Whether you’re learning to draw for the first time or you’ve been a practicing artist for many years, working with new materials in new ways continually helps to strengthen both an individual’s technical and creative thinking skills. I’d like to share a (hopefully) new and fun method of drawing with you all that I learned in a drawing class I took a couple semesters ago. This technique is incredibly beneficial, and can be used to simply warm up or to create a finished piece – however you want to do it. The materials are simple: a small paint or ink brush, a cup of water, ink, heavy duty paper, and, most importantly, a long stick of bamboo. The bamboo can be bought at home improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.), some department stores (Kmart), or online. If you’re lucky, you or a friend might have some growing in your backyard that you could use for free! Once you have all your materials, you’re ready to jump in and start drawing.
To set up, you’ll want to make sure you find a space that gives you plenty of room in which to work. You’ll also want to keep in mind that this space might get a little messy, so be prepared with a few drop cloths, or use a space outside. Attach your paper to a drawing board or any other flat, stable surface and place it on an easel (if you don’t have an easel, you can attach your paper to a wall or prop it up on a table). Take your brush and your bamboo stalk and examine both ends of the bamboo – choose the end with the smaller opening and place the handle of your brush inside the bamboo. If it doesn’t seem secure enough to draw with, lock the brush in place with some masking tape. Grab the bamboo in a place that’s comfortable to hold and gives you at least an arm’s length of space between your hand and your paper. If you’re able, you should also stand while you draw to increase your range of motion. Now you can dip into your ink and start exploring the material.
Aside from the bamboo brush holder, this technique is just a simple ink wash. Have fun with the looseness of the ink and play with creating different values. Try to make your darkest dark and your lightest light, and bridge the gap with the endless possibilities of shades in between. Use your whole arm to draw to fully understand the active nature of this method. After getting comfortable with the bamboo, I recommend drawing something from life (a still life, a landscape, a model if you can get one, etc.). It’s interesting to compare and contrast your regular drawing style with the style created using the bamboo – it might look completely unfamiliar at first, but with practice, you’ll start to recognize your hand and learn from this process.
The purpose of the long bamboo stick is to loosen your hand and work bigger. I know from personal experience that artists, both new and experienced, tend to work too tightly after long stretches of drawing or painting. Using the bamboo method forces you to relax and step back from your piece, helping to form productive habits for future projects. I find it useful to return to this technique when I feel stuck in between projects and use it as a physical tool to aid brainstorming.
Try this technique at home and share your results in the comments below!