Q: What inspired you to create Doodles and Daydreams?
I have friends who claim that they’re “frustrated artists.” When I ask them why they think so, they always reply that they can only draw stick figures. I can teach you how to draw, I’d say, and they’d suddenly go shy and not take me up on my offer. I think that the biggest stumbling block to learning how to draw is the lack of confidence. The thought of failure discourages a lot of people. It’s sad that it stops them from even trying.
I used to teach at the UP College of Fine Arts. The students there did not have this problem—this lack of confidence. Why? Just getting into UP by passing the Fine Arts Talent Determination Test automatically gave these kids a certain amount of confidence. The same amount of confidence any passer of any qualifying exam to any fine arts course at any university or college in the Philippines or the world, will have, actually. These kids are confident because their skills have been evaluated and scored—and they made the cut. But what of those who’d never submitted any of their work to be assessed? They’d never had the affirmation that would have encouraged them to pursue their dream. It’s sad that they will never discover their artistic skills, if they just accepted their fate as “frustrated artists”.
I’d always loved to draw, ever since I was a little girl. My dad says that I started drawing at age two. My mom, however, says it’s more likely that it was when I was already three. I drew everything on anything, which really paid off when I got to college—I really enjoyed my fine arts course. I grew up and developed as an artist in an environment that nurtured and encouraged my interests.
A quiz pad May had recently unearthed from among her high school things revealed her primary use for them—as doodle pads. She had once dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.
Sketches May had kept from her high school years. Self-taught, she copied images from fashion magazines.
Pages from May’s old college sketchbooks. She liked life drawing sessions the best.
From a very young age, perhaps because I’ve always known how to draw, I could not remember a day in my life that I didn’t know how to draw anything. I always found a way to draw whatever I wanted to draw. I believe my naivete helped; lacking a fear of failure made me open to learning and trying anything.
If I did found anything too complicated to draw, I asked my mom or my dad to draw it for me (both can draw well although they are not professional artists), and then I simply copied it—their style and the technique—so that’s how, I suppose, I slowly refined and built up my skills—by learning from my parents at first, then, eventually, by studying artists whose style and technique I admired. It is very easy to learn to do anything just by observing, by paying close attention.
I am lucky my parents love art, and it rubbed off on us their children. When he was younger, my dad couldn not afford to invest in art, but he invested in art books. We had a few books from the Time Life Library of Art series which featured gorgeous plates of art masterpieces. We couldn’t afford the whole set, but I loved my Dad’s choices: Michelangelo, da Vinci, Cezanne, and my favorite, Van Gogh.
Doodles and Daydreams came out of the idea that once the fear of failure is taken out, a student will be more predisposed to learn. I am sure that if a student has enough desire to learn how to draw and the matching passion to act on it, they will learn.
For several years, I worked in advertising. In those years, the daily grind was only all too familiar to me. I know how it is to yearn for a creative outlet apart from what you do from 9 to 5, 5 days a week, especially when the job gets routinary or the work environment gets too toxic. But it is a luxury for the busy professional to attend workshops, much less art workshops, because they are only entitled to 15 paid vacation days’ leave, and they would rather spend those precious days at the beach or perhaps a trip abroad with family or friends. Doodles and Daydreams: From Doodler to Drawing Diva in Just 30 Days! has the very busy professional in mind. It’s a handy workshop-in-a-book for those who do not have the time to attend classes or workshops. It is a way of squeezing in some art into one’s day for the perfect “me time”. An average of 30 minutes a day is all the reader needs to learn a drawing technique every day. The shortest and easiest exercise in the book can take only as little as 3 minutes.
Q: In Doodles and Daydreams, you have a persona you call Drawing Diva. How did you conceptualize her?
Drawing Diva is my sort of my mascot for the book. She is not me. But she is who I always aspire to be.
I wanted the Drawing Diva to be our ideal self once we learn how to draw—fearless, confident, eager to draw new things. I wanted the Drawing Diva to be a teacher figure who will gently hold the reader’s hand as they go through their art journey.
I’ve always envied women who can draw perfectly arched eyebrows, so I drew Drawing Diva like that–very chic, poised, with neat eyebrows. I believe that anybody who can draw a perfect eyebrow has, in them, a latent talent for drawing, haha.
Q: How would you describe your drawing style?
I’m always hard put describing my artistic style. Because of my training as an art director, I was exposed to so many styles and I became adept at different media, ranging from traditional to digital. An art director isn’t supposed to draw; they usually hire people to do that for them. Their primary concern is layout and design. But the very quick turnovers–in my work as art director and graphic designer–a lot of times, required me to draw, and have necessarily made me an art chameleon.
