Today’s Art: The Two Minute Timed Sketch

My daughter and I decided that we wanted to work our way through Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. 

We also decided, since my daughter is — well, who she is…we decided to do things slowly, one at a time…the whole main point being…doing it together…

We did not realize that by sitting down together–we would naturally draw a third partner to our studies…yet, Duncan is with us, and wanting his paper and his pencil and his chair so he can do his work with us.  We shall not in any way deny this child–let us encourage him in all fruitful ways that we can…

So, the first thing that I picked out was: the 2 minute self-portrait.

I did not impose any rules, other than the 2 minutes timed, on the drawing.  I said “self-portrait”, but with us, here, anything goes.  I grabbed the first empty journal that I could find and a charcoal pencil–because I love them.  Evangeline grabbed her pad and her pencil–and then had to share her paper with her brother because he had spent time earlier in the day ripping every page out of one of his notebooks.  We found him an acceptable pencil…and E had to loan him erasers, or sharpen his pencil, when he asked (which is why we allowed her an extra 2 minutes after he finally got settled–because it took three minutes to get him situated).

At the two-minute mark, I took a picture of everyone’s work and posted it on instagram–to keep us all honest.

Here is E’s:

View this post on Instagram

Evangeline's 2 minute self portrait in graphite

A post shared by Tabitha Low (@tabitha_j_low) on


Here is D’s:

View this post on Instagram

Duncan's 2 min sketch. pencil

A post shared by Tabitha Low (@tabitha_j_low) on

This was his warm-up.  Then he drew a full figure with a big head, which he spent copious amounts of time carefully erasing.

This is mine:

View this post on Instagram

2 min self portrait sketch in charcoal pencil

A post shared by Tabitha Low (@tabitha_j_low) on

I wasn’t sure I was going to throw my glasses into the mix or not.


We are actually loving this sort of exercising, all three of us, and we look forward to doing them every day now.

But, the exercise doesn’t end there.  At least not for me.

The next morning, I got up and I had to paint my face…mostly because I didn’t fix the charcoal — I like charcoal and white paint blended together to create shadows and darks.

Here is the finished product.


This fast raw get it down and get it done sketching has helped me in ways I didn’t realize I needed some help.

You know i have this stack of sketching that I’ve done over the past few weeks…erm…maybe couple of months now…and I have a stack of ATC faces sketches on altered playing cards…and I have just not reached a space where I was ready to tackle painting them, at all…

I get stuck in these channels, not ruts really, but sort of channels, where …. I forget that I can do things.


I forgot that I am good enough to paint out these portraits and do them justice.  I forgot that I know how to shade and how to add highlights and all sorts of neat things–and that if I don’t want to add them that I don’t have to.  Some days, I forget that I can actually sketch up cute faces and cute figures and whatnot.

As I sketched yesterday and as I painted today, it felt like layers of cocooning falling away from me and I was able to move on with my work in whatever way best served me and best served my work.

That, that, feels really good.