If you’re passingly aware of being funny on the internet, a discipline started with Seanbaby, perfected by Loading Ready Run and then monetised by College Humour, you might already know about Drawfee. The Dropout network, the continuation of the thing that once was College Humour, has its own spinoffs, and its own subscription service.
I don’t have the subscription service, mind you. I just look at the stuff made by their artist spinoff, the artists who run a channel now known as Drawfee.
Drawfee is an artist channel, where the general gimmick, as repeated, is that they take your dumb suggestions and make even dumber drawings. They don’t, usually, the art they produce is full of character and life and there’s all sorts of ridiculous joy to be seen while these friends draw and talk to one another about drawing. There’s some stuff that talks about general trends in art – like the Octobertober, where they do a bunch of October art challenges, every day grabbing a bunch of random prompts from a different kind of art challenge, whether Cutegirltober or Inktober or Cringetober.
There are typically four standard artists – Karina, Jacob, Nathan and Julia – and they have distinct voices, art styles and interests. You’ll pick up pretty quickly who likes doing what, depending on the subject matter. Nathan has a very low key, chill vibe, Karina is a gremlin cat with a knife, Jacob is Standard Male Art Nerd, and Julia ignores the brief. And… that’s it. That’s the show. They show up, they make a video about them drawing, and that’s half an hour show, every few days. There’s a stream channel as well, for more long form art where they talk to one another, which has the energy of, well, hanging out with other artists.
There’s a steady beating push towards appreciating art made just for its own sake, and seemingly a counterpoint to that, a willingness to delete art. It’s about making things and not being precious about what you made. Commonly, the refrain is repeated, don’t kill the cringe, kill the part of you that cringes.
They don’t stop there, with the advice, though. They show old material the artists made, art from their childhoods and ‘awkward teenage years,’ and then treat that art as a meaningful source. It’s a form of reparation and recovery I find great, and which makes me feel, personally, just better about being kinda mid artist. It makes me reconsider how I felt about my old art as a child, about how that particular period of my life isn’t a thing to be discarded and escaped, but rather, a ruin I can pick through for more.
That’s really sweet!
Some of the streams, I recommend because they’re funny and relaxing at the same time. The premise of ‘here’s a random-seeming prompt,’ draw what springs to mind is kinda freeing, because it gives you a basic limitation, a challenge to try and overcome while you put pen to paper. What can you draw that actually meets the requirements of what you’ve been asked?
It’s a source of modest frustration to me that sometimes, the artist will just draw whatever Julia wants, and that sometimes means that the artist seems to project an overwhelming ignorance. Pokemon, for example, are not these specialised interest material, Pokemon is one of the largest media franchises in the world, and an artist who can’t at least tell you what Pikachu looks like is weirdly ignorant, right?
But okay, that’s more ‘if you don’t know Pokemon, don’t join a Pokemon drawing challenge.’ That’s whatever. These challenges, though, where the drawing prompt is something nobody can be expected to recognise, they’re less frustrating, because, well… who could do better?
Then there’s this kind of thing, where the artists are given the same prompt and everyone tries to come up with a new take on it. These prompts are deliberately kinda wonky, they’re made to have some kind of ambiguity about what they include. The artists aren’t exactly handing their work over to the Art Cops at the end, but the way they all express different ideas with common threads has this beautiful interaction that I find really exciting to watch in action.
And like, you can see the way the different people latched onto different words. What was important, what had to be fixed up in a detail later, what had to be given up on. Is there something in the design that disappeared, and became part of the post-script details?
It’s the kind of experience that makes me think – well, obviously – hey, what would I do with that prompt? How are my ideas related to this kind of thing? What would I focus on? I think the thing that Drawfee most powerfully instils in me is a want to draw. I want to draw more. I get itchy watching it, wanting a pen between my fingertips. I have a notebook, a notepad on hand and I want to doodle in it and, and, I just – it instills in me an urge.
It’s social, of course. It’s this weird kind of parasociality, of watching people draw out loud. Note that these people aren’t bad artists, far from it – they’re all incredibly practiced. You can tell by how often they draw a section of a line and then immediately undo it. They’re making these tiny corrections every step of the way.
I understand one of the enduring complaints of art streamers is the question ‘what brushes are you using,’ and man, I feel that curiosity. I can tell there’s something tangibly, texturally different in the drawing tools they’re using, and I can see it in the way they can give character and deform the shape of a line as they’re doing it. Some of it is absolutely tools. But even with these peak tools, these expensive and hard to make devices, they’re still drawing a line, not liking it, and drawing it again. It’s all just practice, and there’s no need to be amazing at it, if it’s just letting something in you out. It’s okay to just draw!
I wanna draw!