I came across the hashtag #DrawingAugust quite by accident while looking at Twitter on August 1, 2012. Two artists – Jean Stevens (@jean_stevens) and Dean Lewis (@olderThanevil) – had decided to set themselves a challenge to make a drawing each day throughout the month of August, and then to share these drawings on Twitter. I thought what a good idea, I could also do with setting myself a drawing challenge. With only a couple of hours left in the day I did a quick pen drawing of myself in the bedroom mirror and shared it to Twitter, adding the hashtag #DrawingAugust.
Jean Stevens Crow, pen and ink
Dean Lewis Recovery, Faber-Castell Artists’ Pitt pens
I recognise that it’s beneficial for me to draw a little something from life every day, but as with everybody else, life gets very busy and one of the things that falls by the wayside is my drawing practice. That evening, having spontaneously joined the drawing August challenge, I had suddenly set myself a target to draw every day for a month.
I started to look for opportunities to take ten or twenty minutes in the day to make a quick sketch. It’s surprising what you can achieve with a little focus. As I sometimes say to students who complain of having little available time to paint: ‘You’ll never find the time, you have to make the time’, and so it was with my drawing. Sometimes I managed to start drawing in the morning and would be reluctant to stop once underway, and fill three or four pages. On other days it would be just a five-minute sketch last thing at night.
Haidee-Jo Summers Garden Table, ProMarker pens, pencil and fine liner pen
Throughout the month I used pencils, pens, watercolours, inks and acrylics, and various drawing techniques from continuous line drawings to full colour studies. It was a great time for growing and developing, as I was able to build on what I’d been doing in the previous days. When you get into a daily routine the impetus drives you on exponentially.
Haidee-Jo Summers Hanging out the Washing and Collecting Blackberries, watercolour, pen and Liquitex Professional Acrylic Marker
Our family holiday is always in August, which makes it the perfect month to indulge in sketchbook work. The act of drawing is like meditation for me, and always succeeds in quieting my mind and turning off that background chatter. What’s more, drawing and using a variety of media in my sketchbook helps me to think about where I’m going with my painting. September is always a month when I feel inspired and invigorated, that ‘first day of term’ feeling, and drawing August creates the perfect fertile ground for a flourishing September.
Haidee-Jo Summers Three Donkeys at Scarborough, marker pen and fine liner pen
Every summer since 2012 I’ve tried to join in with drawing August on Twitter and get some of my many impulse-buy sketchbooks used up. In 2016 I went through a spate of doing my daily drawings on the back of A5 envelopes, and then posting them out with letters or birthday cards, which was great fun.
Haidee-Jo Summers Pizza Express, drawing on A5 envelope
Right from the very beginning artists far and wide have jumped on board with #DrawingAugust, from professionals to people who haven’t picked up a pencil since their school days. The interest shows no sign of lessening, with more and more joining every year. Quite apart from improving your drawing skills the camaraderie of the Twitter artist community is not to be underestimated. When you share your post it’s so inspiring to search through what everybody else has been drawing that day, sharing in the visual diary of their month. Nobody minds if you miss a day or two, and everybody is really supportive of each other’s efforts. Many have formed real friendships and gone on to meet socially and even hold exhibitions together. The #DrawingAugust community has grown and grown, and now has an enormous following.
Artists using Twitter enjoyed the challenge element and group support so much that whole new monthly challenges subsequently came along, such as #PaintSeptember and #PrintOctober. But for me #DrawingAugust is the one, the timely reminder each year to slow down, take stock, and get back to basics with a pencil and paper.
Jean Stevens says that for her ‘It’s a chance to get back to basics, reminding myself that you don’t need fancy equipment but a simple piece of paper, a pen or pencil’ and Dean Lewis says that #DrawingAugust has had a huge impact on his work. ‘Knowing that I can put aside a whole month every year for drawing has seen an improvement in technique and confidence. This has resulted in me exhibiting solo and with groups of artists in the Newport area quite regularly. I also have enough faith in my work to enter drawing competitions and, as a result, made the long list of 25 for this year’s Folio Society/House of illustration book illustration competition. I have also met in real life, and visited exhibitions by, artists whom I originally met online via #DrawingAugust'.
JOIN IN THE FUN!
If you’d like to join in, you will need a Twitter account. Take a good clear photo of your first drawing and, when you share it on Twitter, be sure to add the hashtag #DrawingAugust, as well as @Haidee-Jo Summers and @artpublishing so that we also will see your sketches. We will select our favourite sketch after the end of August and the chosen artist will see their work published in a future of The Artist and win an art materials prize. Sometimes people also write Day 1 or Day 2, or add the date in the caption. Join in with the community by searching for others using the #DrawingAugust hashtag and liking, sharing or commenting on their work. Try to make a drawing each day for maximum benefit from the challenge.
Haidee-Jo Summers has won many awards for her plein-air and alla-prima oil paintings. She is an elected member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the author of Vibrant Oils and also has a DVD with the same title by APV Films. www.haideejo.com
This feature is taken from the September 2019 issue of The Artist
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