Many Thousand Words - Jakob Burrows' Blog

Many Thousand Words

Every now and then I stumble on these two flower drawings I made when I was thirteen, and I'm always taken aback because they're actually not that bad. And because realism is something I haven't attempted since then – I was uninterested in reality and spent the next ten years drawing monsters and stick figures, as is well documented on this website.

Everyone says you should grasp realism before you simplify. It's similar to the old "learn the rules before you break them," a rule broken by every enterprising musician, artist and film student that has ever lived. Unfortunately, no matter how simple/minimal/cartoonish the film/music/art is, you can always tell whether the creator has a proper basis to stand on. When it comes to drawing, this is a basis that I lack, along with nearly every other webcomic-making-person on the web.

Visual art can be striking but it doesn't engage me like writing does. Story makes me tingle in a way that pictures do not, not matter how pretty they are. And yeah yeah, picture = thousand words etc, we all know this, but a thousand words also equal a thousand words, and I can get those words right. I can look at my thousand words and think that they are exactly as they should be, which never happens with things I draw. No matter how good I make a picture I can always look at someone else's and think "what's the point". Writing is not the same - with writing I feel like I've got more of a shot at expressing what I want, so that's what I've been focusing on these past few years.


A month and a half ago I started drawing for an hour every day. Not with any type of goal in mind, and fully aware that I probably wasn't going to keep it up for long. First I copied pictures from my phone.

After four days my phone ran out of pictures, so I started using this page which spits figure drawing photos at you at regular intervals. The page was recommended to me by Mattias Pilhede, who decided one day to get better at drawing and then drew every day until his arm broke. Inspirational!

This figure drawing thing was something I could do without putting too much thought into it, which is exactly what I needed. I've always been pretty decent at copying what's in front of me, and slowly I tried to expand that into seeing three-dimensional shapes rather than flattening them. (While also not thinking too much or spending more than 5 minutes on any single picture.)

Don't judge me for how these people are posed - I didn't take the pictures, I just copied them!

People and their expressions are all I really want to be able to capture. Shapes are what I'm interested in, not landscapes or shadows or whatever people with easels do, so I kept using this figure drawing site thing, hoping that some of it would maybe sink in. With time my pencil strokes grew more certain, and I actively tried not to draw a dozen lines when two would do.

Keep in mind that I'm only showing off things that I'm moderately happy with. If all my drawings looked like the ones you see here, I'd be pretty ecstatic, but instead I'm fine with maybe every tenth drawing. And then when you get something right you don't know why, and you try to capture it again but it doesn't work... The only solution is to make more. Lots more, over and over, because after a thousand drawings you might have a hundred okay ones, and you might learn something along the way.

Listen to me. A few scribbles and I think I'm a fucking guru. Ugh.

"You could be really good if you keep this up, Jakob!"

Well joke's on you, because I've already stopped!

Or lowered the tempo, anyway. Right now I'm doing half an hour every other day. As I said, this is not my main focus, and it's mainly on the schedule because it activates different parts of my mind, letting me return to other projects with my brain flickering like a christmas tree. I hear other people achieve similar effects through something called "exersize" – haven't really looked into what that is, may have gotten the spelling wrong, sorry – but for me it's drawing right now.

And I want more to look back on, and be surprised by, than those damn flowers.

PS: There will be no hourly comics from March 1st because I didn't make any. There probably won't be any on April 1st either. In the future I might draw hourly comics again, but for now I want new things.

March 5th, 2015