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Can’t draw? No problem! Today on the podcast I’m sharing 3 methods to bypass drawing altogether and just get painting. A perceived lack of drawing skills stops a lot of people from getting into painting. They think they can’t paint if they can’t draw well. Guess what!? That’s 100% not true. You don’t have to draw to be a good artist. If you are good at drawing, you may also be interested in today’s episode because these methods can speed up your artistic process by using some of the tools I talk about.

The star of today’s show is my Light Box / Light Pad! Here’s the Amazon link to the one I purchased and love using in my art studio: Amazon Light Box This nifty device gives me a shortcut to skip drawing and get painting faster. Plus, I feel more confident exploring new subjectmatter in my artwork and painting when I start with a sketch from a reference photo and my Light Box. 

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host, here with another great episode for season two of the podcast. I’m so happy to be back. It’s the weekend and I have a long painting session ahead of me this afternoon. So I’m very much looking forward to that. Today, I have an exciting shortcut that I’m looking forward to sharing with you. I don’t think many people know about this shortcut and the artistic process, or at least this tool for it. So I’m curious to see if this is new to all of you as well. But it’s been a huge help in my painting practice.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the Review of the Week, I got such a thoughtful and kind Review from Jamie Santa Llano. She said, “Developing your signature style – Five stars. Thank you so much, Lauren, I found your podcast last night and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Episode 17 really hit home for me on so many levels. I paint in watercolors and alcohol ink for fun at the moment. However I make jewelry for my living. I’ve been feeling stuck and down on myself because I’ve taken many online courses that preach developing your signature style niching down to being known for a particular style. To some degree, I think they’re right. However, as an artist, I agree with you that these things cannot be rushed. It takes time experimentation and developing skills and knowing what we’re good at and what we like. I love your perspective. And I’m excited to listen to more, you’ve really helped me to take a step back and realize it’s okay to have fun, and try new things and not get so caught up in what the ads are trying to sell me. Thank you so much. And I look forward to more episodes from you.” Jamie, what a kind Review. I agree with you so much. There’s a time and a place for having your own signature style. There’s also mostly a time and a place for enjoyment. Like if you’re not enjoying all the time, then forget about the style, it doesn’t matter because you’re not going to stick with it long enough. So keep going. Keep doing things that make you happy that you’re enjoying, and little by little, you’re going to find what that style means for you. For new listeners, if you haven’t listened to Episode 17 yet, check it out, it is a really great one all about the topic of artistic style.

Today, we are talking about what happens if you cannot draw. And I’m here to tell you that if you can’t draw, that is not a problem at all! I am okay at drawing, you know I can do it if I spend a lot of time on it. It’s a labor of love. And anytime I draw it, it just definitely takes a lot of effort for me. And it’s not going to be something that gets me into that artistic flow. Drawing is a means to an end. I enjoy painting. I like mixing colors. I love splattering colors up on my canvas, but drawing slows me down. As a result, I have been looking for ways around that limitation and ways around my slight dislike for drawing. And lucky for you, I have found an amazing device that has really changed my painting practice! When there’s something in particular I want to paint I always start in the same way now. So we’ll get into what that is.

Today we have three different techniques to bypass drawing and get you painting faster. The thing about drawing skills is that a lack of drawing skills actually stops a lot of people from painting. They say “well, I’m not good at drawing, so how could I ever be good at painting?” That’s even harder than drawing in their minds! Well, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to draw to be a good artist. You don’t have to draw in order to paint. You can also even if you do enjoy drawing and you think there’s a time and a place for it, which I agree there is, you can also speed up your artistic process by using some of the techniques and tools I talk about on today’s podcast.

What is this mystery device that I talk about that’s revolutionized the way that I start painting? Well, it is a light box or a light pad. I had no idea that these existed until I was on a trip to go see my husband’s parents. We were over at my in law’s house and my mother in law at the time was doing an architecture graduate program. So she was doing a lot of architecture drawings very frequently. And she had this light box device there, which is essentially a very thin pad with LED lights in it, and it has a ruler on both sides of it. So that you can, you know, keep things aligned, if you need to draw in a very precise architectural fashion as she does (I do not!) What I use it for is tracing! It makes tracing a breeze and you could do it at any time. Now, I mean, I will admit, I have held up pieces of paper to the window on top of a reference photo before and tried to trace it that way, but the light box makes it so much easier. And this light box that I have it is, I’d say, a third of an inch thick. It is so thin, you can store it anywhere, it just plugs right into the wall, you can adjust the lighting, and it’s super bright. I actually use it under 140 pound watercolor paper, no problem. And depending on the canvas and how thick it stretched, I will also use it and trace directly on to canvases as well. But seeing my mother in law use it for her architecture drawings inspired me for how I could use it in art to speed up my process.

Sometimes, it is hard when you get started, if I want to draw something with, say, a skyline or a building, or it’s a complicated landscape with a bunch of perspective in it, it really helps me to save a ton of time and get the perspective correct. And just generally get the foundation of the painting in a good place. I know that it’s correct. And then I paint on top of that. It’s really been a game changer for me. And it’s given me the confidence to try painting new subject matter, and painting more complex subject matter. And things that I know I have to get right.

