In the Forest

There’s a magic in every beginning. It’ a wonderful energy to start something new. To start a new chapter, a new theme, a new idea, something that wasn’t there before. There’s a great power in that, in that newness, that unprecedentedness, and that’s what we’re starting with today. We’re now in this wonderful season of autumn. The colored leaves may have already fallen to the ground in great numbers, and yet autumn is a delight. Maybe the snow is already in the air, and you can literally smell it.

What does nature do in autumn? It retreats. It sheds everything old to save water and saps, to go inward and build up new forces, which t rest in winter and then sprout anew in spring. But autumn is also a time of harvest. You can pick a lot of berries even in late autumn. The last flowers are also still blooming. Maybe the many fruits that can be harvested at the beginning of autumn have already been stored and are ready for us to get through the winter.

Autumn is a time when we experience reduction. We can relate this idea to our drawing. Reducing ourselves holds great power. The effect of reducing ourselves is that we achieve depth. In terms of our personal life, we get into the depth of our inner self. In drawing, the expression intensifies. The more we reduce, the stronger the expression usually becomes. This time I would like to start with this thought.

How do you get off to a good start in drawing? By letting go of everything that surrounds you. Just as the tree lets go of the leaves, we have to let go of annoying thoughts, worries, cares and thoughts of work or events to get to ourselves, to get to a good state for drawing. Letting go is the first task.

How does it work? Stretch and move your body and breathe deeply so that you’re in a good position for drawing. Prepare your workspace. It doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re in your own studio or at the kitchen table or at your desk. The time you spend with drawing is entirely dedicated to drawing also in terms of your workspace. Arrange everything you need for drawing. Then prepare some music that reminds you of autumn.

There is wonderful music for this. The four seasons are a wonderful and famous example on the theme of autumn. But there are others as well. Take some music that inspires you, that puts you in a different mood than you might be in right now, that gets you out of your daily routine. Prepare drawing sheets and a sharpened pencil. And then close your eyes and draw according to the music. Forget your will, forget your intention, your worry about what you should draw and whether a shape should arise.

Instead, let the pencil flow freely, with the utmost concentration on the tip of the pencil. How does the pencil touch the sheet? Only this moment, the pencil tip touching the drawing sheet is important now. It’s absolutely the most important thing. The pencil flows with the music; there may be short marks, long marks, dots, accumulations, scatterings. And you can decide how strongly you press on with the pencil. You can change that at any moment. You can move smoothly into soft situations, and smoothly into strong ones. You can make many delicate strokes and you can make many dark strokes. That goes well with this momentum, with this flow of the music.

Becoming familiar with your drawing and being completely in the moment, with the flow of drawing, becoming one with it, that’s your first task. If you enjoy it, you can do several sheets. If you realize you’ve become mechanical, take your other hand and close your eyes. If you notice that the lines are too delicate, you have to press harder. And if you say, “Yes, that’s a good sheet, I’m enjoying it,” then do another one. This way you can motivate yourself to do another sheet. Write down the music you used to draw and which part you liked.

Maybe you can also imagine a certain autumn vibe or atmosphere. An autumn storm, or a balmy autumn day in the vineyard, or a clear autumn day in the mountains, or a foggy situation that only dimly reveals the shapes of the landscape. I’m sure you can think of many others. In any case, an autumn atmosphere. This is the beginning of this drawing unit.

The second task is more concrete. I would like to take you to the forest. I’d like you to take a drawing sheet, whether in portrait or landscape format is up to you. And on this sheet you make narrow vertical rectangles from top to bottom, which are tree trunks, highly abstracted tree trunks. Define these rectangular areas with dense strokes. You can make the rectangles thin or a little wider. You can make them very dark, because in your mind they are further in the foreground. Or you can make them delicate, very delicate and even more delicate, if they are further back. This creates a spatial idea. The areas are all the same length. But they differ in the intensity of the gray value and in the width of the rectangles.

This exercise is a seemingly simple one. I would like you to keep it as simple as it sounds. The only thing is, and that’s the challenge, that at some point, suddenly the white of the sheet is going to become part of the picture. Suddenly light is going to break through between these long narrow elements. It’s no longer white, it becomes light.
I’d like you to create a planar drawing, with very simple geometric elements from top to bottom that do nothing but alternate in their gray value. Some are wider, some are narrower. Some are closer together; some are further apart. You determine the composition.

As a third drawing, you can try another forest with these rectangular trunks, these formal elements. Lighter and darker, further apart, closer together. Then, with a very sharp pencil, try to add some lines that you’ve developed from observing branches. The branches can be very different – maybe just slightly curved or very crooked. Do a few thin lines that vary in strength and length. Don’t intentionally bend the line, but follow your inner flow, your inner mood, follow the moment. There is no intention visible.

What happens in this third variation of your drawing? With the trunks it’s a geometric task, but the lines, as delicate as they may be, are vital elements that are allowed to move quite differently than the trunks do.

I wish you lots and lots of fun! I hope you have time to go out into nature, to perceive it consciously. Maybe there even is a forest near you. Lots of love!