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Jeff Scarterfield : Kung Fu Drawing — Art & Martial Art Parallels

Kung Fu Drawing by Jeff Scarterfield

Kung Fu Drawing

Art & Martial Art Parallels

By Jeff Scarterfield

Last time, we took a look at seven different ideas regarding practicing and improving at drawing. Here — just as the title suggests... I'd like to expand on this idea a bit by looking into another form of art — martial arts.

Aside from drawing, martial arts is another passion of mine. And from experience, I've found that in order to get better at either — drawing or a martial art — there are certain principles that once understood and applied... can help you do just that.

Here, with insight from the legendary Bruce Lee... let's explore five similarities between art and martial arts, and how they relate to your improvement as an artist.

Practice and Repetition

No matter the martial art, in order to improve — practice and repetition is extremely important. Here's a quote from Mr. Lee which illustrates this very point:

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

— Bruce Lee

Much as Bruce Lee commented above — results are much better if you invest your energy into improving at fewer things at a time.

And yes, with respect to drawing and art — the very same thing can be said...

Whether your goal be improving as a drawer, a painter or a sculptor, it's best to focus on fewer things at once when you are first starting out.

For example — drawing realistic-looking humans, is something many people wish they could do. But with more than just a few aspects involved, learning how to do so can be discouraging.

From skeletal structure & anatomy to drawing specific body parts & position — there are certainly more than a few things to factor in.

Back to the individual who practiced one kick, 10,000 times — a logical approach then to drawing great-looking realistic people, would be to focus on one area or part of the human body at a time.

For example, by focusing only on drawing hands really well at first, then you would see both your skill and confidence grow with this particular aspect of drawing people. And in time, once you're comfortable with drawing hands, then moving onto another aspect won't just be easier to do, but even better — more enjoyable.

In short, the artist who has practiced drawing hands 100 times, will be more skilled than the artist who practices drawing 100 different body parts once.

Relaxation and Adaptation

Being able to control your mind, relax and adapt when confronted with various situations — is something every martial artist strives for. Here are some inspirational words from Bruce Lee, outlining this very idea:

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

— Bruce Lee

Water, as Mr. Lee mentioned — is the perfect metaphor with respect to establishing and maintaining a calm, relaxed state of mind and body — ready and willing to adapt with ease.

And sure — 'being like water' is also important when it comes to drawing and art.

When we are creating — it's important to be relaxed and comfortable — maintaining a state of mind where we can truly enjoy what we're doing. Like in the previous article, it's about 'just letting go'... keeping a 'right brain' train of thought.

Just as water is able to flow in a free and relaxed state — changing from one form to the next, and adapting to any given situation, as 'creators' — we can (and should!) do much the same.

Here are some ideas:

  • Keep an open mind
  • Loosen up the grip on your 'drawing stick'
  • Don't press down so hard
  • Lose the eraser!
  • Limit expectations
  • Try new looks, styles and forms
  • Let the image gradually take form
  • Aim for softer quicker strokes
  • Treat the experience as a process

Again... it all comes down to creating in the moment.

Just like a free-flowing liquid, maintaining a relaxed state of mind and body — one where you can easily adapt to new approaches and ideas, will truly make the creative experience all the more enjoyable.

Be (draw!) like water, my friend.

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