Sometimes the best way to come up with a new or unusual idea is to break free of conscious thought. I'm not talking about drugs or meditation, but 'automatic drawing.' My monster heads (right) are examples of this design technique. Instead of starting with a traditional thumbnail, I've made large squiggle shapes on a blank document. These shapes serve as the scaffolding for a more detailed drawing. There aren't many 'rules' for this exercise, but it's important to stick to the initial scribble for the major shapes. Inside of those forms you're free to elaborate and add details.
Origin of Automation
The idea of "automatic drawing" has its roots in the early 20th century. The surrealists (visual artists and writers) coined the term to describe their cutting edge creations. For them it was a way to tap into the subconscious and create unorthodox artwork. The primary difference between the example I've created (right) and the historical definition of 'automatic drawing' is intent. My drawing exercise is just that: idea generation. Used as a first step in a longer illustration process, it simply allows me to come up with unusual shapes and avoid derivative designs. By sketching in this way I don't need to identify as a Surrealist, but it's nice to understand the historical context.
Go Make a Squiggle!
This week I encourage you to give automatic drawing a try. Especially if you've been in a creative rut recently, this is a great exercise to get loosened up. When drawing from your imagination it's easy to fall into the trap of repetition: your mental 'library' can lead to stale designs. Automatic sketching can result in crazy, unusual, and exciting shapes. They're your ideas -- you just might not think of them intentionally. Have fun with this!