Our best model is our self, May says. Doing a self portrait is a good training in drawing what one sees. “We can take our time studying and rendering our faces, and nobody will complain, lol.”
Q: What/who influenced your drawing style?
I love and look up to so many artists; I am not sure if you will find any traces of their work in my work, though, haha. I like being inspired by my art idols to create, and I like analyzing their techniques to find out what makes their works distinctive, but I try very hard to have my very own style. Off the top of my head, I love the work of women artists like Hope Gangloff, Maira Kalman, Lisa Congdon, and Yuko Shimizu.
Q: How important is following the challenges in the book each day?
With Doodles and Daydreams, I set out to design a book that is actually an art course where the exercises will build on the skills developed in the previous exercises. I also designed the exercises based on three things that I believe a student needs most—building muscle memory, training a critical eye, and developing the habit of art as play. It was important to me that the reader will feel confident every time they worked on an exercise. I want the book to be encouraging and reassuring. As a teacher, I like breaking down big lessons into less daunting, smaller units of activities.
Not all exercises are linked and are progressive, however. There are stand-alone lessons that offer an alternative technique of drawing things, like the Day 17 Challenge, “Imagined Faces”, which instructs the reader to forget all the rules they’d learned in the previous exercise. This is because I want the reader to try as many drawing styles as possible, by offering them as many opportunities to find their style, before letting them decide what style they will ultimately pursue. Hopefully, as they gain confidence, they will also gain priceless insights they can keep as they develop as artists. I want the readers to make Doodles and Daydreams their first step at being artists. Following the exercises and challenges chronologically ensures that the reader will learn how to draw in as little as 30 days as the book promises. The numbered exercises will help me keep the promise I made to the reader.
Does the reader, then, need to do the exercises chronologically? Not really, especially if the reader already has somewhat advanced skills in drawing but would just like to refine their technique. They can just go right ahead and apply the tips on shading, for instance, to an exercise on contour drawing or figure drawing found in the latter part of the book, which they may already know how to do. The reader can combine skills they already have with tips or techniques they will encounter in Doodles and Daydreams. They can start at any page, and they can do more than one exercise per day if they have the time for it. If they like a particular exercise and would want to master it, they can do so. From my experience as a teacher, I know that learning styles vary with each student. Different strokes for different folks.
Q: What do you love about being an artist?
Artists can draw themselves happy. Art is therapy. I love the feeling of fulfillment I get whenever I finish an art project. Art is food for the soul. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s the quickest picker-upper whenever I feel down.
Q: If you could give one advice to aspiring artists, what would it be?
Back in one of the ad agencies I worked for, we had a mantra in the creative department: “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” (Which, I learned years later, is a quote from G.K. Chesterton.)
The drive to perfection is paralyzing. It’s so counter-productive. When we fear failure, we stall, we procrastinate. We must change this attitude. Whenever a task seems daunting, for whatever reason the task urgently needs to be done, it’s wisest to just get to it right away and do it. If it turns out badly, rest assured that each time you redo it, you will gain mastery, and you will only get better. And the failure, the lessons and insights from the subsequent tries will all have been worth it. Greatness requires enormous time—to be specific, not less than 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell prescribes in his book, “Outliers”.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should watch out for?
Nothing definite with regard book projects. I just have a wish list—of more how-to books I’d like to write, including an art book for kids. My son’s art textbooks are horrible and they do not inspire creativity at all. This is sad, because early childhood is the best time to start training future great artists.
What IS definite is that I will have a series of Drawing Diva workshops at Art Box Serendra and Quezon Avenue. I hope the readers of this blog will check them out and catch them at any or both venues. We will be packing as much fun drawing lessons as we could in our two-hour sessions, so it will really be worth the trip.
Q: Jumping off your instructions in the book . . . What’s your diva quote?
“Draw what makes you happy.”
When you are doing something you love, it is impossible to fail.
Join us at the book launch of Doodles and Daydreams on May 19, Saturday, 4 PM, at National Book Store Quezon Avenue. Admission is free and open to the public. Exciting activities and awesome freebies await from Oishi, Veco Paper, Prestige Paper, and Faber-Castell. RSVP here.
May Tobias shares her passion and craft through Doodles and Daydreams, a book that transforms a simple doodler to a drawing diva in just a month. With daily exercises designed to make your drawing hand become accustomed to varying strokes and pressure, this is the book for doodlers who want to take their dreams to the next level and anyone who wants to draw.
Doodles and Daydreams is available for only P695 at National Book Store and Powerbooks Store branches and online at anvilpublishing.com.