This drawing is beautifully rendered but drawing like this is an inefficient way to capture an idea.
Think of the difference between notes and finished pieces of writing. Both kinds of writing are useful. One kind of writing might even lead to the other. You don’t spend as much time choosing the words you put on a post-it note as you do the words in a job application. One kind of writing might even lead to the other. Because they take less time and skill, you make a lot more notes than you do finished pieces of writing.
Can you draw? Note that I didn’t ask you can you make drawings that look pretty. So if little kids can draw, then so can you! Think of these types of drawing (sketches, doodles, cartoons) as notes that require very little drawing skill. They’re most useful when you keep them simple. Their value is not as aesthetic objects but in the quality of thought they contain. But why would you want to? Let me count the ways.
Imagine The Possibilities
Draw when you can’t get there from here or you can only imagine it.
(I could have recorded the idea with words but this simple image is much more specific.)
Capture The Idea In What’s Picture Imperfect
Draw when what you see isn’t picture perfect but you want to remember the idea.
(I saw this type of image many times before I encountered it with calm water and unbroken reflections.)
Identify Possible Variations
Draw when you want to figure out new variations of the same idea.
(Drawing helped me find the idea of not just one but two spirals.)
Structure Stories With Storyboards
Draw when you start a project and you want to figure out which shots you need to complete it.
(Storyboards are what great movie directors like Hitchcock and Spielberg use.)
Read more on Drawing here.
If I’m trying to make a drawing that looks good or one that is good to look at then the hour I spent making this is well spent but if drawing requires that much time I won’t draw often.
If I’m drawing to record ideas, this is a much more efficient way to draw and so I’ll draw more.
“Make things as simple as possible – but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
In their wonderful book Art & Fear Ted Orland and David Bayles share a story.
A daughter asks her father, “What did you do today?”
“I taught my students how to draw,’ he responded matter of factly.
She gasped in amazement, “When did they forget?”
I find that when I ask people if they can draw the number of affirmative responses is directly related to age. The younger you are the more you know you can draw. So what happens when we grow up? We are taught a terribly limiting understanding of the many things drawings can be and do.
With a unidimensional vision of what drawing is, we are trapped by someone else’s limited vision of perfection that is further complicated by comparison to others.
We can all draw. Note that I didn’t say we can or should all draw like Michaelangelo. It takes more time to develop the skills necessary to draw in some ways than others. And you probably draw a little differently than your friends who also think they can’t draw. But if you can read this (possibly even if you can’t), then chances are you already know more than one way to draw.
Drawing is many different things to many different people – and it can do many things for you. For Thomas Edison drawing was a way to visualize what didn’t exist – yet. He handed his team a very simple sketch to help them invent the phonograph. (As a draftsman he was no Leonardo but his limited drawing skills helped him be an even better inventor.) Words weren’t enough and he needed a way to visualize what they had never seen before but soon would in part because he helped his team visualize it with a drawing.
So once we understand that even doodles are just one of many kinds of drawings, we might start to reframe what makes a drawing good based on the purpose we intend it to serve. If all you’re looking for is a way to find and capture ideas, then the time it takes to render them realistically is wasted. (And who wants to waste time?) Moreover, for some purposes, the extra detail added may be distracting or, worse, confusing. (If I ask you where the bathroom is, and you start spouting extended passages of flowery verse, one or both of us might get wet.)
The kind of drawing I want to encourage you to practice as part of your creative toolkit is not about making good-looking drawings; it’s about making useful drawings. Drawing can be useful in many, many ways.
1. Imagine The Possibilities
2. Capture The Idea In What’s Picture Imperfect
3. Identify Possible Variations
4. Structure Stories With Storyboards
Want to up your drawing game? Want to just get some game – fast? Check out these books. These books are first and foremost about making drawings to find, refine, and record ideas; they’re about making useful drawings, not drawings that are meant to look good.
This book shows you how to draw quickly and effectively, as well as many different uses for drawing.
This book is much more than you need, but it’s still useful because it offers a number of reasons why to draw and how to draw based on those reasons.
This isn’t officially a drawing book (and the drawings in them are … eh) but it offers a great clear survey of the different camera moves filmmakers use to tell stories. This knowledge will help you vary the way you compose your drawings for effect and with purpose. Think storyboards.
This composition book uses nothing more than simple shapes and lines to demonstrate the fundamentals of composition, which you can use to understand the dynamics of any image, generate new ideas, and make many variations on them.
Read Learn How To Draw And Why In 5 Minutes
“You don’t have to be an artist to draw! In this beautifully illustrated talk, Ralph Ammer shows how drawing your thoughts can be a powerful tool for improving your thinking, creativity, and communication. He wants you to believe in your drawing abilities and provides numerous exercises to help you get started.
