something I did along those lines a few years ago. It’s about as far as I’ve ever pursued simplicity, though. Maybe it’s time I gave it another shot.


    2. Oh, that’s a really lovely drawing, Paul. Just a few deft lines that capture the essence of the couple’s loving relationship, and of loving relationships in general. That’s exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. That drawing could be used to illustrate the phrase “economy of means” in an encyclopedia!

      I’d much rather have that to look at than a detailed, fine-grained portrait of the couple. It isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it’s involving, participatory, for the viewer.

      Gee, I hope you do explore that sort of simplicity. It’ll draw on your insight as well as your skill, which I should think you would find deeply rewarding.

      (BTW, in my earlier comment, didn’t mean “caricature” in the sense of grotesque, unflattering distortion of the kind one finds in political cartoons, but more along the lines of Al Hirschfeld’s drawings of movie stars. They’re exaggerated, yes, but not to mock, rather to convey the personality.)


      1. Thanks for the encouragement! I’m in the process right now of simplifying the image of Becky.

        One thing, though, it’s much more time consuming than it would seem to be. But that’s OK in this case: The process is interesting enough to keep me motivated. At least so far.


  2. Early on in her career, Artist Jennifer Bartlett exhibited tiny colorful squares of different paintings of houses all together. Each square was very simple and a painting in itself, but exhibiting a hundred of them like tiles all together was magnificent, a whole different experience. You could do small drawings of parts of things rather than the whole from different perspective. It’s possible to be very creative in an hour a day. I used to do one little pastel painting of sunrise out my window every day when I lived in the country before going to work. They’re still some of my best paintings. I’ve since stopped painting altogether but always think about starting up. It used to center my day.


    1. That’s a very intriguing idea, Squirrel. I think it would help me diversify away from an exclusive interest in my first loves — portraits and figures — which would probably be a good thing. Especially since I’m surrounded by so much natural beauty here in Colorado. I know exactly where in my apartment to display something like that, too. In short, there’s a lot to be said for your idea. Thanks!


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