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  1. #1
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    Learning to learn to draw...

    Hi guys.

    I open this thread seeking for a particular kind of guidance.
    After almost a year of drawing (billions of books, dvds, courses, etc) I feel I made some progress comparing to my previous stick figures.

    Now, even if I'm quite pleased with how everything is going, there's one thing I still can't accept in drawing: I don't know how I do it. And if I know it, usually the drawing sucks (that's my general rule).

    There is clearly not a systematic way to learn drawing; I think everybody has his own processes and mental shortcuts. Why it's so difficult for me to understand mines?

    My best drawings come from gestures, quick sketches and lines that aren't planned. But drawing isn't just a creative, istinctive art; it is completed and finalized by logic and analysis. If I use this second set of skills, I fail, always: the drawing looses all its life, all the rhythm (as it's called).

    Why this bothers me? Because I feel that this will just lead me to observational drawing; if I look at something, I can quickly sketch it but I'm not analyzing it, I'm not constructing it. I don't understand what I'm doing and this frustrates me.

    I compare this with playing guitar: when I started to learn I knew I had to practice chords (chunks of music) and riffs (smaller chunks) in order to play them in an instictive manner. They told me "you'll be frustrated for the first year or so but continue practicing these chords and riffs and, everyday, they'll sound better and you'll play them in a natural way". I sticked to that because it was a plan! Slowly all those chords and licks became second nature and I started to feel the connection between all of that stuff. Now making music on guitar feels natural to me.

    But maybe that's connected with my natural skills; it is so easy for me to remember a melody, to hum it, to find right pitches and to recognize music. On the opposite I've always had a hard time visualizing stuff, even if I've tried to train my visualization skills. What's curious is that I come from families of painters; my father was a painter, my grandfather too and his father too etc. I've always been encouraged not to draw in my life but that's another story...

    Anyway...
    Why am I not finding such "paths" in my drawing practice?
    What am I missing in your opinions?

    It really bothers me that, in order to draw well, I gotta stay in a sort of trance state; if I get out of that, I can't draw!

    I hope this all makes sense to someone; my mind is quite a trip so... thanks for following!

    Last edited by Rod.F; April 21st, 2012 at 03:41 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Your studies are quite basic, it's good to see that you keep to it, yet you have much to
    do. I'd advise that you let the sketchy studies aside for a while, and do something more
    basic, a long and tedious study of a simple object. Let anatomy and portraits aside. Take
    a white box, set it on a shelf, cast a spot light or something on it, and with your pencil
    proceed to draw it with accuracy, slow and steady. Study the angles, proportions, draw it
    all in line. Make your line drawing as accurate as you can. When you are done...shift your
    viewpoint and do it again. Then, try it a third time, and add the boundaries that separate
    light and shade and shade it, two tones, black and white. Then try some other objects, a
    cylinder, then a sphere then both a box and cylinder. Post the results and get crits on those.

    "Don't judge a book by it's cover" Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
    RIP Frank.

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  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    Your studies are quite basic, it's good to see that you keep to it, yet you have much to
    do. I'd advise that you let the sketchy studies aside for a while, and do something more
    basic, a long and tedious study of a simple object. Let anatomy and portraits aside. Take
    a white box, set it on a shelf, cast a spot light or something on it, and with your pencil
    proceed to draw it with accuracy, slow and steady. Study the angles, proportions, draw it
    all in line. Make your line drawing as accurate as you can. When you are done...shift your
    viewpoint and do it again. Then, try it a third time, and add the boundaries that separate
    light and shade and shade it, two tones, black and white. Then try some other objects, a
    cylinder, then a sphere then both a box and cylinder. Post the results and get crits on those.
    Thanks for your suggestions.
    I've sticked to contour drawing and still life for 5-6 months; my observational skills improved and so my coordination.

    But that's not me; I mean I don't draw for maximum accuracy or maximum realism. This statement is not an excuse to be lazy, but if I start again drawing boxes I'll get bored, I know that.

    Lot of people in guitar tell you to learn scales while other tell you to immediately learn short licks (musical ideas)and start to play. Why? Because when you play you don't play scales.; I'm with the latter approach, even in drawing.

    The fact is; I'd like to see how, somebody with my mentality, learnt to draw easily from a constructive and imaginative/memory approach (that's my final objective)

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  5. #4
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    There are skills you need to hone in order to draw in whichever way you want. Even an
    imaginative drawing needs to be drawn with sound proportions.

    Also, understand that a sketchy drawing, very loose, as you may see here and there,
    that looks good, has these basic properties down. Don't be fooled by the ease a more
    experienced artist will do it.

    I am not saying that drawing only in a loose manner, while practicing, won't yield results,
    I don't know that. But, learning about what makes a drawing convincing and how to do
    it are the tools. Using imagination is a separate tool but that just means relying on memory
    of something you've seen and broken down.

    "Don't judge a book by it's cover" Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
    RIP Frank.

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    CA Sketchbook http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=131601
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod.F View Post
    Now, even if I'm quite pleased with how everything is going, there's one thing I still can't accept in drawing: I don't know how I do it. And if I know it, usually the drawing sucks (that's my general rule).
    Remember that you are not just trying to become a guitar-player, you are trying to become a composer as well. If you play the guitar "by instinct" you will quickly get a pleasant plonking noise that sounds natural. But it might suck as a complete new song, especially when you put it together with some drums, a bass, another guitar or two and a singer, whose parts you also have to plan out.