Ralph Ammer is a professor at the Munich University of Applied Sciences and teaches biophilic design, which aims to create life-friendly objects, images, and services based on nature. Ralph believes in the diversity of 21st-century craftsmen, regardless of whether they produce well-written programming code, carefully crafted prints, or the occasional ceramic vessel.”
Curves offers more precise tonal control than any other tool. So when I need precision dodging and burning (about 80% of the time) I use Curves, which means I use Photoshop (PS).
I look forward to the day we can make local adjustments with Curves in Lightroom and Camera Raw. But currently, Lightroom (LR) and Camera Raw (ACR) don’t have this feature, yet. But can’t you do something similar in Lightroom (LR) or Adobe Camera Raw’s (ACR) using the six Basics sliders (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks), in combination with the Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, or Radial Filter, even in combination with Color, Luminance, or Depth Range Masks? If close is good enough, yes. If you want to make your images really shine, no.
Is it hard to dodge and burn with Curves in Photoshop? No. It’s easy.
Let’s say you’re not interested in compositing or adding FX or inserting text or painting on your photographs. Do you still need Photoshop? Short answer – yes. If so, why?
One Big Reason, Look No Further
One reason alone ends the discussion for me. The single biggest reason is precise localized tone control or dodging and burning with Curves. Nothing but Curves offers as precise control. It can add a special glow into all areas of an image, any one area, and treat different areas differently. I can’t think of anything more useful than that.
But can’t you do something similar in Lightroom (LR) or Adobe Camera Raw’s (ACR) using the six Basics sliders (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks), in combination with the Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, or Radial Filter, even in combination with Color, Luminance, or Depth Range Masks? If close is good enough, yes. If you want to make your images really shine, no.
Is it hard to do in Photoshop? No. It’s easy.
1 Open your image in Photoshop.
2 Make a selection.
3 Make a Curves adjustment layer.
4 Double click on the layer mask and slide Feather to the right.
5 Repeat if you want to make a different adjustment to another area of an image.
6 Save your file, when you’re done.
If you only use Photoshop to do this one thing, most of your images will improve. I can’t say I use this with every image I process, but it’s close. I can say the number of images I don’t want to do this for is very small. It’s a simple thing really, and I look forward to the day we can do it in Lightroom and Camera Raw.
Go Ahead, Look Further, And Find More Reasons
Want to go a little further? Let’s revisit the question, “Why do you need Photoshop?” Every time Adobe’s Raw processor(s) become more fully featured it is worth asking. Or, you might rephrase it as, “What can Photoshop help me do that Lightroom / Camera Raw can’t do as well?”
Here are five reasons.
1 Fine Retouching
2 Precise Masking
3 Advanced Color Adjustment
4 Creative Sharpening
Let me go into a little more detail for each one.
Almost everyday, we make, collect, sequence, process, and share our photographs on digital devices with screen. When was the last time you made a print? If you haven’t made prints recently, you’re missing out. Making prints does many things for you.
How many things? Let me count the ways …
When you’re having a hard time believing something, you want to confirm what you see by touching it. Once you touch it, it’s hard to deny – and you learn more about it. Touch is an essential part of a doctor’s diagnosis and healing practice. When you touch and are touched by something you make a special connection. When you make your images physical, you can touch them and they will touch you. This works for other people who get to experience your prints too.
You Look More Carefully
When you make a print you consider your images more carefully. Along the way, you’ll find many ways to improve your images. This adds up. You learn not only what to look for but also what’s possible. You train yourself to look closer and deeper. If you make this a regular practice you’ll find your vision as a whole will improve.
You Develop A Relationship
When you make prints you look at your images more often. While you’re printing them you look at them very carefully, so carefully that sometimes you need to take a break to find perspective. After you print them, you still look at them more carefully at first, but this tends to diminish over time, even though it’s always an option. Because a print persists in your environment you’ll find you also look at your images casually too, sometimes you just see them out of the corner of your eye … and your subconscious registers this. Prints create an accumulation of perception, which deepens your understanding of images on many levels. Once again, this happens for people who view your prints too.
You Decide What’s Most Important
You make a lot of photographs. How many get printed? One percent? Only the best and the most important images are worth printing. Print an image and it makes a statement, simply because it’s printed.
Inevitably, when making a print some things are gained and others are lost. The sacrifices you are willing to make offer still more opportunities for you to clarify your vision. What are you willing to compromise on? What aren’t you willing to compromise? When you make these choices you make a statement, to yourself and others.
