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Thread: Learning To Draw - My Journey
November 11th, 2014 #1
Learning To Draw - My Journey
I've always wanted to be able to draw and paint. I'm now 29 years old and so far never took the time to pursue that passion in my life. Due to my work/life circumstances changing I started sketching and drawing somewhat regularly a couple months back. I fell in love with the idea of being able to express my imagination on paper and being able to communicate it effectively with others. However I also got really frustrated with my inability to execute drawings well. I realised that I'd have to go back to the very beginning and start learning the fundamentals properly if I wanted to succeed. That's also when I decided that I wanted to take on a long-term view and make the pursue of art a core part of my life.
So .. To keep myself motivated and accountable I decided to open up a sketchbook here on conceptart. There are so many fantastic artists on here that it's very hard not to get inspired. I'm of course also hoping that some of you will help me on this journey with critiques and comments to push me further. I will certainly try and do the same.
I've started on the Watt's Atelier online curriculum (https://www.wattsatelier.com), which from my research is pretty unique in it's approach. It doesn't just give you videos and leave you to it, but also comes with proper workbooks and exercises to work on. I felt really intimated by the task of learning to draw and needed something well structured to guide me. Watts' course gives me exactly that. Besides, I'm a huge fan of Jeffrey Watt's approach to teaching and art in general. It "clicks" with me on so many levels.
I'm really excited to start on this journey Looking forward to being a part of the community here!
stefan | farbstrom
Last edited by Farbstrom; January 27th, 2015 at 07:07 AM.
Hide this ad by registering as a memberNovember 11th, 2014 #2
My current focus is on the absolute basics of drawing. It's still a pretty frustrating experience, since I feel like I can't even do the most basic things well. Practicing lots of lines, basic shapes and pencil control..
One thing I realised yesterday, is how much of difference materials can make. I've seen lots of people saying to just "get going" with whatever you can find, but from my (albeit tiny) experience it's worth seeking out some good quality tools and materials, it makes the process of learning much more enjoyable. I swapped out the paper I was using and I could feel an immediate difference in how it felt drawing. The other paper was rough in texture and I felt like I was fighting the paper most of the time. Funnily enough, the new paper is actually super cheap.
Jeff Watts spends an entire 20 minutes teaching how to sharpen a pencil properly. It's this kind of thing I really really appreciate about his courses. Nowhere else have I seen someone explain the idea behind sharpening a pencil one way or another. By creating long pointy tips, you're creating a tool which allows a large variety of line thicknesses - which just blows my mind. I'm so used to a pencil being used in one way for thin, precise lines.
November 12th, 2014 #3
"Repetition is the mother of all skill"
Some more basic shape drawings from today. Much happier with these - feels like I'm getting the handle on some of the basic concepts and the pencil doesn't feel completely awkward to control. Struggled with the cylinder - ellipses are hard to draw
November 15th, 2014 #4
Here's an arm study I did from reference.. I traced the arm with cross-contours first to get a feeling for the form and then tried drawing it. I think I'm trynig to hard to render details, seems my eye/hand/brain just isn't experienced enough yet to draw this cleanly. But it was a good challenge and I guess you never know until you try..
Sorry for the smudgy trace
Last edited by Farbstrom; November 15th, 2014 at 11:56 PM.
November 15th, 2014 #5
November 15th, 2014 #6
Some more from today's sketching:
An attempt at a self-portrait, which worked out "ok". The ear is super funny and the nose is totally screwed up. But I think I achieved a little bit of resemblence overall.
Second page is some detail sketches from Michaelangelo's "Creation of Adam". Been watching documentaries on him and been absolutely engrossed with his stuff. I showed the sketch of the two arms to my wife and she immediately recognised it, which tells me two things: I captured the gesture of that detail and secondly how absolutely powerful this composition is. I mean, this must be the most recognisable interaction between two arms in history? Absolutely brilliant.
Not particularly happy with the angel's faces though Faces are hard.
November 16th, 2014 #7
Hey there,you're starting out really well!I noticed that your lines on the shape studies are a bit wobbly though,so i'd recommend watching Peter Han's dynamic sketching video ( it's a 30min class on youtube), it has some tips and excercises to help you learn to control your pencil.Keep up the hard work
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November 16th, 2014 #8
November 18th, 2014 #9
I tried drawing this little buddha statue for one of the watt's atelier exercises on values / light / edges. Oh boy, I really really struggled with this. I think more so than anything I realise how much I need to train myself to stay focused on a task for extended periods of time. I tend to get frustrated if I can't get something looking ok on paper right away, but this exercise took me a good 45 minutes to get down so I had to fight the urge of giving up (which was a great exercise in itself!).
