One thing I like about having art as a hobby is that there is so much to learn. Unlike writing, developing art skills isn't something everyone does. In fact, as I've recently learned from this amazing book I'm reading, most adults draw at a 10 to 12-year-old level. There's no need to refine art skills beyond that, it's not a vital skill for most people. It's not really for me either I guess. I get paid to write, and I love it, but I'm passionate about art. I've always felt like getting better at one has helped me get better at the other. Going back over old blogs and writing projects I can see a surge in creativity and experimentation in my writing that matches with improvements in art.
Since I write for a living, keeping those skills sharp isn't too hard. I work with and know a ton of talented writers that help me refine my craft, whether it's writing fiction novels or compelling website copy. My art is tougher to refine. I don't know as many artists (as my wife pointed out, people that like to draw as much as I do usually do it for a living), and I get worried about my art getting stagnant. As you may have noticed from the pictures I've done for my soon-to-be-born son, I'm experimenting with new styles. I've been cruising DeviantArt, looking for inspiration, and I found a lot of amazing stuff (and some scary stuff). Somewhere along the line I found a recommendation to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
I picked up the book from the library and I've spent a week with it so far. If you are at all interested in art, you should read this book. Even if you aren't interested in art, you still might find it fascinating. In fact the preface talks about how the author was surprised to find how many non-art occupations--lawyers, athletes, writers, law enforcement--were using the book. I could go on and on with some of the incredible stuff I've discovered about the brain and how I'm learning to create in R-Mode (a way of thinking I'm familiar with, but never put a name to). It’s all about letting the proper side of your mind control the art—the right side, which focuses on perception, abstract concepts and spatial relationships—and quieting the more dominant, analytical left side. I've already spent hours talking Brooke's ear off about it, all but forcing her to be as fascinated as I am. I'm pretty sure this is a mandatory read for most art majors, but I majored in print journalism, so I missed this book. Go to your local library and pick it up.
As I said, I've been experimenting with styles, so here's some fun experiments. I noticed I tend to draw faces with large, very cartoonish eyes, and I usually start with a oval shape. I tried to step away from that this week and blend my cartoonish style with something slightly more realistic. Instead of just an oval I went with a circle and oval, it sounds simple but it makes a difference in early composition. These are a bunch of sketches I did throughout the week, some at home, some during meetings, and one (a self portrait) on my computer while I was on hold waiting on customer service.