Sunday, December 20, 2009

Juggling for Artists

As an artist, developing your hand-eye coordination is an important endeavor when it comes to drawing. As Betty Edwards, the world famous art instructor and author of a series of fantastic drawing instruction books, points out, the crucial element of learning to draw is to draw what you actually see before you rather than what you think you see.Toward this end, the hand must also be trained to respond accurately and translate what the eye sees into marks on the paper. To develop this vital capacity, there are a number of activities one can do. To be sure, drawing itself develops this skill. Another skill that many drawing instructors recommend to help a student strengthen their hand-eye coordination is juggling. Juggling? Yes, learning to juggle can improve your drawing skills as strange as this may sound. Besides this, learning to juggle is pretty simple and quite fun. I learned to juggle about 25 years ago when a friend of my mother showed me how and gave me three bean bags, starting me off. Since then, I have learned many more advance juggling skills other than your standard three-ball cascade. Most toy stores, and even many book stores, have a basic how-to set and You Tube is also full of instructional videos, like the one I have linked here. Learning to juggle is a fun skill to have.
Similarly, juggling can also teach you lessons that are useful in other areas of your life. Years ago, I came across the book, Lessons from the Art of Juggling. For those who are interested in following their own dreams, listen up. The authors, Michael Gelb and Tony Buzan have many insightful ideas which proceed from learning to juggle. When learning to juggle, many make the mistake of trying to catch every throw they make. You have seen this before, soon the new juggler is running all over the place to catch their mistaken throws. Gelb and Buzan point out that this actually slows down the process of learning to juggle as catching those poor throws reinforces suching throwing, literally teaching you to throw poorly. The quicker route is to let the poor throws fall to the ground and only catch the balls that come to your hand in such a way that you are not thrown off balance in the course of catching. By staying balanced, you teaching yourself to throw correctly and soon develop a juggling rhythm that becomes meditative and allows you to learn even more advanced juggling tricks should you so desire.
Gelb and Buzan go on to illustrate how this can be a metaphor for how one approaches life. THink of the opportunity that comes to your life yet really throws your life off track as you chase after it. Gelb and Buzan argue that this is the poor throw that you should let drop, and only take on those ventures that are more or less in harmony with your being. I have found this idea quite valuable and has helped me think about opportunities that come to me. In fact, this is immanent in the idea of following your bliss. THere are lots of other gems in this book, so check it out. I have added links to the books I have been writing about in these posts. If you are moved to purchase them, you can help me subsidize my book habit by buying them through the links on my page. THanks to all of you who are reading my blog, I'd love to hear back from you regarding anything in my blog. I'd also love to hear from you about any books you have found that have inspired you. What is moving you these days?
The picture I included is one of my finest pieces, a drawing I did with colored pencils. I think this drawing shows the extent to which I have developed my hand-eye coordination for drawing. I am quite proud of this piece and I never tire of the satisfaction that looking at it gives me.


  1. After looking through your galleries, this frog was one of my absolute favorties of your pieces - it is so realistic I could not believe it was a drawing - I thought - "Oh, Tony is also doing photography, cool!" But then I looked more closely and realized it indeed is a drawing. Absolutely beautiful.
    More later on what inspires me - and books...

  2. Thanks Frannie. I was really obsessed with photo realism for a while and the frog was one of my most successful attempts. After doing such pieces, I had a 'been there, done that' feeling about that style and moved on, though I am generally more inclined toward representational art and relaism than other styles. Happy Holidays!

  3. Well this is an old post but I just come across with this. So, here is my comment. I'm not sure whether they are related or not. I did notice my drawing skill has improved after a few years of on and off practicing juglling.:)