Netflix and Draw, Baby
How drawing while watching Television impacts your mental health (and improves figure drawing practice!)
Hellooooo DrawTogether Grown-Ups Table family.
We have a lot of new GUT members at the table this week! If you’re a new subscriber be sure to head to the GUT Chat where every week hundreds of GUT members share drawings we make in response to the GUT weekly art assignments. And don’t forget to pop over to the introductions and say hi to fellow GUT community members!
I just got back yesterday from an action-packed work/bday trip to New York and Austin. A little report-back: In NY, I set up a DrawTogether Strangers table on the Highline for an audio story with The New York Times (coming soon!), and spent a great day chatting with students around the globe at the annual Kid Spirit conference. If you’re feeling worried about the world, spend a day listening to young people. So much energy and hope. In Austin, I joined AudioFlux, an incredible new interdisciplinary audio-based storytelling org, to present an audio/visual collaborative project we did at the inaugural Independent Media Initiatives festival.
And on the bday front, a very special person in NY treated me to a Risograph printing workshop, ate some great food, saw the Kronos Quartet at Carnegie Hall (happened to sit next to Phillip Glass!), hung out with friends and an awesome kid and made art.
Now i’m back home, happy, and EXHAUSTED. When I walked in the door yesterday, all I wanted to do was lay on the sofa, put on a mindless show and chill out. But I also wanted to draw...
Which takes us this week’s Grown-Ups Table topic:
How can we keep up our drawing practice when we are exhausted and all we want to do is zone out in front of TV or a movie?
I’m so glad you asked.
TV + Drawing = Art Therapy (sort of)
You might be surprised to learn that many artists watch movies or TV while they work. Not all the time, of course. It’s nearly impossible to think deeply while The Bachelor blares in the background. But after when we’re in that phase called “production” - when we actually MAKE the thing we’re working on - we don’t really have to think that much anymore. We just get the pleasure of letting our heads go and just moving our hands. Since this is when that art-making flow state can really kick in, some people prefer to make in silence or listen to music. Other people use music to inspire their mood and movements. (Remember we did an experiment with this at the Grown-Ups Table last year!) And some people use the opportunity to listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
And some people watch TV.
“Watch” is a stretch. It’s more like listening to an audio play in the background. That’s why shows like The West Wing, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad are so great to “watch” while drawing - they are all about the dialog. (I watched almost the entire West Wing while painting Salt Fat Acid Heat.) Drawing with a show on the in the background helps distract your brain just enough to quiet that loud, judgy voice and helps let your hands take over. And for those of us who are easily distracted, ironically it can help us focus.
Drawing from TV
Another thing I personally love to do is draw what is ACTUALLY on TV.
Meaning: grab a sketchbook and pen, plot down in front of TV, put on a show or film and just watch for a while. And then when a moment or character or outfit grabs you, press pause on the remote, pick up your pen, and draw the moment.
It’s fun to be able to choose an exact moment from a film or show and use that as subject matter. We get to choose the person (or place), their expression, the lighting, the composition, really see the details, and draw it without interruption. When you pause someone on TV, everyone is a perfect model. They stay perfectly still. They don’t sneeze or cough. AND they are way cheaper than a figure drawing class.
These drawings can be close detailed studies, like the ones I did above. Each of those people took about 20-30 minutes each. But they don’t have to take that long.
In a traditional figure drawing class, the group almost always warms up by drawing quick, loose sketches. Maybe the class will start by drawing ten, quick 60 second poses, then do five 3-minute poses, then a few 15 minute poses. Only after that does the model settle in and hold long pose, and the class draws for an hour.
Each of those took about 3 minutes each. I watched till a moment grabbed me, pressed pause and drew the moment FAST.
Unless you are in a figure drawing class or have a very patient, physical skilled partner, it can be hard to get someone to hold still like this. Let alone ask them to repeat everything they just said a bunch of times so you can write it all down. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rewind or fast forward button for life sometimes?)
Of course drawing from a screen is entirely different from drawing from life. The screen is flat. Light comes from it, as opposed to bouncing off an actual body. Scale is all weird… But if it’s what we got, then who cares. It’s still fun and we can learn a lot from practicing drawing from it.
Drawing from Television is a twofer and I can’t recommend it enough. We get to practice drawing people (and dogs and gorillas) and we get to sink into the couch and chilllll.
And while it’s important to stay engaged with the world and keep our eyes and ears open, it’s also important to zone out and let our brains relax. We might as well get a little drawing in while we do it.
Netflix and draw, baby. Good for the hands, good for the head. And way cheaper than figure drawing classes.
Tell me, what do YOU watch or listen to while you draw? Got any good background show/movie/podcast drawing recommendations? Let’s share our suggestions for one another in the comments!
Which leads us to this week’s assignment….
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