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Riding Solo

Humanity has found itself divided. Literally. We’re all hiding in our separate spaces, maintaining a healthy distance from one another. On a larger level though, we’re all coming together, doing our part to beat back the threat at the door. Covid-19 has spread across the world. This is undoubtedly a time when fear and loneliness are easy to find, but we can also use this opportunity to find our center.

Bluejay visits pond.

This is a chance for us to remember what is really important in life. Health is one obvious answer—the importance of our own health, the health of our family and friends, the health of strangers bound to us through community, and yes, the health of our planet.

I’m lucky to be spending my time in isolation in a house with a large backyard—a nice sized space at the back of a cul-de-sac with several large pines and a beautiful, tall locust. At the back of the yard my wife has built a stone pond and waterfall. Blue Jays sometimes come here to feed and drink. They’re an aggressive bird and aren’t afraid to take their place at the water. I love watching them.

While waiting for the world to restart, I’m using the additional studio time to draw this beautiful bird. It’s part of my Aviary Nouveau series which blends both realistic and stylistic elements. I’m not a healthcare worker. (Believe me, they have my most earnest thoughts and prayers). What I am is an artist and creating, even in the face of tragedy, is what I can do. Birds are creatures both of earth and sky—emissaries to the heavens. I’m sending up this one as my prayer for healing.

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16 Doors: A Visual Journal on Creativity

16 Doors ImageOver the course of fours weeks this winter, I created a visual art journal dealing with my understanding of the creative process. I used the themes of alchemy and journey as metaphor and peppered the pages with recurring symbols.  Mostly, I had fun!

What I found at the end of the project is that my chops for drawing from imagination had improved.  I also rediscovered my love for writing.

You can download a .pdf file by clicking the link below.  Hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed creating it!

16 Doors: A Visual Journal on Creativity

It’s Alive! 3 Ways to Bring Your Drawing to Life

What I  Learned From Egon Schiele


When we first learn to draw, so much of our effort is spent on getting it right—placing the lines, rendering the values, representing the objects just so.

Liegendes madchen

Liegendes Madchen (Lying Girl)

These are important first steps, because we are learning to really see the world. But if we want anyone to look at our drawings for more than ten seconds, then we need to do more than represent the physicality of a thing. We need to convey its life and energy.

This is where Egon Schiele can teach us all a few things. Schiele was an early exponent of Expressionism, and although he was dead by the age of 28, his artwork would survive him to this day. One hundred years after his death, we are still fascinated by the energy and emotion Schiele conveyed in his work.

There are three techniques in particular that we can learn from Schiele’s drawings to help us improve the life in our own work. Schiele worked primarily in self-portraits, the human figure, and landscapes. I’ve taken examples from each to help us understand the importance of going beyond mere representation.

  1. A Line is Not Just a Line

Like a jazz musician playing variations on a theme, it’s important to bring variety to the elements within a drawing, particularly line. So, how can we vary line? Consider these two qualities: weight and continuity.  By weight, I am referring to the thickness and boldness of the line. Is it wide or thin, dark or light? By continuity I am referring to a line being solid vs broken, as well as line that modulates its weight for effect.

Two Kneeling Figures

Two Kneeling Figures (Parallelogram)

Let’s take a look at Schiele’s Two Kneeling Figures (1913) to see how he uses line. We see thick, bold lines describing the contours of the garments worn by the figures and, interestingly, to describe the negative shape between the arm and body of the farthest figure. These heavy lines have the effect of blocking in or framing the young man’s gaze. By contrast, the figures themselves are constructed using thin lines, some bolder than others. We can almost feel the weight of the garments hanging on these fragile, young people.

Liegendes Madchen (above) is a great example of Schiele’s use of lost line. Line is broken and soft at her weight-bearing right shoulder that pushes into the surface she lies on. And the lines completely disappear at the outer extremities, placing focus and emphasis on her face and torso.

In our own drawings, it’s important to vary line weight and continuity. For example, thicker, darker lines can denote areas in shadow or surfaces contacting other surfaces. Thinner, lighter lines can recede a form into the background or curve it into the light. Highlights on a surface can be denoted by lost or broken line.


  1. The Shortest Distance Between Point A and Point B is Boring

In order to describe the world around us we sometimes need to use straight lines.  But unless you have a good reason to convey perfection, it’s best to leave the straight edge in its drawer. A nearly-straight line will almost always be more interesting.

Old Houses in Krumau

Old Houses in Krumau

Old Houses in Krumau (1914), one of Schiele’s landscapes, necessarily uses straight lines to describe the structures of the drawing. It’s evident, however, that these lines are not perfectly drawn. He didn’t use a straight edge. His lines are parallel and squared where they need to be, but there is a subtle looseness about them that keeps the drawing lively.

If you find it difficult to draw a straight line, the issue might be with how you are holding your drawing instrument. Instead of holding your pencil, for example, in the writing position, try cradling it across your fingers, thumb on top, with the tip pointed away from you. Then place your point and pull downward on the paper. The trick is to counter the natural pivot of your wrist.

The energy that straight lines drawn freehand can bring to your work is further described in our last point.


  1. Find a Balance Between Control and Fluidity, and Then Nudge Toward Fluidity

Schiele’s drawings have a quality about them that is best described at free. Take a look at Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian (1914). There is a looseness and fluidity in his work that comes with a familiarity with (and in Schiele’s case mastery over) the medium.

Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian

Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian

The closer you hold your drawing instrument toward the tip, the more control you will have. But you will begin to lose grace. As you move backward, away from the tip, you will start to lose control. But you will gain grace. The trick is to find the balance. If you’re drawing with a pencil, you have to be able to control it, but you don’t want to sacrifice the grace of line that will give your work life. When practicing this style of drawing, find that balance, and then give up just a tad more control. It’s practice after all, and you will get better at learning to control those graceful, fluid lines.

Schiele was an expressionist. He brought his own style and interpretation to the table. We can’t all draw like him, nor do we want to. But if we can bring that sense of freedom to our own work in our own way, our drawings will certainly improve. The goal shouldn’t be to merely represent a thing. If that’s the case, the best tool for the job is probably a camera. Instead, we should try to convey a sense of what we are seeing and, more importantly, who we are as artists.

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All images courtesy of www.egon-schiele.net.

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