How to make Pencil work for you

Pencil Jammers has grown rapidly over the past few months. What started as a little site to track the artwork of a few friends has now grown into a small community of enthusiastic artists from around the world. For those who have been around since the beginning, this site offers no surprises. If you've joined more recently however, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the amount of content crammed into this site. Here then is a primer on how to find your way around, and how you can make this site work for you.

What Pencil Jammers is all about
Quite obviously, Pencil Jammers is all about the art and science of drawing. Our philosophy centres around drawing as a thinking activity, the side effects of which are a heightened sense of perception, good observation skills, fine tuned motor skills, increased creativity and much more. In this respect we are different from sites that promote art for the sake of art. Rather than place ourselves in an airy-fairy and ambiguous space such as art, Pencil Jammers focus is on the act of drawing itself.

Putting Pencil to work
While there is no dearth of resources that teach drawing skills on the net, learning to draw still requires a fair amount of discipline and attention. Just the drawing alone will not suffice, you need to immerse yourself in an environment that works for you.

Pencil Jammers offers you a structured system of approaching drawing and it's immediate spillovers. Here are 4 main uses...
  1. Improving your skills
  2. Meeting other artists
  3. Showcasing your work
  4. Collaborating on Projects

We'll quickly run through how Pencil Jammers helps you with each of these.

1. Improving your skills
This is Pencil Jammers most important function. The site is stock full of resources on drawing techniques and advice. First identify the areas where you need improvement. This can be quite simply done by uploading your art into the Critiques Group and asking for feedback. This inevitably gives you a good idea of where to start refining your work. To get you started, here is who to go to for what. Make your own list. Track down artists on this site that you admire, look at their work and ask them about their techniques. Maintain a Sketch Thread where people can see your work improve on a daily basis and get them to continue offering you advice.

There is also the Techniques section itself. It features over a hundred videos demonstrating techniques and categorised by keyword. So all you have to do is SEARCH for stuff like drawing, charcoal, watercolours, oils etc. More are being added every week and pretty soon we should have videos here for any sort of drawing activity that you can think of. Watch the videos and practise. Over and over again until you can kill with a sketch!

The other area that will help you draw better are the GROUPS. We have groups for the important areas such as Figure Drawing and Still Life where you can participate on assignments. Hey, and speaking of assignments, we have a Daily Sketch Group as well. Perfect for that doodle with morning coffee.

Besides activity, there's also a tremendous amount of stuff to read on this site.
1. In-Site Blogs
Popular Posts to get you started:

2. Resources and Links
There are a huge amount of links to resources on general drawing, figure drawing, drawing material and much more on our links section (It's Under Blogs on the main link...)

3. The Official Pencil Jam Blog
This is the official blog of Pencil Jam and contains tons of articles and advice on drawing written by the drawing instructors here at Pencil Jam. Give it a dekko.

4. Participate in our live interaction sessions.
Our weekly drawing club in Bangalore meets every Sunday to draw. (Check the events page every Thursday) These sessions are free and everyone is invited. We have paid sessions too where we conduct workshops on more complex subjects. Keep tabs on the main Pencil Jam website to stay in touch.

2. Meeting Other Artists
Networking with other artists is another crucial role of Pencil Jammers. As a community, peer discussions and community based work is important. Pencil Jammers offers each artist a profile page and the ability to add artists that interest him or her as friends. Don't underestimate your profile page and always make sure that it is as detailed as possible. This makes connecting with other artists easy and painless.

Visit the Artists page often to meet new members or to search for members in your area or perhaps those with similar interests. A quick look at the Leaderboards section allows you to figure out the main trends of the week.

You can even view other Pencil Jammers on a map to see where in the world they are. Go ahead and put yourself in it too.

3. Showcasing your Work
This is perhaps one of the best features of the community. By aggregating your work under Galleries you can create specific galleries for different types of drawing. Perhaps based on media, subject or geography. You can then easily share your portfolio with others by sending them the link to the page.

If your work contains graphic content such as explicit nudity, then you may choose to even use protected groups to share your work. (Such as the Drawing the Human Figure Group)

You can rate artwork that you're looking at by specifying how many stars it has earned (Under each image in the Gallery) and have your rated for popularity as well.

It is also important that artists promote themselves. Every section has links to Social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Hit it to ensure that the world knows about your latest masterpiece or about your mastery over a brand new technique.

4. Collaborating on Projects
The site provides some really cool tools to collaborate. You can use the system's messaging features to alert a art partner and then use the Chat widget to brainstorm in real time. (The chat can be accessed on Pencil Jammers homepage as a bar right at the bottom...)

For starters, experiment with projects such as the Member Mix challenge where 2 artists challenge each other with themes. You can even make up your own challenges.

You can swap old books, drawing material or whatever through our swap stuff section. Just ensure that you have everything worked out with your partner. (Pencil Jammers just allows you to collaborate, but is not responsible for any transactions.)

From time to time we even involve external groups to collaborate with us such as the recent Madness Mandali Project or Shilo's Wallflower Project. Feel free to start your own.

One other thing. If you don't like your inbox flooded with mails from Pencil Jammers you can simply switch that feature off! Just click on Settings (Right of screen under INBOX etc...) then click on EMAIL (Left of screen on the settings page). Here you can just turn off all but the most relevant to you.

Now that was a mouthful, but I certainly hope this primer on Pencil Jammers helps you become a better artist. If you have any questions, go ahead and hit the comments section below.

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