Critique with Jeff Knecht

jeffsblogA few weeks ago, I sent the following letter to Jeff Knecht of


You and I seem to share a similar background. Just like you, I did a lot of artwork when I was much younger (20+ years) but I let life get in my way. I actually married an art teacher and she told me that the reason I was so unhappy is because I was denying myself the art that I loved so much. For the record, she’s always right. Since I started the EDM challenges, my life has improved every day.

I was wondering if you would be interested in critiquing some of my EDM challenges. Mostly comparing draftmans…draughtsman… drawing, composition and design from the first 4 or so challenges, to the last few challenges. Even better would be if we could chat about the EDM and how bringing art back into our lives after such an absence has impacted us. That would be something we could both post.


Jonathan “Blade” Manning

Jeff responded with a resounding Yes!  After a few scheduling issues we managed to meet online for the following chat:

We were scheduled to meet at 10am and I didn’t appear until 10:30…

Blade: And then the electricity went out

Jeff Knecht: lol

Jeff Knecht: seems about right, huh?

Blade: That’s the way things are going

Blade: How are you, sir?

Jeff Knecht: very well.  and you?

Blade: Alive and kicking!  I have the whole house to myself for a few hours so I have guilt free internet time.

edm113uglythatyouloveJeff Knecht: your latest blog post had me literally laughing out loud

Jeff Knecht: that bit about “Dear Diet”… hysterical

Blade: A little play on the phrase “Cheating on my diet”

Jeff Knecht: nicely done

Blade: Thank you!  I’m an admirer of your site as well, which is why I thought you might be interested in this exchange.

Jeff Knecht: Cool.  I’m glad we had this little get-together planned.  I’d been slacking, so it was a nice kick in the pants

Blade: Yeah, it’s a little nerve racking when go public with your intentions ’cause now you know they waiting for it.

Jeff Knecht: indeed

Jeff Knecht: So… how do you want to proceed?

Blade: Tell you the truth, we already are proceeding.  This is exactly what I had in mind.  A couple of friends chatting, sharing a little info about themselves and a little constructive criticism.

edmbookJeff Knecht: Why don’t I start by asking how you found the EDM group?

Blade: That would be great!

Blade: I found the group over at  There was a cat posting his last few sketches of the initial 200 challenges.

Blade: I went through that thread more than ten times image by image thinking how marvelous it was that he could make these common items so interesting.

Blade: So, I followed the links he provided to find out more about Danny Gregory and his books.

Jeff Knecht: Hey cool!  Just noticed that your blog is listed over on  Nice.

Blade: Yeah, if you become a member of the forum, you can ask Russ to list your site there as well.

Blade: How about you?  How did you “stumble upon” the Everyday Matters group?

Jeff Knecht: Me?

Jeff Knecht: I think I was just searching for a list of things to draw

Jeff Knecht: When I first picked up my pencils after a long layoff, I need a little direction.  And the EDM site was perfect for that

Blade: It seems the hardest part of every day practice is finding something to draw.  EDM takes that problem away.  Today, you should draw THIS.

Jeff Knecht: Yep.  And I’ve got to tell you I really admire that you’ve been able to make time to do something just about every day.

Jeff Knecht: After you posted your 100 days recap, I went back to my blog and did a quick count you’ve more than doubled my output

Jeff Knecht: … and that shows in the progress of your work.  NIght and day difference between post #1 and post #100

edm56doorknobBlade: Thank you.  It is not easy, but it does become a habit.  If I miss it, it’s just like wondering if you locked the door before you went to bed.  It just eats at you until you do something about it.

Jeff Knecht: I’m not sure that I see that same progress in mine.

Blade: I’ve noticed you expanding into different mediums and experimenting.  That’s wonderful!  That’s what keeps it interesting and alive.

Jeff Knecht: yeah, I’m a bit of butterfly

Jeff Knecht: I don’t know if “bored” is the right word… but I just always have to be doing something different

Blade: I will come to a challenge and so desperately want to do it in watercolor!  But for the EDM this time around I have set the parameter for myself that it shall be graphite unless the challenge dictates otherwise.

Jeff Knecht: I keep thinking I should do that.  I boldly predict that, for example, “march is watercolor month”; and then I pick up a stick of charcoal.