I decided to also post my first attempt at the buddha statue, which was a disaster. I had spent about 20 minutes on that already and it just wasn't working.. Everything about it felt off. I came back to it today and tried drawing it again and it came out much better this time. Still lots and lots of potential for improvement, but I'm glad I gave it another go instead of giving up. Not my proudest moment, but I guess I made the commitment to share my journey... so here is my failure in all it's glory
I also did some more detail sketches from the Sistine chapel paintings. I really enjoy doing these! Still very early days though .. Still working hard at getting comfortable with the pencil and feeling confident with my lines. Practice, practice, practice
Btw, does anyone know why my thread doesn't have a thumbnail? I thought it'd pick up the image in the first post?
Last edited by Farbstrom; November 18th, 2014 at 07:09 AM.
November 18th, 2014 #10
You're doing great! You will keep on doing what you're doing. Watts Atelier sounds like it's ideal. I'm going to look into it myself! As you already can see from the other CA sketchbooks, the secret is to keep practicing and studying, and that looks to be exactly what you're doing!
I like your charcoal technique and it seems like you have a good grasp of values. Your work doesn't look too fussy or agonized over. These are all good things. Keep working and updating your sketchbook! We look forward to seeing your progress.
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November 19th, 2014 #11
November 21st, 2014 #12
November 23rd, 2014 #13
I did a master study over the weekend. Spent about a total of two hours on this. The original is by Jacques Callot. For comparison, I've attached a figure drawing I did a bit over a month ago (06/10) and at that time this was the absolute best I could do. I remember being quite happy with it when I drew that. Comparing it to the Callot study now, it's pretty obvious that I've learnt a lot in a month and a half. Somewhere between those 2 drawings, a lot of things clicked into place.
I realise I'm still very much at the beginning of my journey, but it feels good to look back and see some actual progress
November 23rd, 2014 #14
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November 24th, 2014 #15
November 29th, 2014 #16
November 29th, 2014 #17
It’s pretty impressive the difference between those two model sketches, so great job on progressing this far in such a short time.
Here are a few suggestions that came to mind based on what you’ve posted. These apply to all but the roughest and quickest of sketches.
1. Try not to leave such dark outlines on your shaded drawings. First because they tend to contradict the shading, leaving dark lines where a highlight should be. But also, in more complex drawings it’s easy for beginners to draw these contours incorrectly, and by darkening them you are often just solidifying and highlighting incorrect knowledge about the form. Also, from a purely aesthetic point of view, those lines don’t conform to the style of the shading and end up looking stark and flattening the form.
Instead, consider starting and staying light as much as possible. I know it’s tempting, but don’t solidify any lines unless you are specifically doing some kind of contour exercises that involve no intricate shading. The lighter drawing will give you a chance to explore and make necessary mistake and corrections.
One of the best examples of how lines can factor nicely into your drawings can be seen in your Buddha statue (the one on the right). Its ornamental headdress is drawn very well. You’ve kept the lines relatively light and introduced key areas of shadow with a few darker strokes. I’d apply the same principles to all drawings.
If you find yourself needing to define a light edge, instead of darkening the outline along the edge, simply shade the negative space that butts up against it. In contrast, you should not have to do this for darkly shaded positive space, as it is already well defined against the white paper.
2. Focus on correctly drawing basic shapes and 3D forms. I see that someone has already suggested Peter Han’s video and you’ve acknowledged that your lines need work. That’s very good. But I would not rely on those kinds of exercises alone. You’re not always going to draw a perfect line, so you need to have a strategy of how to focus your strokes to create one by sheer perseverance.
Looking through beginner sketchbooks, it’s very common to see drawings with “almost a straight line” or “almost a square” or “almost an ellipse”, etc. What you want to see is for those folks to start getting into the habit of not settling for ‘almost’. There is a certain balance and symmetry that ought to be cared for when drawing certain shapes. Some examples…
- A straight line should be straight, not lumpy or curved
- An ellipse is round everywhere, it has no corners and is not lumpy
- A square should have near 90 degree angles in all corners and its edges should be straight lines
One particular area where the shape of an ellipse is crucial is when the ellipse is at the base of a cone or the ends of a cylinder. It has to retain its roundness and not get sharp corners or become pinched at the sides.