For example, a house portrait is a perfect example of something where you can speed it up immensely if you trace it from a reference photo. I just I cannot tell you how much easier that makes my life, especially when I want to try new things. And if nothing else, it does save me a ton of time, which for me is valuable because I don’t get that much time to paint. You know, my business has taken off and I’m very busy and have lots of demands on my time. So when I’m in my studio, I want to get into that creative flow into the zone as fast as possible. And when I’m worried about is this window correct? Or, is this tree far enough back? Is that going to give me the perspective I need in the painting? I skip all of that hemming and hawing and wondering and erasing. I just go straight to it by tracing it off this lightbox. So again, it’s just a really thin device that blasts a strong light so that you can trace really easily. And it can be nighttime, you can still trace, no problem, you just have no limitations when you have a light box.

They sell Light Boxes in all different sizes. I got mine off Amazon and I found that to be much cheaper than other stores, especially art stores. They have older versions and they’re just a lot more expensive. I think the technology has gotten much more advanced, especially since how thin this one is. You can get a small one for say around $20 on Amazon. If you want I can link to the one that I have. I’ll put it in the show notes. I you know, I think there’s a lot of them on Amazon. It’s not that the one that I have is the best one, but if you’re looking for one that works, this one is great. They have it in A2, A3, and A4 and a really big one. I went ahead and I sprung for the A3 size, which is a little bit bigger. So that one costs about $43. But I would tell you, even if you got a small one, I think it would really speed up your process and make things a lot easier for you. The A4 size is on here for $20.99 and it has 4.5 stars and over 7600 ratings. So it’s not just me who loves this device! It’s been a total game changer for me.

I’m really thankful that I went to my mother in law’s house, and she happened to have this out, because otherwise, I’d have no idea this exists. And that’s why I was so excited today to share this hack with you all. Because for $20, being able to speed up your process, draw more things, get it correct, get the bones of it and that foundation set. Oh, I think that’s worth $20 to $40, no problem. So I highly recommend it to you just as a way to get you moving quickly, keep you in the creative zone, and just make things look really accurate to the eye. And it’s been awesome for me to have. So I’m just so excited to tell more people about it. Any artists who know me in real life, they know that I talk about this a lot, as a as something that really helps me.

Now the question I know, some very serious artists may consider it cheating the artistic process a little bit to trace, however, I was doing some research and apparently, going back centuries, some of the old masters actually had a special device that they used to trace objects they were drawing. So I know that this is something that many artists have done, I just don’t think they talk about it. And for us self taught artists, we do need to talk about it, because there’s this resource out there, this thing that you could be using, but if we don’t talk about it, then we don’t know it exists. And so that’s how I didn’t even know about it. But now you do know about it. I don’t consider it cheating, I just think of it as a way to speed up the process. And lots of people use reference paintings when they’re painting. So this is just a way to get it from the reference photo to the Canvas in a fast, accurate way.

Let’s say that you don’t want to buy the light box or a light pad; no problem. You can also use carbon paper, which is, you know, the old school way to do it, and is great. It’s a piece of thin paper that has carbon on the backside and you go with a pen, or with a sharp mechanical pencil typically, and you trace over your reference photo, and it transfers using carbon on to the canvas or piece of paper, or whatever substrate you’re working on. That works great. That’s method number two.

Then method number three that I’ll share with you is actually kind of a combination of one and two: 1. using a light box and 2. using a transferring method. This is using a DIY transferring method. What I’ll do is sometimes, if let’s say I’m doing it on a thick, deep dish Canvas, you know, one that’s one and a half inches deep and the light box, I can’t really get enough light to trace what I want to trace on that Canvas. So if that’s the case, then I will combine that with this DIY transfer paper, meaning I’ll take the reference photo, I will trace it with a piece of tracing paper or just regular paper and then I will go with a pencil on the back side of the paper and put carbon down myself that then I will go in and draw on top of you flip over the paper and then that that DIY carbon on the back becomes that layer of carbon paper that you transfer onto the canvas. So if you don’t want to pay for it, you can make your own carbon paper. And this works well with something just really simple. If you’re just getting a basic shape, hat’s very easy. Of course, buying carbon paper makes it easier. But you can do it yourself. And that’s fun too. So, again, you take your photo, you’re going to put it on a piece of paper, you draw on the backside of it with carbon and then you you transfer it.

You can either do that after you’ve simplified it using the light box, or you just skip straight to using the reference photo and then trace the lines that you want to transfer that way once you’ve scribbled on the back with some number two pencil.

That is really all I have for you today. This episode is really about the wonders of a lightbox and how easy it makes it to simplify paintings in that early stages process, bypass drawing and also help train the eye and what lines are actually doing, what the bones/what that foundation of the reference photo actually is, it helps us stay in what is not what our eye sees, because sometimes what are eyes see plays tricks on us, like optical illusions. As a result, I love this lightbox and I just I think everyone should know that this exists and it’s an option out there if you struggle with drawing or if you want to speed up that process. So again, I will put the link to Amazon in the show notes or just go on Amazon and put in the search box will light box or light pad and you’ll see these pop up there’s tons of options.

So light box is option number one, number two is to transfer using carbon paper. And number three is to make your own carbon paper by drawing on the back of a piece of paper and then using that as your DIY carbon. Awesome. So thank you for sticking with me today on our episode talking about how to bypass drawing. If you have any thoughts or ideas for a future episode. Please reach out. Lauren, Kristine And if you have a minute right now if you would Rate Review and Subscribe to the podcast that would mean the world to me. Wherever you get your podcasts out there, you can do this. Until next time, my friends. Happy Creating!

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