Jeff Knecht: it’s like the complete opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy

Blade: LOL.  Or how about when you go to the art store and there’s a new pen, or you discover some way to make a mark you’ve never done before?  I just have to try that.

Jeff Knecht: exactly

Blade: Just like lately, I’ve been following your progress in charcoal, then you put up two latest posts in watercolor, the hand held game and the bike helmet.  Great work on helmet btw.

Jeff Knecht: thanks – I’m not happy with that helmet at all

Jeff Knecht: so… direct question…  what are your art goals?

Blade: Art Goals… I’ve never been that organized.    After this huge break in my participation in art, I really just wanted to elevate it to the foreground of my life.  I don’t know that I want to be a professional artist, as much as I want to be an artistic professional.  Whatever I do, fill it with creativity.

Jeff Knecht: perfect – that’s exactly what I was asking

Jeff Knecht: I was just talking about this with a friend of mine yesterday…

Jeff Knecht: and he was saying how his goal is just to spend some time getting lost in doing a drawing

Jeff Knecht: for me, I just want to get better…

Jeff Knecht: I really want to get to the point where I can make something appear almost photographic.  Then I can CHOOSE whether to do something more stylistic rather than being forced into it by my lack of ability to do otherwise

Jeff Knecht: which is why, i think, i’m usually not thrilled with most of my work

Jeff Knecht: but as long I see some progress, I can stay motivated

Blade: What were you doing before you jumped back into drawing?

Jeff Knecht: I was trying to write a novel

Jeff Knecht: Like I said, I’m a bit of a butterfly…

Jeff Knecht: After I stopped doing visual art, I picked up a guitar and did that for about seven or eight years

Jeff Knecht: then I started running, and that took up all my hobby time

Jeff Knecht: ran a marathon, wrecked my knees, and suddenly I had free time again

Jeff Knecht: so I thought, why not try my hand at writing?

Jeff Knecht: turns out, writing fiction is really, really hard

Jeff Knecht: but more importantly, when I had free time, I found myself doing everything EXCEPT writing

Jeff Knecht: then in September or October last year, we were painting our bedroom.  And something about the sound and feel of the brush on the wall just flipped a switch in my head, and I HAD to draw

Blade: LOL! I’ll bet if you could have recorded speach to text while running, you would have two novels by now.

Jeff Knecht: probably not…  my problem was coming up with a plot

Jeff Knecht: I could write a few decent pages, but I never had any idea where the story was going.

Blade: No plan beyond the immediate scene, huh?

Jeff Knecht: nope.  i got nuthin’

Jeff Knecht: over the course of two years, I think I actually wrote less than a hundred pages of fiction.  so, it just wasn’t my thing.

Blade: I know your type, Jeff.  Two or three years from now, you’ll sit down and pick up a pencil to draw and end up writing 100 pages.

Jeff Knecht: lol

Jeff Knecht: you’re probably right

Jeff Knecht: I’ve noticed your drawings are getting more contrasty lately

Blade: Yeah, I’ve really been trying to “push the darks” as my wife tells me.

Jeff Knecht: I think it really helps your pics “pop”

Jeff Knecht: was curious if you scan your drawings or snap a pic with a camera

Blade: I scan everything smaller than 9″x12″.  That’s as big as my flatbed goes

Jeff Knecht: the whites don’t always look completely white, and I’ll bet the darks don’t look as dark as they do in real life either.

Jeff Knecht: then again, maybe you’re drawing on paper that isn’t quite white?

Blade: True, and I am loathe to edit them on the PC because I don’t want people to think I’m touching them up and not posting the raw work.

Blade: Well, most of the time the paper is Strathmore and it’s a touch gray to begin with.

Jeff Knecht: I don’t think there’s any problem with making an adjustment as long as you’re making it look as closer to the way the drawing looks in real life

Jeff Knecht: now, cranking up the contrast to make it look even better… that would be cheating

Blade: Exactly.  If I were doing this as a professional illustrator trying to meet a deadline, I would have no problem at all with that.  But as I am just trying to improve and allow others along on the journey, there’s no point in cutting corners.

Jeff Knecht: fair enough

Blade: Shall we post a few pics for critique, or run with what we have and do some actual critique next week?

Jeff Knecht: you have stuff other than what’s on your blog?

