My latest painting features this Japanese basket. I couldn’t paint it without a detailed drawing to guide me. I drew it once before when I included it in a commissioned painting, and it wasn’t easy! Looking at that painting now, I can see that the drawing wasn’t entirely accurate (not that it really mattered in the context of the painting!) This time, I want to make sure that the large form is correct before attempting all of the details of the weaving. Here it is! It’s rather daunting.

Below, I’ve begun the drawing. I used my favorite measuring tools- a skinny knitting needle and a view-finder, and a ruler held up in front of me. See Drawing Again for details on how this works and my thoughts on drawing this basket the first time I painted it. I also simply looked at the set-up and tried to reproduce what I saw there without any measuring tools. One of the problems with looking back and forth between the set-up and my drawing, is that the two images naturally appear to be different sizes, and it’s hard to compare accurately. For this drawing, I tried a new method. I snapped a picture of the basket and held up my phone in front of me so that the basket appeared the same size as the basket in my drawing. Then I quickly looked back and forth and compared the overall shapes. Now that they appeared the same size, this was easy to see. I didn’t draw from the photo. I simply used it to do a quick check on the overall shapes. I always draw from life, never from photos. You can’t get the same kind of accuracy from attempting to draw from a photo. After I drew the large overall shape of the basket, I I located a few obvious and clear areas, such as the borders of the large bands of bamboo that encircle the basket. I usually find that even after a lot of measuring and drawing, things often don’t look right to me. In this case, I take advantage of the first few moments of looking at the drawing when I begin a session. At this time, the eye is fresh and can see errors that are impossible to see after hours of staring at something. Measuring is very helpful, but in the end, there is no substitute for simply looking.

I find this beginning part of a complex drawing very difficult and taxing. There are several reasons for this. First, every bamboo strip must be correctly located. Second, it is hard to keep exactly what you are looking at in mind as you move your gaze from set-up to drawing. As it progresses, and more things are in place, it is easier to know where you are and to fill in the details.