Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How do you get better at drawing? Part 1

This post is the first in a new series answering the question, "How do you get better at drawing?"

Recently I had the assignment of drawing an animal...between you and me, I don't like them, they don't like me, and I have never been able to draw them. However, I didn't want to pull out of my commitment, so I decided I needed to boost my confidence and inspiration and dive in. I wrote these posts to myself, to remind me how I've improved in the past, to keep me eager, and to help me persevere in the task, I hope they are of benefit to you as well. None of these posts is exhaustive, they have books for that, these are just a few words to get you started. Feel free to throw in comments!

The series: How do you get better at drawing?
  1. Learn
  2. Practice
  3. Listen
  4. Practice More
On the road to better draftsmanship, the first step is to learn.
  • I imagine there are people who have always been able to translate what's in their mind or what they saw into beauty on paper, but I think most artists have had to work at it. So anyone who says it's all talent, is likely lying to you. Even the great Michelangelo said "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."
  • There's that famous early van Gogh drawing, a man walking in a room, the proportions are way off and it looks like a child's drawing. But we know that he went on to greatness.
So, how do you learn?
  • Read. Read books, read online, read magazines, etc. Read how to books, read about specific artists, read anything that you think might help you. Ask those you admire for what they've read. There is nothing new under the sun in the art world. The information that you need is out there, in several forms, just find it.
  • Copy masters work. This is the time-honored traditional method of learning in the art world. You aren't copying them to steal their work. You aren't copying them to be them. You are copying them to get an understanding of their thought process and technical skill, so that you can use it for yourself. Once I understood how Sargent drew lips, I wasn't afraid to draw lips anymore.
  • Look at art. Look at art, lots of it. Look at it in books with good reproductions. Look at it on walls. Look at it on screen. Anywhere you can find art, look at it, long and hard. Ask yourself if a piece is successful or not? Why or why not? What does it say about the subject? the artist?
  • Draw subjects you like. Don't just draw subjects that have worked for others, but ones that speak to you personally. This will help you find what you are trying to say, and help you know what more you need to learn to say it better.
The photo above is of some weeds that my son picked for me, learning to draw is a bit like that. You start with weeds, but, with love, the weeds become a thing of beauty.


Stacy said...

Rose, I haven't drawn many animals up 'til now either. Guess I better get busy.

Jeanette said...

Great post Rose. I should have chosen something less stressful to draw for our virtual sketch. I probably had similar feelings when I saw that branch of leaves in the last sketch reference. :)

However, another point to add to your post is moving outside your comfort zone to push yourself to learn and overcome stumbling blocks.

For me, florals are my nemesis. I despise drawing flowers, leaves, trees, anything botanical and avoid it like the plague if I can. But I know I CAN do it. I simply chose not to because the subject matter doesn't interest me much.

But I make myself do it from time to time just to push my mind and skill levels to that next level. And most of the time, I find that I enjoy the exercise.

Yes art is hard work. I'd say once you know the basic techniques, the rest is pure work and practice to reach the level you want to arrive at - if we are ever satisfied to be at any level. :)

Valerie Jones said...

Great ideas! I need to take time to experiment more instead of trying to get all the pieces painted that I want to paint over the next two years. Read, experiment, and practice, practice, practice.

Rose Welty said...

Thanks everyone for stopping in.

Jeanette, I agree with you, the "draw outside the comfort zone" is in a later post :D. And no, you chose a great reference for the virtual sketch! I don't mean to be whiny, I'm just afraid that I won't do a drawing that I'm proud of, rather one that I'm ashamed of...so it's just my ugly pride. It is good to be stretched and honestly, it is going better than I feared.

I am really having to work on values and shapes, rather like putting together a puzzle - a fun way to work as long as it doesn't get too crazy. :D