How to draw a circle?

The how of making art is a cottage industry. There are countless classes and tutorials about the right tools, techniques, and mindset for people that want to make art but feel for whatever reason that they don’t know how.

More often than not, these same people are also looking for some form of permission to be creative. They want some structure, purpose, and maybe even a set of achievable goals before stepping into something that feels like it requires mastery. And belief in mastery implies that the majority of us are not masters.

What a lot of people want out of art making is a form of personal expression — to be able to say something or release something that they have trouble getting at through other means.

While techniques can be practiced and honed, mastery of making art is elusive to the point of possibly not existing. Art making is iterative and certainly not linear. Much of our lens for artistic mastery is historical and curated. The works of “masters” don’t show the high and low days and years in practice of making.

Something from Nothing, 2024

I recently got a new iPad through my job and also an Apple Pencil. My work as a designer often requires sketching but given the type of work I do (I work for a company that makes apps for preschool children) there is very little that connects that sketching with what I do when I sit down to make art.

But because of these new digital tools, I have a chance to experiment with a different way of connecting with drawing.

I’ve posted and written about the digital drawings I’ve made previously so this isn’t a brand new thing but that previous work was all made with my finger on the small screen of a phone. The larger tablet screen feels closer to the size of a sketchbook and the Pencil in hand is gesturally closer to “true” drawing.

The differences between drawing digitally and drawing on paper are too many to list but I have been more interested in the translation of what I choose to draw than how I choose to draw it.

Margin of Error, 2024

I wanted to approach these new tools by intentionally trying to translate the colours, marks, forms, structures, and patterns that are common in my physical media artwork.

Dots, scratches, smears, grids, words, arrows, more dots… are all frequent elements when I draw on paper. My drawings frequently use gouache and acrylic paint, paper collage, pens and pencils, palette knives, shape templates, rulers, stickers… whatever is at hand and triggers something for me — some action or reaction that takes a blank page to an often dense full one.

Format System, 2024

I knew from prior experience with digital drawing software that the options available in terms of reproducing the visual sense of many traditional art making tools were many. And that the software these days can often be quite adept at simulating things like blending, feathering, spatter, and texture.

I also know that I am okay with seeing the artifacts that digital drawing still leaves behind. When you look, you can always see them. But I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking I’m not drawing on an iPad. Though maybe it would be good if a viewer didn’t care one way or the other.

So, it’s on-going but it has been interesting to see so far what happens when my dots and grids form on the screen. The funny aspect of how I draw those dots and grids is that it is functional harder to do it digitally. That’s not a fault of the software (Procreate) but more a friction of not being able to reach for the physical tools I am used to.

When I draw a circle on paper, even with a template, my hand and the tool introduce difference — personality? The digital circles, despite the fidelity of simulation, feel a bit more static.

But the tricky thing is assessing whether the feeling is true or whether I assign more inherent heart to the drawings on paper.

Manual Practice, 2024

I think what’s continually interesting to me is the way in which the how of making art facilitates the why. I don’t draw a dot on paper or a screen to get better at drawing circles or to eventually create some kind of revelatory circle. The circle to end all circles!

But I draw dots, lines, grids, write words, cut and tear paper, and manipulate paint to pull at threads and see something form in front of me that breaks a connection or finds a new one.

More on this soon as I continue to learn how to draw a circle.