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The techniques and concept of improvisation in art drawing.

Updated on September 4, 2014

Why is improvisation in art so important ?

Why is improvisation in art so important ? One of my students recently asked. And with art she meant the visual arts like drawing, painting and sculpture. Improvisation in music is more common, like improvising on a jazz tune, or contemporary music, but improvisation in drawing is less well know.

Still it is a wildly used technique by artists to create piece of work. The art of improvisation gives the artist the freedom to think out of the box, out of his own habits. Improvisation gives you the means to excel in your creativity.

And yes, improvisation is a technique, a system to change on the spot. Using the unforeseen and benefit from a happy accident. The word serendipity springs to mind. Making a happy discovery by accident. And with improvisation we use accidents to create a piece of art that becomes personal and shaped by the artists decisions.

On this page I will show and tell you why improvisation in art is so important and how to use improvisation techniques to improve your drawing or paintings. It is not a standard set of rules like how to learn perspective of life drawing, no it is different. But probably far more reaching and influential in your way of painting. The art of improvisation will eventually shape the core of your creativity and personalize your art work.

Improvisation in art drawing


Improvisation and drawing, creativity at work.

As why improvisation can be a huge help in creating your piece of art it probably all revers to improving your out of the box thinking.
Most artists know exactly what they want to do when starting a piece of art, but seldom they can imagine the end product. It is like imagining how an alien would look like, you don't know before you've seen it... The same for an art work. Artist may have different approaches on how to achieve something but what they all need is creativity.
And creativity is something you can develop.

Without the skill to improvise it's hard to change your own ideas. Imagine you are sculpting a torso, and you almost completed your masterwork when a cat jumps on the sculpture, it falls on the floor and the nose is broken off. By a flash of insight you use the accident and change the positions of the ear and the nose. And wow, you suddenly created a far more interesting piece of art then the confessional torso.
Salvador Dali made actually such a piece of art, but he knew beforehand what he wanted. Still he must have had that moment of insight sometime. And that's where the art of improvisation comes in.

The sculpture of Savador Dali named "Tête otorhinologique de Vénus" can be seen in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, Holland.

The sculpture of Savador Dali named "Tête otorhinologique de Vénus"


Who painted the first abstract painting ?

Wasily Kandinsky was known to make the first abstract art work *, he made a watercolor that became one of the most famous watercolors today. It originates from 1910. His work developed into an abstract direction and his book The spiritual in Art is a reflection of his thoughts during that time.

* Actually there was an artist before him who made abstract work.

Hilma Af Klint, a Swedish painter and studied art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1882.

Art books about improvisation and abstract art.

Concerning the Spiritual in Art
Concerning the Spiritual in Art

This book by Kandinsky is a must for all art students. Although its written over a 100 years ago. (in 1910). It's still an insightful book about color, line and shape and how they evoke emotions, all in there own way.


The art of improvisation - a visual journey


Improvisation or all planed and organized type of person

Who are you ? Do you prefere to improvise on the spot, or do you want to now where you're going to.

See results

Learn to improvise in art : abstract art is not abstract

If you learn to improvise you will find that bit by bit abstract art isn't that abstract anymore. As long as you do things with a purpose, you get a feel and understanding of your art piece. And the more you understand the things you do, the less abstract it becomes.

I often tell my students to compare the lines they draw with characters of a play. The setting is the paper or canvas, the players are the lines, dots and blobs. Each with a different character and personality. A thick fat straight line expresses emotionally something completely different then a curly thin line. You can imagine one as grumpy old grandfather and the other as a student full of energy.

Improvisation and understanding of how an improvised piece of art comes to a realization helps you with understanding art in general. Improvisation and thinking about the process gives you insight in how you yourself normally create an artwork. It will help you to channel your emotions, understand them and how to visualize them.

How Squeezing Your Left Hand Can Increase Creativity


The art of improvisation in drawing and painting

The visual arts and improvisation.

Let us have a closer look to what it actually means - improvisation in the art. Although I will tell and explain in more detail in other squidoo pages about the technique of improvisation there are a few things I can say already.

Improvisation is not simply doodling. The big difference between the two is consciousness. You doodle during a bored meeting or a telephone conversation. mindless scribbling lines and patterns on a paper. An abstract improvisation drawing is made with know-how, with insight in the emotional power of lines, points - shades, pressure etc. A good improvisation is not an easy thing, It needs both craftsmanship and a relaxed state of mind.

It's true that when you are drawing or painting you often are in a zen-like state of being. Unaware of your surroundings. Being one with your art work. In such a situation its easy to lose yourself completely. But you still have to keep your mind sharp and alert. Your hand may flow and do it's things, but your mind has to be conscious and correcting the hand where necessary.

Improvisation in Art - Drawing Techniques


Body and Soul Learn to draw with your hand and mind

The innocent eye and the eye of knowing.

There is a saying in the arts that you always have to look at your own artworks with the naïve eye of a child. Without precognition or too much knowledge of our world. But at the same time with your other eye, you have to look at your piece of art with the knowledge of art history, the social context, the understanding of form and color and personal emotions.

It's difficult and almost sounds schizophrenic. In a way you have be innocent and on the other hand well aware of what you are doing. Bit by bit you will learn to use these two states of being. And by making improvisation drawings, you learn to controls these states of minds. The innocent state of mind and the knowledgeable state of mind. When they cooperate, you will find yourself in a pleasant zen like mood. A flow, where your hand will do the thinking.


Questions and Comments are welcome.
Improvisation and painting an fertile combination

All improvised comments are welcome.

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