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Getting a grip!

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Anyone able to hold a tool and make marks can learn to draw, and make more skilled marks. But how you hold your tools does matter.

Your grip is hugely impactful on the kinds, quality, and range of lines and marks you can make as an artist. What the Video posted here and check out the handouts below for instruction on the 5 basic grips I encourage in class.

In Dynamic Drawing we’re primarily using analog drawing tools, a large enough tablet could accommodate some of the exercise we do but it would not be very portable and frequently the goal is to literally draw big! As in making big movements with our bodies. So tablets and smaller interfaces in general don’t suit it. But the following can apply regardless if you draw on paper or digitally.

One of the reasons you want to have a few options for grip is that each brings a different range of expression to the table, so right off, even if you have a good traditional grip, picking up a couple others for special circumstances is sound.

And if you have developed an non typical grip or even the habit of drawing with a “claw” grip, while I would not simply say that’s bad, it’s good to interrogate if this atypical approach is helping you or creating obstacles or a threat to your long term ability to draw without developing problems.

Common to beginners often is simply holding their tools far too hard, and pressing into the paper forcefully.

Both habits can undermine your ability to acquire subtler control and dynamic line control. The very same muscles that are used to grip your tool also move your tool, if they are maxed out by the pressure being used to hold it, they canNOT move it around the drawing surface with any subtlety or dexterity, and trying to is a great way to accelerate the odds of getting carpel tunnel or other drawing injuries.

Holding your tools forcefully, will not let your control of them better, it will in fact make it poorer, and hurt.

So first, try to relax, and hold them only firmly enough, to keep it troubling from your hand as you use them. And do not try to force the line into the page. The lighter your touch, especially at the start of the drawing, the more room for nuance and revisions you will have.

I recommend learning breathing and hand exercises, we introduce them in the course, both Qigong and Yogic warmups I’ll show you in class but if you’re only reading the site check out the yoga warm up clip embedded here. ! Use these to relax and focus on the task, It’s a basic form of Mindfulness really.

While doing the Qigong or Yoga exercises notice your breathing. And start to think about how our posture and the mechanics of our body impact on drawing. Don’t worry about if you believe in Chi or not, the techniques work for what we want them to do regardless.

I think you will find for example, that holding your breath while you draw is common, but it can result if you over do it in shaking and tends to create tension in the body. It’s also probably just not healthy for us. So be aware of that and breath!

Your body is your tool. If you don’t already, think about using your arm like i showed you in class, not just drawing with the wrist and fingers for from the elbow or wrist as well. Experiment, explore the way your hand can move. The more range you have the more variety of expression you can achieve.

It’s very common to rest the side of our palm on the paper and use it to stabilize our hand, this can be useful with fine detail work but it can limit the kind of forms we can render in a given stroke. You want to learn how to dance on the page with your pen a little too.

In short, relax, think about your hand and your grip on your tool. Move with your breath.

You can't feel a brush touching the page, think about the z axis!For many of my students our class is the first time they will start exploring drawing with a brush! Real brushes, not felt tip, are different creatures. There are a couple of key rules to thier use: You can’t feel them when they come in contact with the page, line control is all down to looking at what you’re doing.

Asian calligraphy grip.

And you don’t want to ever push the bristles into the base. These means for up strokes you have to ‘lean’ into the stroke with your hand, so the tip isn’t being forced INTO the stroke direction.

Holding the tool in a vertical grip helps as well, rather than leaning it to one side like we do with most tripod grips. Asian calligraphy grips often involve just this.

While doing the pattern and mark making exercises, drawing things is ok but don’t stop to edit too much, you want to be attending to the kind of marks you can make more than getting something you are drawing right at this stage.

If you can resist the urge to turn the repetitive pasterns into things, and just work on the stroke making the mark. Focus on control, not using force when it’s not called for, and repeatability.

Remember, continuous strokes, unending lines. Move steadily, as fast as you can comfortably. Don’t worry about end results, focus on the action of drawing. Practice the different grips in the hand out, and take note of the kinds of lines and shapes they enable you to make.

Below you’ll find some downloadable copies of the handouts on grip and some of the terminology we’ll use in the class with visual examples. You’ll find a little bit of art from one of our schools other teachers, Marc Taro Holmes [course] on this handout page here.

It comes from a great post about drawing a live dancer, where he makes some very excellent observations of the process of working with a dynamic subject. Good preparational reading material for our class i think, and Marc’s work is just a joy to look at anyway.

See you in class!

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