Drawing remains one of the foundational skills of an artist. This skill helps you conceptualize paintings and sculptures, practice form and keeps your observational abilities fresh. Although it may seem this is a talent you are either born with or not, in actuality, you can develop your ability to draw by practicing some simple strategies.
According to artist Peter Arkle in the book "An Illustrated Life," drawing in a sketchbook helps you remember a place or experience better than taking photographs because it requires you to really observe your surroundings. If you're not sure what to draw in your sketchbook, one strategy is to start by drawing objects that challenge you. If drawing faces is difficult, draw them in your sketchbook from every angle. If you draw them from photos, redraw the same photo several times over the course of several weeks. Note how your drawings improve over time.
The grid technique is a strategy that allows you to draw accurately from a photograph. Draw a grid on your photo. Make equal-sized squares. Then use a pencil to draw a grid on your drawing paper. It should have the same proportions as the photo's grid and the same number of squares. Next, draw the contents of each of the photo's squares in the corresponding square on the paper. For example, if you're looking at the square on your photo that is four squares down and two squares from the right side, locate that same square on your paper. See how the lines curve and angle within the photo's square. Draw the lines in your paper's square, making the lines look like those in the photo's square. Complete the drawing using this strategy. Erase the paper's grid when you're done.
Subject placement represents a common drawing problem for many beginning artists. Often, you'll begin a drawing, realizing that the drawing is too big for the paper or that it is not centered. Learning how to draw using basic shapes will alleviate this problem. You can draw almost any object by breaking it down into some basic shapes such as squares, circles or triangles. For example, if you're drawing a person, draw a circle for the head, a rectangle for the neck, a square for the torso and cylinders for the arms and legs. Once you've blocked the person out, refine the drawing, erasing the basic shapes and leaving only the refined lines behind.
Noted drawing teacher Kimon Nicolaides compared learning to draw with learning to talk. You must draw often, allowing yourself to make mistakes just as you did when you learned to talk. While it's tempting to destroy your mistakes, keeping them shows you how you've improved over time. It also allows you to observe what areas give you the most trouble. Often, these errors don't become apparent until you stand back or step away from a drawing for a day or two. Practicing drawing is the best strategy for improvement.
- "The Natural Way to Draw"; Kimon Nicolaides; 1941
- "How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs"; Lee Hammond; 1995
- "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way"; Stan Lee and John Buscema; 1978
- "An Illustrated Life"; Danny Gregory; 2008
- "Sketchbook for the Artist"; Sarah Simblet; 2005
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