…and Then I Understand More

It’s true. I allowed myself ten minutes per sketch and then it was pen down. Sketching is my way of looking without spectating. I want to see the twists, flexes and locks that take place to the hand and whereas you can see that with a photo, often photos are staged and they quite often don’t reflect the truth of working so much as the imagined. Read the influence of watching or being watched in an experiment that watching has. There are lines in the hand when it is performing a task that expresses information to the observer but especially is this so when nothing is frozen as in a photograph but by the brains ability to register images as memory. Drawing them means that we draw (no pun intended or maybe it is) both with the instrument and the right parts of the brain using both in union as we draw. Because of this we may compare a sketch to a photograph but the brain image is more as a video or, perhaps nearer still, a flipper book. We lock onto the distortions of the hand to make a clearer representation in our drawings.

My drawing of planing for bevels or chamfers (top) on end grain corners shows the two angles of presentation,and then  the hand positions I use to get the optimum cut from my plane. For the two sketches here I allowed myself 10 minutes. This time limit makes me work fast and rely on my brain. The mirror is of course the opposite so I must also interpret myself as a right hand dominant worker. It’s interesting to use a mirror to work from but then you must feel for the intonation you use when you are actually performing the the reality of the task and not ‘acting‘ the task.



  1. Richard Harnedy on 21 October 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Hi paul were you always good at sketching as a child or did you have somebody to teach you? I noticed the drawing book in your vlog drawing on the right side of your brain. Did you read that book before? Any comment on the book.

    • Paul Sellers on 22 October 2018 at 9:52 am

      I read it three decades ago. Just excellent.

    • Mark Howell on 22 October 2018 at 11:59 am

      Happy you mentioned the book as I have just starting working through it again.

  2. Lawrence on 21 October 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Paul,
    If you want to see yourself as others do, i.e. not a mirrored image, try fixing 2 mirrors on edge at 90 degrees to each other and look straight through at the intersection…

    • Paul Sellers on 22 October 2018 at 9:48 am

      I learned from reading ‘Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain’ that it is good for the brain to reinterpret what it sees.

  3. Anthony on 22 October 2018 at 2:04 am

    Nice sketches Paul.

  4. michael on 22 October 2018 at 4:28 am

    Hello! I have a question, not about sketching but, about video #2 for the workbench drawer build. I have just completed my first attempt at half-blind dovetails thanks to your videos! After going thru the process, I notice that in video #2 at 27:00 minutes you take the time to clean up the end grain for the tails. What I don’t recall seeing is any cleanup on the vertical edges of the middle (or any) tails (where you ran the saw at 18:16). I wonder if you have any thoughts on this…Do we need to be extra accurate with the saw for these tail cuts since we are not following up with a chisel? Thanks for your reply. You are a master, thank you for the inspiration!

    • Ed on 2 November 2018 at 11:51 am

      Michael- Since Paul didn’t answer, I’ll try. To have dovetails without gaps, we need the tails and pins to be as straight or flat as possible. The best way to achieve that is with a well tuned saw that cuts straight. So, we establish square at the end of the tail, tilt, and then cut. If the saw isn’t exactly on the angle of the dovetail, just accept what you get and let the saw run straight rather than correcting and making a curved or jagged tail. For the pins, set the saw at the angle of the pin and cut plumb/square down the face. Again, you pretty much need to accept what you get, but here it’s very important to develop the ability to make that vertical cut straight. The chisel comes in to dress the tails and pins only when we have no choice, to relieve obstructions that keep the joint from closing. What I just described are regular dovetails. For half-lap, you can use the plane (and should) to get the end of the tail board dead straight.

  5. Tom Davis on 22 October 2018 at 10:46 am

    Love seeing your drawings and how they proceed the work from inspiration and design and how the work proceeds refinement in the drawings as actual feedback from work to paper to reinforce design and inspiration. Love to learn more about how you approach design and utilize your drawings to create what happens before the cameras roll and you start laying out. With much gratitude for my informal, virtual apprenticeship that has blossomed from your videos. Thank you!

  6. Martijn van der Plas on 22 October 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve coincidentally just purchased the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and am just starting to work through it. I can only aspire to one day be able to draw like you do, becaus I really like your loose-but-still-detailed style! I have a few questions though, which I hope you’d like to answer:

    – Are you planning on doing a video on making a drawing board like you use in the Perspective Drawing video?

    – In your second blog, you mentioned the Koh-I-Noor lead holder. I’m wondering which type you use, since some of them are reported to have issues with slipping leads or parts coming loose.

    – Do you use mirrors to see yourself holding your tools when drawing them, or do you reference from a picture of yourself?

    Thanks for the great work that you’re doing, both technically and sharing so much of your personal life. I really enjoy it, and feel like you’re right next to me as a teacher, enriching my life!

    • Henry van den Top on 22 October 2018 at 2:09 pm

      A video on making the drawing board would be welcome indeed!

  7. Jonathan Wright on 22 October 2018 at 4:33 pm

    I’m a professional illustrator by trade, and we were encouraged to read that book in school.

    The mirror is a wonderful tool that can help you by instantly showing you what’s wrong/skewed with your drawing. Just look at your work through the mirror- flipping the image will show you an unbiased reality of your drawing.

    The Old Masters had a mirror constantly at their side, sometimes used to reference their own image, but more for constantly checking the “mirror” of their painting or drawing. Try it; your drawing will improve immensely!

    Have fun,


  8. Ron Tocknell on 22 October 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Drawing is a very flexible discipline (which sounds like an oxymoron but those who draw will know that it isn’t). I’ve drawn all my life and have worked as a cartoonist. Traditional drawing focuses on what is observed. When drawing character cartoons, I draw what the subject is experiencing by exaggerating facial expressions and body postures. When you draw rapidly, it’s a little like drawing cartoons in that you draw the experience rather than the observed activity.

    • Michael Ballinger on 22 October 2018 at 7:15 pm

      Very true the fast gestural style of illustration looks easy when you first see it. Then when you try to draw that way, one discovers how difficult it can be. I love the blind drawing exercises for training myself to really see the subject, life drawing is so wonderful. Ah happy memories of art classes…

  9. Nat Jones on 23 October 2018 at 12:34 am

    Hi Paul,
    There is an art piece I’ve seen in which the artist tries to express energy, visually, but not through the medium of drawing, he uses longish flat pieces of metal, placed vertically and horizontally. Now you have to stand back to see it, but when you do see it, what an aha moment. It is as energy appears.
    You must train yourself to see energy or, you can wait for a hot day to see the heat escaping a bitumen road.
    Drawing also allows us to see what may be there but not seen, had we have not trained ourselves to see. Drawing does have a profound effect on our brains and I believe stimulates the creative process. To truly see is to know.
    Thanks Paul.

  10. Tom on 23 October 2018 at 11:41 pm

    I’m a pretty decent artist. I always draw from life; never from a photo. Whenver I have, it looks like a drawing of a photo. In other words, don’t do it!

    • Paul Sellers on 24 October 2018 at 11:52 am

      Sorry to disagree. I think it is fine to copy a photograph in the early days just to get lead on the page and break through the barriers that hold people back.

      • Ken on 26 October 2018 at 5:41 pm

        I am someone who cannot draw to save his life but would love to develop at least a little basic skill. This blog – especially the comments and your replies are all encouraging me to have a go and to put some time, effort and thought into it. My ‘artistic skills’ cannot get worse – so there’s nothing to lose!

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