Illustration is liberation through limitation

Why? Because there’s a title. Here, alongside the Big Draw festival’s Draw with me challenge, we celebrate the power of parameters

Egg timer

Set the egg timer and draw something. When the parameters are tight, you lower your expectations, and risk surprising yourself. © Laura Eades 2013

Half the time, with drawing, we are stumped by not knowing what to draw. We could draw blinkin anything, but we draw blinkin nothing, because we don’t know where to start.

Other lovely art that starts with a title

I think of John Hegley’s poems. I wonder if he writes the titles first (where did I hear that?), and then writes the poems to meet the title.

I think of a wonderful, humorous dance show by New Art Club, who made dances to meet titles (like Shit on my shoe, or Bumrush). It was so great, I saw it twice.

And I think of a radio interview I heard with David Shrigley in which he described his daily discipline: he makes a list of about 30 things and forces himself to cover it in the course of a day.

Limit subject matter, limit time

The time constraint helps a lot, too. I owe rediscovering that I like drawing to a couple of projects that forced me to draw very fast and accept the results.

One was a postcard-a-day communication with a friend that lasted almost a year. Another was a theatre show I wanted to illustrate – I’d been doing some drawings for tiny seven-minute performances called pecha kucha, which took place in London’s live art scene thanks to David Gale’s hosting of Peachy Coochy Nites. In these performances you have twenty slides in a powerpoint, and you can talk about each one for twenty seconds. Twenty seconds is about how long you want to look at one of my pictures for. Well, once I’d drawn twenty pictures, drawing hundreds for an animated theatre show Patchwork seemed pretty achievable.

Fast = immediate in style. And rough. And straight from the unconscious

At a certain point I realised that I might have to do some of the illustrations here pretty fast. I’m sorry they are so raw. But then again, what you see are sketches, sometimes, and potential, and ideas, and also how the mind works when you are forced to answer the question: what’s the simplest way I can do this?

Which is an important question for our minds to try to answer, in our lives, day after day, and why zenhabits.net has absolutely got something we all need.

And when I think about all the other habits that bug me, I feel sometimes that it would be so great to receive the instruction to change from ‘out there’, since it’s so much easier to clean up your act if a doctor, or a fierce matron, has told you to.

But the solution to this conundrum, of course, is planning: you set yourself the instructions in advance, and when they are as solid as can be, you obey them because you’ve planned them so well.

What to draw

One of my favourite illustration blogs, pikaland.com, which is a mine of great ideas and discussions and mini-courses, has a (free) 1000 things-to-draw generator. Amy Ng today makes a guest contribution to my own future-based list of What to Draw, which is updated daily through October as part of the Big Draw festival Draw with me challenge. You’re welcome to join in at any point in October!

ps. As I was preparing this post, I was actually boiling an egg to try to save time. Ironically, I didn’t use my egg timer, and ended up with hardboiled rather than dunky. O, the hypocrisy. I realised I was being really impatient. But eaten mindfully, the hardboiled egg on nearly-burnt toast was also delicious.

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And if you have any burning desires to see on the list of What to draw! Your suggestions are welcome! You can contact me directly, or open the comments section by clicking on the grey dot with a ‘plus’ sign under the blogpost

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Read more about drawing on Illustrated Guide to Life: