Hi everyone! Today’s Sunday, so you can bet I’ve been watching a show or two on Netflix. Binging TV shows and movies can certainly be a hindrance to productivity, but if you do it right, you can actually get a lot done while watching your favourite show. This is a fun way to deal with artist’s block, and I find it very convenient to do, since when I’m feeling out of ideas I like to watch TV anyway. So without further ado, here’s how to get over artist’s block by watching -er, drawing from TV!
Set Yourself Up to be Productive
First things first; we have a teensy bit of prep work to do to make sure this TV-watching session is actually productive! If you’re prone to rolling yourself up burrito-style in a cosy blanket and slumping deeper into the couch as you binge seasons at a time, you’ll have to be a little more careful with this. But I have faith that you can get a lot done, even if you end up spending more than an hour or two in front of the screen!
If you need to, you can set a limit for yourself right off the bat: watch just one episode, or one movie, or perhaps set an alarm and stop after the episode during which it goes off. You can also just make a point of stopping for a quick break between episodes to get up and stretch, or even just to review what you’ve gotten done so far.
The key to making this work is ensuring your sketchbook is in reach. And I mean well within reach. As I mentioned in a previous post, when laziness strikes, even leaning forward to reach for something on the coffee table can be a bit of a task, especially if you’re super-duper comfy. (Don’t feel bad; we’ve all been there.) So I recommend ensuring you have everything you need prior to plunking yourself down on the couch. Of course, you will need your sketchbook and something to draw with. Make sure your pencil is sharpened or your pen full of ink. You don’t want to have to stop in the middle of an episode to go sharpen a pencil or grab new pen/cartridge. In fact, I would prepare a couple drawing instruments or more, so you’re set for the long run. 😉
Have your sketchbook either in your lap or right beside you. You can put pencils or pens in a pencil case, tray, basket, or simple cardboard box next to you. I’ll admit I usually just keep everything in my lap, but pencils often go missing in the crevices of the couch, or I end up sitting on them; and uncapped pens are a great way to unintentionally re-decorate the upholstery. So once I’m done writing this, I’m going to go find myself a nice shallow box.
Bonus: If you have a bad habit of snacking while watching TV, then this can help with that as well because your hands will be too busy sketching to be tossing food into your mouth! Come on guys, I know I’m not alone on this!
What to Watch?
Before you press that Play button, consider this: are you going to be too distracted by the show to take your eyes off the screen and draw? If you think you might, here are a couple of tips: Firstly, if you’re worried about missing something on-screen, I would suggest watching a re-run of a favourite episode. Since you already know everything that happens, you’re not going to look down at your page in the split-second where some plot-altering twist comes about.
Another thing to think about is exactly what you’re going to watch. It makes sense to choose material based on what and how you want to draw.
Documentaries are fantastic for drawing, especially if you rely heavily on reference; since the shots are typically longer, you have a lot more time to look at the subject before the camera cuts away. And because documentaries provide copious amounts of information on the subject, you will gain a better understanding, and this will show up in your drawing as well.
Sitcoms are nice for drawing people, and above all faces, because you get to see the same people over and over again in all sorts of environments and from all sorts of angles. This is awesome practice for drawing likenesses since rather than copying a photo and focusing on what a face looks like from one specific angle, you get a much, much better sense of the actual construction of the person’s face. This is useful when drawing your own characters too, because you’ll have practiced drawing the same face from different angles. Reality TV shows are good for the same reasons.
And of course, there are art shows! You can grab a paint set and follow along with Bob Ross, or soak up inspiration from the myriad art competition shows airing right now. I like to apply some of the challenges from the latter into my own sketchbook pages.
To Pause or Not to Pause?
In general, I prefer not to pause when I’m drawing and watching TV, if I can help it. I think of it as drawing from life; of course things in film and TV often change faster than in real life, but this can present a valuable challenge. Not to mention there are things you just don’t see in everyday life: fantastical creatures, foreign places and cultures, and even things like weapons and vehicles. And if you happen to have someone else watching with you, constantly pausing to draw something could get annoying.
When you see something that you feel merits extra attention, absolutely feel free to pause and spend a bit more time on it. For the most part, I draw from TV to practice getting ideas recorded quickly (which helps immensely with drawing from life), but once in a while I will see something that really catches my eye. Very recently, in fact, a character on screen had such a menacing look on his face that I couldn’t help but pause and dissect it. It inspired me so much that I drew up a menacing character to match and drew up his face just like the one in the show.
It’s actually quite a popular practice among artists to do studies from film and TV. This might be easier if you’re able to take a screenshot of whatever you’re watching, or if your streaming platform doesn’t have an overlay that pops up shortly after pausing. These studies can take some time, depending on the amount of detail you choose to go for; but they’re a superb way to get a handle on composition, lighting, and other foundational skills.
Remember that a film or show is a moving piece of art; every shot was designed and (for the most part) everything in frame is there for a reason. When you stop to think about these things, you can surely learn a great deal. You might go so far as to research the making of your favourite film, or check out some behind-the-scenes footage.
Don’t get Hung up on Accuracy and Detail
Especially if you choose to watch something action-oriented, you’re not going to have time to get down every small detail, and some things are liable to be a bit off. But don’t worry; the point here is to get a lot of ideas quickly. After the show is over, you can go back and re-draw the things you found most interesting. If you’re so inclined, you could even note the (hour,) minute and second where something notable is on screen so you can re-visit it later.
So unless you’re doing a deliberate study (like I touched on above), don’t worry about getting down a perfect likeness of a character, or capturing everything on the screen. You might just pick out a distinctive nose or mouth to draw, or sketch some quick composition ideas to use in your future art works.
Again, think of it as drawing from life, but with a twist! It’s fun to pretend that the characters on-screen are passing by you for real. Try to capture a quick gesture as they go by.
Well guys, there you go! Hopefully this inspires you to curl up with a blanket and sketchbook (maybe a hot drink, too) for some nice, productive TV time! If nothing else, perhaps this will take away some of that guilt of watching back-to-back episodes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go find something to watch! 😀
What did you think of this article? Are you guilty of binge-watching? Do you ever draw while you’re watching TV? Let me know in the comments if you’ve had any experience with this, and be sure to share any tips you might have! Until next time!