For our prompt of “Mountains” today, I opted for a portrait of a mountain lion, who goes by many aliases including puma, cougar, and panther. I’ve always been struck by the intense gaze of these creatures and how they seem to be intently viewing everything at once. I can only strive for this level of observation when it comes to making art, but in the end, I think perhaps, this big cat still manages to see things that I miss. It’s likely that an animal who uses primarily instinct has a bit of an advantage over the human animal. We tend to add a touch of rationalization or a preconceived notion to everything we see and this can be good, when it works out, but many times it can lead to us missing out on many things. My approach is to view everything with the eyes of a child. Having never been a mountain lion, this is the closest reference I have. I just hope to have a sense of innocence when I sketch, so it’s as if I’m looking at something for the very first time. My hope is that, in this way, I can just maybe see more of what’s actually there. Little bits of detail I might have overlooked if my adult mind had been in charge at the time.
This is why I’ve adopted a mantra of sketching like a kid again. Not just because it’s super fun, but because I truly believe it helps me create things that have a nice touch of realism in a really short amount of time. It’s my little secret, that’s not remotely secret at all, as I tend to share or, indeed, shout it as much as humanly possible. I truly believe it’s the best skill one can develop, or redevelop, if you want to quickly create surprisingly wonderful things in the moment. Sure, it’s equally the very thing that keeps yours truly sketching with my ridiculously short attention span. In truth, my own approach is something I recommend mostly as a bit of recess, when traditional classes get a bit too challenging or time-consuming. Or, when rules become a bit daunting and you’re feeling the urge to just play with a bit of line and color. A playground, if you will, where you can DO whatever feels right for you in the moment. That’s why when I was asked to do something more instructional, I ended up creating a book of fun activities. I’m working on the next book in the series, which is going to be “Animals,” and am realizing more than ever that I just use a bunch of ingredients that I pull together at random, but never really a single step-by-step approach.
That’s the beautiful thing about honing observational skills. When you look at something with fresh eyes, fresh ideas of how to approach it tend to pop to mind as well. So, I simply take my arsenal of various techniques and methods and apply whichever ones tend to fit in the moment while blending those with a bit of in-the-moment experimentation. I’m a crazy constant inventor-type, but if you find a technique or method that really speaks to your heart, than I say, “DO it often and as much as you can!” That’s why I always promote all of the proper teachers that have inspired me along my journey, as they are fabulous at showing the steps of just how to create something truly beautiful. I, on the other hand, am not an art teacher, but I’m still committed to sharing the bits of wisdom I’ve learned via my Sketching Stuff Activity Books. In truth, much of my approach has been inspired by my husband Philippe who, when finding me struggling with a particular subject once, leaned over and whispered, “just draw what you see.” In my angst of the moment, I wanted to swat him away, but I realize now it was the only sage advice I ever really needed. Looking back, I realize he was just compassionately trying to remind me to always have the eyes of a mountain lion.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Opus (Vivid Pink), Leaf Green, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!