Upon showing some of my more detailed drawings, other students who have just recently started drawing are sometimes daunted by these, uttering things such as; “I could never draw like that!” or “How do you do it?”
So, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts on the matter, and show you some of my less detailed, quick sketches. Also, I hope that this will give some more insight into how I work.
If I were to give only one advice to people starting up with drawing, it would be; throw away the eraser!
Now, some of you might draw on paper, others digitally, and I would guess that many end up utilizing a combination of both (as do I).
I was classically trained, if one could say that. Meaning I did three years in art school working cross disciplinary. During those three years we touched upon many topics and worked with multiple materials.
To give some examples at the top of my head, some topics where: perspective, foreshortenings, color theories, lighting and shadows, contrasts, shapes, negative spaces, art history, fonts, linework, composition and much more.
We also worked with a number of materials, such as: pencil, charcoal, ink, pastel, decoupage, photo, watercolour, oil paint, gouache, acrylic paint, clay, plaster, linocut, digital graphics, pluss various other materials for installation projects, both indoors and outdoors.
The highlights got a bit longer than I intended, sorry. I slipped into a state of nostalgia there for a while..
With that said, this was quite some time a go, we’re talking 2001-2004 (i.a. 10 years ago). It may not seem that long ago, but a lot has actually changed since then. Digital work wasn’t as prominent back then and although we had some digital projects and were introduced to software such as Photoshop and Illustrator, this only made up a very small percentage of the course content.
I am actually glad that it turned out this way. To be honest, if I were in the same position today, I would probably rather choose a more digitally focused course like media & communications or something similar. (Actually, I’ve moved in this direction and taken different courses towards this field anyways, as of late).
But the point is, that I could never do the things I do without a solid foundation in the basics. As an example, practicing figure drawing; working with charcoal on large canvas while observing a live model in natural lighting, is so different from refering to photos and/or drawing digitally on a “small” tablet.
Do you draw with your fingers, wrist, elbow or shoulder? There are different ways of drawing, of course, and the best way, I would say, is to utilize various techniques for different purposes. Wrist action encourages tight sketches and are very good for a controlled sketch style. Drawing from the shoulder tends to give you a more dynamic style and looser lines. If you want the capture the essence (think; the big picture), emotion and/or motion, this is the technique to use, but frankly this style requires a lot of practice in controlling your lines. Drawing from the elbow, however, gives you the middle ground, so this might be a good place to start.
Like I said, I use all of these techniques for different purposes, but I see a lot of newcomers being stuck to utilizing only their fingers and somewhat their wrist (especially those starting of working only digitally with tablets). This often, naturally, results in very small, stiff and detailed drawings. Which isn’t a bad outcome per se, but when you’re learning to draw, you often don’t get it right the first time around, and you’ll have to adjust perspective and proportions along the way.. See where I’m going with this? If you keep your sketch loose and free in the begining, focusing on the larger shapes/lines and getting the perspective and proportions right before you start to lay in the details, you obviously save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
Thinking of those who have just started out trying to learn some of the basic foundations: It is so easy working small, detailed and carefully with the uncertainty monster hanging over ones shoulder. I know, I’ve been there. But that monster needs to be slain. You need to be bold. You need to shake that monster all the way to oblivion.
This is much easier done, as a lot of things are, with the support, guidance, clarity and encouragement of a mentor or fellow ..well, human being really. On that note, I am thankful that I had that opportunity, as it is easier to progress further on my own once I’ve had help with the basics. Not everyone has that opportunity though, and a lot of people try to self educate on the topic. This is of course possible, it’s just harder (although not necessarily resulting in a worse outcome).
If you choose to go in the direction of learning these things on your own, I would highly recommend joining an online art community, ask questions in the forums and post your work there in order to gain constructive feedback and guidance. You’ll often find fellow artist, both beginners and experienced ones, more than willing to help you out with a few solid suggestions and also encouragement! 🙂
Oh, and one last tip;
Throw away (or at least store away) any fancy or expencive notebooks, sketching blocks and other materials when your practicing. You should be free to draw large and messy and go through lots of sheets during a sketching session (10, 20, 50?!). You will not be able to draw that freely if you’re subconsciously thinking about the price or sentimental value of the product that incases it.
I must admit that I have one of those (a notebook with a beautiful cover, which was given to me as a present some time ago). However, I mainly use it as an impulse book, meaning I use it to skribble down short sentences, do little thumbnail sketches or write down ideas when ever they come flying. Usually this seems to be when I go to bed. *Sigh* I guess that’s the only time my thought are allowed to escape the responsibilities of reality and I get to drift into a free state of creativity. Hence, the notebook holds a permanent residence on the nightstand.
Other than that, I mostly use simple, inexpensive materials when working. I have several of those childrens sketch pads, which are perfect for sketching. They hold 100 gram sheets, which allows for some dynamic and free sketching, without the risk of tearing. They are also, conveniently, some of the cheapest you’ll find.
I often use a 2B pencil (which is slightly softer than your standard HB pencil), but a normal pencil will work just as well for sketching. This is just a case of preferences really.
Just as often I use a pen. More spesifically a hybrid pen, which sounds really fancy, but it’s actually not. Let me explain; Two standard types of pens are the ballpoint and the filt. The ballpoint ones tend to smear. The filt ones have permanent ink, but can sometimes produce uneven ink flow. The hybrid pen basically has a ballpoint, but uses permanent ink, so you get the best of the two worlds. These come in a varity of price classes, I’m sure. I use the V Ball Grip (0.7) from Pilot, which is in the mid range price-wise, but it lasts very long. However, don’t get too caught up in names or brands (I just wanted to provide an example), just go with what ever gets the job done and that you feel comfortable with.
So, over to my figure drawings. It had been a while since I’d practiced what I just preached. 😉 I hadn’t really been doing lots of quick full body sketches during the last couple of years (while I’d been pursuing other subjects), so I figured it was time to brush up on the skills and get some of those organic linework back into my fingers. A good source for referances if you don’t have a live model avaliable (or a really patient friend), is Posemaniacs.
They have hundreds of poses avaliable that you can rotate 360°. They also have a wonderful randomizer which will change the pose at a given time interval (you can set it from 10 to 90 seconds), which is perfect for sketching and getting you to focus on linework and capturing the overall shapes, as you simply don’t have time to think too much or get detailed before it moves on to the next pose. I used this for a session earlier (set to 60 second intervals), and I could see my own improvement in just a 30 minute session, because in those thirty minutes, I had already produced 30 sketches.
I highly recommend it to everyone! Here’s the link directly to the ranomizer: http://www.posemaniacs.com/thirtysecond Just choose a time interval and start sketching (on inexpensive paper ;)).
You may find that on the first couple of poses you’ll only get a few lines down on paper before it switches to the next pose, but don’t get put off by it. It doesn’t need to be complete or perfect. As you progress you’ll start to get the hang of it, and gradually you’ll find that something actually resembling a human being emerges from the paper.
Good luck, and if you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to ask. Hopefully this longer-than-I-intended post *cough* will have helped someone somewhere, at least a little bit.
Some of my sketches from the 60-second pose exercise: