Get Back to Basics - Joanna Baker Illustration

Don’t Have Space or Fancy Tools to Create? Start with the Basics…

Get Back to Basics - Joanna Baker Illustration

This challenge is one I’m very familiar with – living and creating in a one bedroom Manhattan apartment is no easy feat! And let’s face it – a trip to the art supply store can easily add up. (Raise your hand if you relate to this meme? 🙋‍♀️) I think it’s easy to get caught up in a Pinterest spiral and think you need a sun drenched, airy studio space or all the fancy art supplies in order to make great work. But that simply just isn’t the case!

If space and budget are really a challenge, one thing you can do is start with the basics – I’m talking paper and pencil. There is so much to be learned with the basics: proportion, balance, scale, shading, line quality and more. After practicing in graphite first, you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to translate those pencil and paper skills to different mediums later on – i.e. once you’ve studied a butterfly in graphite, it’s a lot easier to illustrate one in markers or paint one in watercolor.

Why? Because how you see the world and translate it through your hand is a lifelong skill. And all you need to practice that translation is simple paper and pencil! I used to love the challenge of creating realistic portraits with just pencil, paper, and kneaded eraser and blending tortillons. Here are some of mine from my college days, they were such a fun challenge (and definitely reveal my inspiration from the early 2000’s – The O.C., Marie Antoinette and Phantom of the Opera for the win! 🤣).

Graphite Pencil Sketches by Joanna Baker

I’m convinced that all those detailed pencil portrait studies earlier on made it possible for me to later incorporate color and create realistic portraits in marker. There is something so beautiful about not needing anything fancy in order to get started making art. What will you create when you pare down your supplies to just the basics? I’d love to see!