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The best advice I got on how to draw: 1985 Tokyo, Japan


Tokyo Journal, April, 1985

Tokyo Journal, April, 1985

In 1985 I worked for the Tokyo Journal, an English language magazine in Tokyo, Japan. I  designed ads and took photographs for the magazine. The art director was Sherry Bruce. Her husband was in the military and  stationed in Japan.

My method of drawing was to do quick rough sketches, and then trace over the sketches with a black marker on a light table. I showed my drawing to Sherry Bruce.

“Where are the original sketches?”

I showed them to her.

“The original sketches have more character.”

The original sketches had character and movement, that the traced drawings didn’t have.

And the biggest difference?

I didn’t close all the lines. The space between the lines allowed the viewer to fill in the gaps in their mind.

Drawing is like writing. When you write, if you give all of the details, the reader doesn’t get to imagine anything, and you get a boring story. Show, don’t tell. Showing is, “She kept looking at her watch and tapping her foot.” Telling is, “She was nervous.”

Showing in drawing is to give some of the information, but not all of it.

Your rough sketches have character. When you trace over them, with slow laborious lines, they lose their flavor.

I used The Advice Sherry Bruce gave me when I did illustrations for Wang Computer Ltd. in Tokyo in 1986. The advertisement appeared in the Japan Times on October 13th, 1986. Drawing cats even back then.

The original camera ready artwork, Tokyo, Japan 1986

The original  artwork, Tokyo, Japan, 1986


My cat Pooh Hodges has a blog. the cat who writes.com. The cartoon sketch we used for Pooh’s image on his blog was the last one I drew on the folder to hold all the rough sketches. I had drawn approximately 50 quick sketches of Pooh’s head with a bent ear. Pooh, as art director for his blog, helped me chose a drawing, but we ended up using the last quick sketch I did.

Sketched for Pooh's logo

pooh header

Drawings are made up of lines.

Fat lines, skinny lines, short slow lines and quick lines. Lines that are connected and lines that are broken.

Drawing assignment: Experiment with Lines

1. Draw using fat felt pens and thin felt pens,

2. Soft pencils and hard pencils.

3. Draw slowly and draw quickly

4. Draw leaving spaces between the lines.

5. And then draw connecting the lines.

6. Draw something in front of you, or draw something  you see in your mind.

7. Use the tip of your pencil or use the side of your pencil. Use chalk, use crayons, make a mess.

8. Blend the pencil lead on your paper with your finger or a q-tip.

9. Experiment with lines.

10. Have fun.

Then tape your drawing to your refrigerator, or frame it. You made it, and it is good. Good, like a good chocolate cake, or a slice of warm apple pie.

What was the best advice someone ever gave you? ( It doesn’t have to be about drawing.)

Please tell me in the comments. I seriously want to know. Maybe your advice will improve my daily life. Help me live with purpose. Or maybe it will help me clean out my basement.

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Grace Preston

    Hi … thanks for the opportunity to share a little thought etc.
    The best advice I have received is … “don’t give your fears energy – go with what gives you life”

  • Rhonda

    Dear Pamela
    I love your the simplicity, humor, encouragement and teaching you offer. I will look forward to all you posts in the future.

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  • Loved this post and the fact we got a bonus thrown in regarding writing. For a person who is obsessive about every detail, I am hearing you say sketch, don’t draw in every line. That, my friend is great advice. Advice I am trying to apply to some of my writing. Unfortunately because I’m doing it, the criticism I may receive is that I need more details. I’m trying to find the balance.

    Best piece of advice. Live with no regrets. I like this piece because while I can’t do anything about the past and regrets I may have had, Okay, have. I still have a chance at making sure I don’t repeat history and that I think through things more clearly. “Is this something I may regret?”