So how do you ensure these things as a beginner? Well, first I would suggest drawing lightly to begin with. This phase allows you to rough in the shape and even draw over previous strokes. Keep the strokes fairly long, unless they are short by nature, and for ellipses consider not even lifting the pencil from the paper while going around the first few times. If the average of several strokes looks correct, that’s better than one stroke that looks incorrect. Now you have a template for the darker strokes to follow (should you even need them) and you can focus in on the properties of the shapes, carefully ensuring that all lines are straight, ellipses round and symmetric, etc. You may have to go over certain areas slowly and/or carefully on their own, like the base of the cone or cylinder to ensure those pesky corners don’t appear.
Here are a few other tips from a different post as well.
The overall point is that it's possible to draw these things correctly, and it is not out of reach at your current level. It just requires a bit more care. I would actually consider it a pre-requisite at your level, but many beginners jump the gun a bit (writer included).
I hope you can find this information useful and, once again, really great work so far!
December 4th, 2014 #18
@alex_86: Massive thank you for taking the time to input. You have no idea how much this means I'm definitely taking everything on board and trying my best to apply things.
This week has been super frustrating for me I've tried drawing lots of things but nothing seems to turn out. Oh well, I guess the point of the sketchbook is to share my journey which my failures are also a part of.
Did a still life drawing from some random objects I had at home. I find drawing from life much more difficult then drawing from reference. It seems that additional step of reducing 3d to 2d is much more challenging than if it's already done for me. So many mistakes in this though, many perspective problems, ellipses are anything but a ellipses and some shocking lines.
I also attempted drawing a face, not happy with it either.
Cringing posting this stuff, because I can see my mistakes so obviously. But fixing it and doing it better is easier than it sounds. Oh well - just need to keep going!!
December 6th, 2014 #19
Don’t get too frustrated, it will take time, and it’s great to see some kind of work, whatever it is.
It would help to try and work on certain skills individually instead of trying to apply a bunch of them at once. Like for example, can you draw one accurate ellipse? If you can, that’s a win. If you can’t do it on its own without other distractions, then you’ve no chance of getting it right when drawing from life, and in that case you have identified one area to work on.
Other things can be approached in the same way. If a problem is difficult, break it down and attack each simpler item individually, then gradually put it all together.
December 14th, 2014 #20
Every time I sit down to draw I do warm-ups and spend a good 15 minutes drawing lines on top of lines, ellipses, circles, etc. I don't post these here, because quite frankly they're boring. I'm trying to mix the somewhat "boring" tasks with some other things that I enjoy more and apply the "boring" stuff to the other.
December 14th, 2014 #21
Oh wow, it's been a while since I posted last
I spent this week drawing the first Bargue plate. I didn't go super hard-core measuring with this, but rather took it as an exercise to train my eye to see proportions, angles and relationships. I spent a total of about 7 hours on this. It's a very challenging, but somehow also meditative task. I quite enjoyed it!
These drawings aren't anywhere near a perfect match to the original. I noticed that I tend to draw stuff slightly to small and I need to pay more attention to angles when drawing. Drawing this has also taught me a lot about simplifying forms already. And once again, it has taught me to just slow down and take my time. I tend to want to see a result as quickly as possible.
Sidenote: I started reading "Art Spirit" by Robert Henri. Thoroughly enjoying a bit of "mental" inspiration on the topic of art. Highlty recommend it.
December 14th, 2014 #22
Drawing what you like is certainly important, so glad to see you are mixing it up
As far as practice goes, it's not the volume of exercises you do that will help you to get better, it's your dedication to correcting your mistakes. While"repetition is the mother of all skill", "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". In other words, improvement does not come merely from repetition, but from what you do differently each time you repeat. Also, repeating the wrong thing may just solidify bad habits.
That's why my suggestion was, instead of drawing pages on pages of lines and shapes of varying quality, to dedicate yourself to accurately drawing these shapes, if only just one or two. This is not a test for your hand, but a test for your mind. I.e. Can you commit to understanding the shape, its symmetries, asymmetries and other qualities, and then draw it correctly with maintained awareness of what you are doing, even if it takes a while? It's common for beginners to ignore mistakes, and this kind of exercise strikes at the core of that issue.
The more times you can draw the shapes correctly with good proportions, the better you should get at spotting and correcting the errors when you draw from life. And if you can reach that level of control with basic 2D shapes, then you can reach the same with basic 3D forms and eventually more organic ones.
Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying that everything has to be done with laser precision in your artwork. These are just exercises to teach awareness and control, something that beginners often lack without even realizing it-- many think they just need more knowledge or a greater volume of exercises, but that's not usually the case. And while I have no doubt you'd realize this sooner or later on your own, I hope that by writing this it'll be more on the sooner side.
One other thing... I think you're totally on the right track as far as trying to get the major proportions and whatnot with those latest eye studies. This is a weak spot even for some non-beginners. Being able to look at the subject as a whole or just a part of it and judge its rough width/height/curvature/other properties without getting too lost in detail is a valuable skill, though quite difficult when drawing from life as I'm sure you can attest. One thing that could be helpful if you're not already doing it is to focus on 2D shapes that you see in the subject, in addition to angles and 1D measurements. If you can spot even a slightly irregular shape that only vaguely traces a part of your subject, and whether in positive or negative space, in the light or in the shadows, you can already start to see how thin or wide or pointy or whatever that shape is, and then the challenge is to replicate a shape of similar proportions on paper.
By the way, maybe someone asked already, but are you drawing from imagination at all at the moment?
Anyway, enough babble from me, have fun!
January 5th, 2015 #23
3 weeks since my last post - yikes Christmas and holidays have certainly pulled me away from my normal schedule, but I've still managed to work on a couple of things.
I've done another attempt of the buddha statue, purely because I find it quite challenging. Not sure if it's much better then the other one, but I think I've nailed the overall feel better in the latest.
Besides that, I've also started keeping a sketchbook where I draw with ink. I've been really enjoying the binary nature of ink. It forces me to abstract things and also helps me by simply being completely unforgiving when making mistakes. The first couple pages are copies of bargue plates, the later ones I tried to apply some of the abstraction ideas I learnt from the bargue plates by drawing faces from reference.
I'm also really excited to join a little local artschool here in Sydney at the end of the month! They use a fairly traditional (atelier type) approach to teaching, which is exactly what I'm after. It'll be absolutely brilliant to meet lots of like-minded people and learn from their experience
January 5th, 2015 #24
@alex_86: Thanks again for taking the time to input It means a lot. Trying to apply as much as I can from your advice!!
I certainly have the tendency to just "go for it", rather then take a step back, think about what I'm wanting to do and then execute with alertness. It's easy to sort of "drift off" and just draw.
January 7th, 2015 #25
Been working on a still life exercise for the watts atelier classes.. Spent about a total of 3 hours on this. The most difficult part was getting the proportions and angles right. Once I have that in place it seems like the rest sort of "happens" by itself. The tea pot is the only element I pushed a bit further in terms of rendering, the rest is left fairly unfinished.
I also made a little progress image on this one reflecting the stages I went through:
Phase I: Simple lines lay-in
Phase II: Shadow mapping
Phase III: Values and details
I'm quite happy with how this turned out, even though I can see so many elements I'd like to be better My lines still need lots of work!! I think I also fussed around with it a bit too much, it's gotten a bit "messy".
January 18th, 2015 #26
Starting to get into some of the interesting stuff: Head drawing!
Did a whole bunch of head abstractions this week, getting familiar with the basic head shape (a la loomis). Also did a longer study on the skull. They aren't finished but instead left at a "mapped stage" with the value rendering still to do.
Feeling a bit more confident drawing things now, which means I can focus more on stuff like proportions and overall accuracy. Still a loooong way to go, but at least it doesn't feel like I'm fighting my hand all the time
January 18th, 2015 #27
there is some really awesome sudies in here. for example the shaded arm in #4. Althought it might anatomically be wrong the quality of the strokes is astonishing. the same applies to #13, your master study. i like #25 very much as well. your shading is very delicate. can't wait for more to come!
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January 18th, 2015 #28
January 19th, 2015 #29
Your sketchbook is fantastic. I love your still life and technique. Thank you for sharing
January 23rd, 2015 #30
@féfé73: Thank you so much!
I've continued my head studies. I've done more skull drawings to really memorise some of those bone structures in the human head. I'm really enjoying this level of study as there are so many intriguing relationships and lines to be discovered.
I kinda screwed up the 3/4 view of the skull. The perspective is off giving the whole skull a weird picasso feel
I've also began studying the simplified asaro head. I can tell that studying this will be paying off massively. Again, it's really helped me understand some of the relationships of the head topography and how to think of it in terms of masses and form. The front view on this one is stretched a little bit too long and the ears are off.
So much more practicing to do though until some of those concepts have been committed to memory.
Last edited by Farbstrom; January 23rd, 2015 at 07:37 AM.
- Heinrich Meyer,
- Black Spot,