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New Year, New You

It’s almost January, and all across the internet, New Year’s posts are going up. Happy 2019, they say. It’s going to be a great year

Then they get straight to the point: 

It’s time to start fulfilling your resolutions for 2019, now.

There’s nothing wrong with lists and deadlines to keep you focused, but constant planning and can actually be counterproductive. 

Instead, take a deep breath and relax with five drawing exercises—selected by PatronArt curator Zach Cooke—that will refresh your practice and keep your work moving forward now and in the new year.

1. Draw with your non-dominant hand

Artists are often said to be right-brain dominant. While this is a little misleading (no one uses only half their brain), research does suggest that the right side of the brain is responsible for creativity, perception, while the left is responsible for logic, intellect, and judgement.

But what does this have to do with your hands? Well, your dominant hand is hooked up with the opposite side of your brain. So if you’re only using one side of your body, your brain hemispheres probably aren’t talking to each other enough.

Research in the field of brain lateralization suggests you’ll actually be equipped to do your best work when both halves of your brain are fully integrated. One of the best way to do that is to use your non-dominant hand as often as possible.

What it does:

Jumpstarts creativity, integrates right and left brain function

What you'll need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil

What to do:

This one’s pretty basic. Just find a subject, pick up a pencil, and switch off your usual drawing hand. It’s going to feel awkward at first. You can also practice daily activities with your non-dominant hand, like brushing your teeth or blow drying your hair.

2. Contour your heart out

Contour is the French term for outline. It sounds simplistic, but some contour drawings can get quite complex. A blind contour is what you’ll most likely do in a drawing class, and it’s the one we’ll focus on here.

What it does:

Improves hand/eye coordination, improves observational skills

What you'll need:

  • Drawing tool of choice
  • Paper

What to do:

Choose a subject and observe it for a moment. You won’t be looking at your drawing at all (that’s why it’s called a blind contour), so get the urge out of your system now. As you draw, resist the urge to lift your pencil off the paper, and instead, try to find a pathway to where you need to go. What internal lines can you make that will help describe the shape of your subject? Remember, 3D objects don’t actually have edges or outlines; feel free to draw a contour line wherever you need to. 

3. Make a gesture

If you’ve ever taken a drawing class, chances are you’re familiar with the gesture. 

Gesture drawing is an exercise taught mostly in anatomy classes. Not only does it convey form and action in a living thing, it also warms you up before longer drawings. They’re fast, and typically last less than a minute but can go on as long as five.

What it does:

Loosens your arm, improves gut instinct, breathes life into your drawings.

What you'll need:

  • Large piece(s) of paper
  • Drawing board
  • A drawing tool with a broad edge (a stick of charcoal works well)
  • A timer that you can set in minutes and seconds
  • A live model. (Ask a friend to pose for you, find a pet or other animal, or sit in a public area and use the people around you.) 

What to do:

.Before you start drawing, study your model. Observe its shape and general direction in space. 

Set your timer at 30 seconds and press start when you’re ready. As you draw, keep your eyes on the model. Remember to draw from your shoulder, and keep your arm moving; you don’t have much time to get the whole things down. Use the broad side of your charcoal and keep things general.

As you progress, set the timer at longer intervals until you’re up to five minutes.

4. Leave an Exquisite Corpse

The Exquisite Corpse came to life in the Parisian parlor rooms of the Rue de Chateau but lives on in the hearts and minds of bored teenagers everywhere.

You probably played the Surrealist game in math class once or twice by folding a piece of notebook paper into thirds, drawing o and then passing it back to two friends who’d complete the other 2/3 of the drawing. The catch? You’re not allowed to look at anyone else’s

The Exquisite Corpse isn’t just an escape from the drudgeries of Algebra, though. Like its cousin Mad Libs, rounds of Exquisite Corpse are a fun way to boost creativity and stimulate your brain.

What it does:

Increases spontaneity and creativity, strengthens collaborative skills

What you'll need:

  • An assortment of colorful drawing tools
  • Paper
  • Two friends

What to do:

Fold a sheet of paper into thirds. The three sections represent three sections of the Corpse: head, torso, and legs. The first player draws a head in the top section. Before passing the drawing to the next participant, player one folds the top section down so their contribution is hidden. Player two draws the torso, then folds their section to hide it. The last player draws the feet. When they’re finished, unfold your drawing and marvel at your Exquisite Corpse.

5. Get cozy with Dada

The Surrealists weren’t the only group of artists who liked to play parlor games. As a reaction to the brutality and inanity of  WWI, the Dadaists invented parlor games that mirrored the absurdity of the world around them. Though the games came from a dark place, they’re wonderfully freeing exercises that promote free-associative thinking–sort of like meditation.

What it does:

Silences your inner critic, generates ideas

What you'll need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Collage materials

What to do:

There are a number of Dada games you can play, or make up. Make a collage from random scrapes of paper, play with refrigerator poetry or cut out words from a newspaper and make a story. The games you could invent are almost limitless., As long as they incorporate elements of absurdity and randomness, you’ll be good to go.

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