Expressive Drawing

My Latest Book Crush

If you’ve got heavy feelings about your drawing skills, yearn to draw more (or more freely) or if you already draw well but feel like you’re in a rut, this book is a wonderful workbook and companion for freeing up your drawing–and maybe your soul a little bit while you’re at it.

Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within by Steven Aimone is one of the best how-to/inspiration books I’ve come across in a long time. I’ve been so jazzed doing the exercises, I had to rush here to the blog and tell you all about it.

Why I Love This Book

Steven Aimone provides fun, do-able exercises that are grounded in clear, helpful explanations about technique and the history of fine art.

All the explanations are also accompanied by images of works by renowned artists as well as his workshop students that support and reinforce each chapter’s focus. These art history lessons are refreshingly straightforward and a wonderful framework for the drawing exercises.

And even though his writing is clear, accessible and inclusive, he assumes his audience is deeply interested in fine art and making drawings in that context rather than treating non-objective/expressive drawing as mainly a therapeutic outlet for expressing your feelings (although he still acknowledges and embraces that additional benefit as a wonderful part of the process).

And besides all that–the exercises are FUN, FUN, FUN!

Diving In

After inspiring you with great images and clear explanations, he introduces the exercises.

I’ve done the first 2 so far–automatic drawing and what he calls “working with flux”–adding and subtracting from an automatic drawing. I had such a blast that I plan on working through all the exercises in the book, and I’ll keep you posted as I go.

I added a couple of my own elements to doing the exercises as well–5-10 minutes of Shiva Nata beforehand and listening to Sacred Sound Healing music during. (He’s got an awesome free download of his work here.)

Since both of these additions are supposed to shift patterns and and open up possibilities, I thought they seemed like perfect companions to the exercises, and so far, so good.

Automatic Drawing

So. Much. Fun.

And since, as the author says,  “you can’t do a good automatic drawing or a bad one, just a more or less satisfying one”, it’s easy to really let go and enjoy the process.

In my 2nd drawing, which you see here (and was done with paint), I used my left (non-dominant) hand, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed that. My marks were so different from ones I make with my right hand–like I was tapping into a different sensibility altogether.

They felt lighter and farther away from the logical/judging part of my brain.

He strongly suggests working on a 3′ x 4′ sheet of paper which really lets you use your whole arm/body and have more of a physical drawing experience than a “mental” one–really great for freeing up your drawing.

Asserting and Obliterating

The 2nd exercise added the element of removing marks–this time drawing with charcoal or conte crayon and removing with white paint.

Here’s a closeup on the left of my first effort. I used my non-dominant hand again because I enjoyed doing that so much in the first exercise.

Steven Aimone calls this drawing and erasing relationship “asserting and obliterating.” He says, “There are no mistakes, only things you put in and take out.”

He also says, “By engaging in the process of doing and undoing, you’ll create drawings automatically that speak metaphorically.” I like that.

He also says “…your drawings are a record of your touch, your movements, and your responsive interactions with the elements in your drawing. What a wonderful, liberating, and expressive way to work!” I couldn’t agree more.

Freed Up

These exercises have been both liberating and nourishing. I felt like I had given myself something so supportive and fulfilling–a treat from my soul to my soul. How often does that happen?

What’s really exciting to me though, is that the exercises in this book could really be a great way for super busy people (is that you?) to more easily do some creating after a long day of work because they’re so energizing and filling rather than depleting.

Or if you’re a morning person, it could be a great way to START your day–a way to give yourself an energizing, creative experience that’s like a cup of coffee for your spirit before you head out to work.

Can’t beat it with a stick.

Are you looking for something like this? Do you already do exercises like this or something else that works well? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Fabeku says:

    Thanks for the super nice mention. And for the heads up on that book. I’ll have to snag a copy. I also love seeing the drawings you did! They’re gorgeous!

  2. Karoda says:

    this book has been on my amazon wish list for a while…i keep putting it in my cart, taking it out, putting it in, back out…i think i’ll take the leap and get it. thanks for the review.

  3. [...] realize that in my last post, Expressive Drawing, I forgot to explain what “automatic drawing” [...]

  4. David says:

    Very inspiring write-up. Now it is a question of whether I get this or something to help draw cartoon figures.

    I am bubbling up with a wish to do this -something I haven’t had for ages and ages. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  5. annemarie says:

    This book has also been on my wish list on Amazon for a while. I’m starting on an art degree course shortly and wondering if it’s worth making the investment? Incidentally, I already own Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis and wonder if the exercises are similar, do have any idea?

  6. Sarah says:

    Hi Annemarie,
    Well, I always believe you need a couple three different books on the same subject–so for me, I’d own both. I think Expressive Drawing gives great art history lessons and the exercises are super clear and doable. On the other hand, if you’re starting an art degree shortly, you might want to wait until school starts as your teachers will have strong opinions about drawing and what they want you to learn…

  7. Jean Casucci says:

    Hi, Just started going through my new book and am thrilled to find a new approach which is actually an old approach usually forgotten. I work with an intellectual, Senior group called OLLI at Cal, State Univ. Fullerton. I think they are going to be excited trying this style.
    Although I got my Bachelor Degree in art back in ’62 I have been taking and teaching Art in all forms since then. I really like the fact that there is no such thing as “good Art or bad Art,” only finished and unfinished. This also gives us the opportunity to teach Expressionism as a valued form in Art History. Thanks again.

  8. peggy-lynn says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! After years of creating realistic work and teaching the same, this type of creating is absolutely liberating!
    Just connecting to the process of creating instead of a planned outcome
    is cathartic!

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