You Choose How You’d Like Your Images To Be Received
The many new opportunities making prints presents will challenge you to clarify and declare your creative goals. The way you choose to print (or not to print) your images will encourage people to look at, interact with, share, and value them in entirely different ways. How would you like your images to look? How would you like others to look at your images? How do you want people to interact with your images? Do you want to present your images as casual, every day, highly accessible, utilitarian artifacts or scarce, highly refined, collectibles? If your goal is to make a historic record you may be content with making a few, perhaps only one, possibly quite small, highly durable print that is stored and preserved very carefully for the future appreciation of only a few. On the other hand, if your goal is to expose the largest number of people possible to your imagery, you may want to consider creating an international billboard campaign. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There is your answer – if you make a print.
You Learn About Yourself
You learn a lot about your images and yourself when you make a print. Realizing your vision in print means more than just making it real, it also means making many realizations along the way. To make a print you have to make a number of decisions. The choices you make reflect your personal likes and dislikes. Go beyond simply saying “I like it.” or “I don’t like it.” Next, ask “Why?” Answering this all-important question will make your personal vision and style clearer. It will make it clearer to people you share your prints with too.
You Share Your Journey
The things you make your images into will guide your audience through a reenactment of your journey of discovery – selecting your subject, composing it, exposing it, processing it, printing it, and sharing it. Prints offer invitations for others to carefully consider not only what you’ve seen, but also the way you’ve see it, and the ways you’ve chosen to share it.
Sure, you can let others make prints for you. Sometimes you have to. But, when you do, you’ll be missing out on many of the opportunities printing presents to further clarify, refine, strengthen, and fulfill your vision. So will your viewers. Even if you print, really print, just once, you’ll learn a lot.
Most of us carry and share albums of our photographs with our phones every day. When was the last time you carried prints of your images with you? When was the last time you made a print? If you haven’t made prints recently, you’re missing out. So are your images. Making prints does many things for your images.
How many things? Let me count the ways …
Prints make your images tangible. Prints enhance your images with material qualities and the associations they bring with them. Synthetic or organic? Reflective or non-reflective? Smooth or textured? Uniform or irregular? Sharp or soft? White or cream? Transparent or metallic? These and many other factors will have an impact on the technical quality of your images (color, detail, gradation, etc) and on the reactions they produce within their viewers (“It feels like or reminds me of …”).
Prints define the scale of your images. What is the appropriate scale for an image – miniature, life-sized, or larger-than-life? Do you want people to walk up to a building-sized mountain or hold it in their hands? Scale changes the physical and psychological reactions people have to images. They draw close to small prints and sometimes hold them or even carry them with them wherever they go; large prints immerse people in images that may fill their entire visual field until they pull back to view them from a distance. You can change a space or even create new space with prints.
Printing makes your images more durable. So far, it’s prints that have stood the test of time. Historically, it’s the images that were printed that survived. Putting new technology disaster stories aside, there’s never been a precedent to help us determine how long digital files will last if properly cared for. In theory, they should never degrade and can be copied indefinitely without reducing their quality. Whether people, first you and later the inheritors of your images, will perform the required maintenance to ensure this is the real question. One day in the future, media and format migration may become automated, but it’s not now. Consider prints your ultimate form of backup. Though they can deteriorate on their own, if properly produced and stored, prints need little or no additional care and no know how to retrieve and use them.
Because they’re physical, prints are easily bought and sold. It’s hard to command a high price for intangible things and harder still for them to hold their value or appreciate. In recent years, there have been unprecedented escalations in the value of photographic prints. Photographic prints have sold for as much as major paintings.
Images in print are more rare as well as less accessible. (Often, this contributes to both their market and personal value.) Prints take up physical space and why would you let something do that if it wasn’t important? Of all the images you look at in a day, how many of them are prints? No one carries thousands of prints in their pockets or on their cell phones. No one makes millions of prints. How many prints do you make? Most of us don’t make enough prints. Making a print is a statement.
Traditionally, to be viewed at all photographs needed to be printed. Today, that’s no longer true. Still, prints encourage images to be viewed in different ways. If you’re like most people, only the most important images to you have been printed and only a few of those are displayed at one time or for long periods of time. We look at images that are printed differently than images that are not. Do you look more frequently and longer at images that have been printed or images that haven’t? Prints persist. They remain in our environment consistently and require little or no conscious effort for us to consider and reconsider them yet often they demand that we do look at them more consciously. Making prints can become a part of the decision-making process to focus more attention on a select few images. When images are printed they are no longer lost amid so many other less important images. When printed your images become more significant.
In short, printing your images can work wonders for them. It can also work wonders for you.
I’ll read two new poems.
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