Jeff Knecht: (I don’t everything I do gets posted)

Jeff Knecht: but sure, we can do a quick one

Blade: Not really, I have some stuff that I’m not willing to share and I have some stuff that is not finished.  But for the most part, everything’s posted.

Blade: I’ve got the figure drawings of my lovely bride, but that’s not going online.

Jeff Knecht: :D

Blade: Just out of curiosity, did you have a subscription to Highlights magazine when you were a kid?

Jeff Knecht: No.  But I remember pouring through them at the doctor and dentist

Jeff Knecht: good old Goofus and Galant I wonder if they’re still around

Blade: I wonder how many of us Gen-x were influenced by the illustrations in that magazine?  Oh yeah, my kids have a subscription.

Blade: So which of your works are you most proud of this week?

Blade: and not necessarily done this week

Jeff Knecht: well, since I only did 3 things, that’s not a hard choice

Jeff Knecht: the top of my dryer is probably my favorite from the week, with the handheld basketball game coming in second

Jeff Knecht: though it’s a close one

Jeff Knecht: how about you?  which one(s) should I take a look at?

Blade: See, and I did very little beyond the EDM.  I like the Hierarchy of love, and the light bulb

Jeff Knecht: Those illustration friday challenges are so far outside my comfort zone that I am always impressed to see what people do with them

Hierarchy of Love

Hierarchy of Love

Jeff Knecht: I like the composition on the hierarchy of love how the outer circle gives the impression of the father wrapping the mother in his arms.  Very nice

Jeff Knecht: If I have any criticism at all, it would be the word “love” written all the way around.  I think I would have preferred to infer that from the image alone.

For Jeff’s critique of EDM 107: Draw a light bulb, click here!

Blade: I initially intended the “Love” to work as a shading around the arms.  It didn’t work out as intended, but that’s what makes art fun.    I’m with you, though, if I did it again I wouldn’t add the writing.

Blade: The top of the dryer is really very nice illustration.  Your mixed media approach adds different textures to the planes.  You use just enough splash of color to difine the object and it’s shading without coming down and writing “Spray-n-Wash” on the bottle.

Blade: Very loose and well done.  I would like to see your lines get a little bolder.  There are a few places where it’s obvious that you weren’t happy with something and your line gets … sketchier.  I also would like to see a bit more shadow.  I think you have a great start on the atmospheric perspective, but I think you were a little afraid to fill in the darks and making mud of your labels.  I can see where you started, but backed off on the front two bottles.  I do really like close cropped still lifes, and I think you captured a beautiful angle for this.

For Blade’s critique of the handheld basketball game, click here!

Jeff Knecht: Well, cool.  Thanks for the crit.

Blade: Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

Jeff Knecht: This was great!  I really appreciate the feedback.  So much of what I get on my blog is just “nice job”.  This was much more helpful

Jeff Knecht: You’ve given me some good things to keep in mind for next time.

Jeff Knecht: I hope I have too but it’s been so long since I’ve done a critique I’ve almost forgotten how

Blade: Oh yes!  Constructive criticism is always appreciated!

Blade: You and I have so much in common it’s ridiculous.

Blade: all except for the running.

Jeff Knecht: you wait and see…  I didn’t start running until after I lost 40 pounds

Jeff Knecht: (yet another thing we have in common)

Blade: Yesterday, at the zoo, I found myself running up the hills just to see if I could.  And I did and wasn’t winded at the top.

Blade: I’m sure my running as recreation is one of the signs of the apocolypse

Jeff Knecht: yup – that’s how it starts.  Next you’ll be going to the end of the block, then around the block, then down to the park, and before you know it, you’re registered to run a 5-K and you’ve spent money on shoes designated just for running.

Blade: One step at a time.

Jeff Knecht: :D

Blade: Shall we do this again in say, two weeks?

Jeff Knecht: checking the calendar…

Jeff Knecht: yep – that should work.  but might need to be later in the day/evening

Blade: Is 8pm too late?  That’s when Girl2 gets her bath.

Jeff Knecht: that’s perfect

Jeff Knecht: thanks so much for putting this together

Blade: No problem.  I think because we are almost at the same place in our lives, this would make a great regular feature.

Jeff Knecht: Most excellent

If you would like to participate in a chat and critique, feel free to contact me here and I’ll be happy to arrange it.


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