Draw Your Breakfast

Words and Drawings By Matt Cotten

Suggestions to enhance your daily drawing experience. 

Draw Your Breakfast. It was an old drawing exercise used to answer the question “What should I draw?”. This example was from the kitchen in the rental house in Makeni, we were there to sequence Ebola virus during the big West African outbreak. We had a camping stove “Plein Air”, a cheap pan from Rotterdam, C206 gas canisters from the local grocery store, a coffee press that Armando had left us, a few packages of Italian espresso, the most recent brought in by Ian, and a box of Parrot matches with the cool logo. The palms trees and strong shadows because we were close to the equator. On this morning we had no electricity, either a big storm had come through in the night or we had forgotten to top up the credit or a fuse had blown or something. But we were prepared and could have our coffee.

Draw the biggest tree you can find. Trees are useful signals to draw, especially large trees. I worked at an HIV-2 study site in Caio, Guinea Bissau. The village was divided into zones, each zone had a sacred meeting place, a Tumba, usually under one or several large cotton silk trees. I tried to draw most of the Tumbas in Caio. Here is the Zone 2 Tumba.

Another large tree, a baobab from Kilifi Kenya. The tree is on the site of the first village, occupied from 1300-1500. It is big. And old.

Learn some perspective: receding parallels converge. I use to stand someplace that I found interesting and imagined I was 50 meters above looking down and drawing what I saw. This was Serekunda, the population and shopping center of Banjul, The Gambia.

Draw a pet. Everyone likes pet drawings. Loyal, happy to see you, tail-wagging friend.

Draw the rain. These were from (upper left then clockwise) Entebbe, Uganda, Fajara, Gambia, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Da Nang, Vietnam, Makeni, Sierra Leone and Caio, Guinea Bissau.

Draw airports, airplanes or what you see looking out of your window seat window. I still have a little kid fascination with planes and trucks and tractors. These were from (upper left then clockwise) Banjul, Stansted, Schiphol, Berlin Tegel, over Ho Chi Minh City, over Singapore.

Draw boats, barges, canoes, pirogues, dhows…those round blue and green bamboo fishing boats from Vietnam. All are great subjects and usually in interesting places.

Walk until you find a Super Cub and then draw it, all from Vietnam where they still honor the trusty little motorbike.

Find a busy street corner and draw what passes.

That’s it for now. Good luck, keep your notebook ready and your pen filled!

I am a virologist and biochemist with a long interest in painting and how ink and pigments  interact with paper and water. I have been lucky to have lived and worked in a variety of locations and I have kept a drawing diary of what I have seen through the years. See more at Ebolatent.

Categories: art, comic, featured, Travel

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2 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for this. All week I’ve been thinking about beginning to draw. I’ve always been self conscious about my spelling and my shaky hand. No literally shaky, but I’ve never learned to draw. I know I hold myself back and that all I need to do is begin…perhaps I’ll draw my breakfast.
    Thank you-


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