    You will eventually have to learn the theory behind what you are doing and learn to do it deliberately, no matter how awkward and unnatural it seems right now. Interesting things might come out of random jamming sessions but additional work will be needed to turn a good accident into a composition that all works together.

    If you regard drawing as composition for an entire band, though, then you are less likely to think "well it only took me X years to play guitar why is drawing so hard?".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Line View Post
    There are skills you need to hone in order to draw in whichever way you want. Even an
    imaginative drawing needs to be drawn with sound proportions.

    Also, understand that a sketchy drawing, very loose, as you may see here and there,
    that looks good, has these basic properties down. Don't be fooled by the ease a more
    experienced artist will do it.

    I am not saying that drawing only in a loose manner, while practicing, won't yield results,
    I don't know that. But, learning about what makes a drawing convincing and how to do
    it are the tools. Using imagination is a separate tool but that just means relying on memory
    of something you've seen and broken down.
    Thank you again.

    Well that is what I'm talking about; for me drawing in a loose manner helps me catch immediately the gestalt of the figure/head/landscape I'm drawing.

    But I don't have any "method", it's just action.

    Maybe that's what bothers me; in visual arts there is a constant, subjective artistic thinking that you can't easily dissect and train, whereas in other kind of arts you can.

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    So I looked at your sketchbook and unfortunately what you think you are capturing, you aren't. There is nothing of what you are saying in writing in your drawings.
    You really need to discipline yourself. As has been said already you can't learn to draw with any degree of ability without understanding. This applies to painting and drawing as well as most other arts. The fundamentals have to become second nature to you; if it's too much of a chore to do then it will always handicap your abilities. Make no mistake that this is a discipline and focus problem you must overcome to get to the stage of creating competent work from imagination. I tell my students, you have to fall in love with the process not the outcome to reach a professional level.

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  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    So I looked at your sketchbook and unfortunately what you think you are capturing, you aren't. There is nothing of what you are saying in writing in your drawings.
    You really need to discipline yourself. As has been said already you can't learn to draw with any degree of ability without understanding. This applies to painting and drawing as well as most other arts. The fundamentals have to become second nature to you; if it's too much of a chore to do then it will always handicap your abilities. Make no mistake that this is a discipline and focus problem you must overcome to get to the stage of creating competent work from imagination. I tell my students, you have to fall in love with the process not the outcome to reach a professional level.
    There is nothing visible in my drawings because my draftsmanship is still not able to give adequate expression to my feelings, that's clear; I've started drawing just a year ago, as I said.

    But, people, don't get me wrong!! The point of my thread agrees with yours: the point is that I still haven't found a structured approach, routine, tools, methods to train my drawing skills.

    I've found the majority of approaches and principles residing in anatomy, so that's the reason I'm studying it.

    My thread is an open request for help and directions, I'm afraid it came out wrong (it usually happens).

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    Well, we are giving you advice and direction. At the start, you have to be aware and conscious of everything, until it becomes second nature. Representational drawing has been around for about 2000 years, they pretty much have all the bugs worked out as far as learning how to draw.

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  13. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod.F View Post
    Hi guys.
    But maybe that's connected with my natural skills; it is so easy for me to remember a melody, to hum it, to find right pitches and to recognize music. On the opposite I've always had a hard time visualizing stuff, even if I've tried to train my visualization skills. What's curious is that I come from families of painters; my father was a painter, my grandfather too and his father too etc. I've always been encouraged not to draw in my life but that's another story...
    Hi Rod! I think you make an interesting point, here's what i think: your natural voice can only come out if your draughtmanship is not obstacling it. Learn everything and then forget everything. So you can let go and access that flow state you talk about.
    If you're not struggling with solving execution problems then you can focus on what's "bigger" (composition, statement, design, emotion, purpose, etc)
    I think the piece you (we) are missing is the "learn everything" part, you still lack the experience.
    So just keep on going, you seem a pretty smart dude, if you want to achieve this you can probably get somewhere...but you need to practice.

    Regarding how to learn-
    I couldn't know for sure, since I'm far from being a teacher and I'm in the process of learning how to learn, just like you.
    I'll share my opinion. One should first study "traditional" (for lack of a better word) mediums, and strenghten his bones there.Ideally, before digital mediums it would be good to have some experience with pencil, ink, markers, oil paint (anything that suits your aestethic).
    Then step by step, plenty of studying from life, studies from the old masters, studies from construction books, thumbnails...slowly getting those miles of drawing; what do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GaussianRaider View Post
    Hi Rod! I think you make an interesting point, here's what i think: your natural voice can only come out if your draughtmanship is not obstacling it. Learn everything and then forget everything. So you can let go and access that flow state you talk about.
    If you're not struggling with solving execution problems then you can focus on what's "bigger" (composition, statement, design, emotion, purpose, etc)
    I think the piece you (we) are missing is the "learn everything" part, you still lack the experience.

    Thank you, I totally agree on this.
    You know most of the times I pretend to draw like if I were drawing for 20 years, same in music and in other arts I approached; that's an obstacle and it leads me to hard times I have to overcome, in order to progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaussianRaider View Post
    ...Then step by step, plenty of studying from life, studies from the old masters, studies from construction books, thumbnails...slowly getting those miles of drawing; what do you think?
    Yes. That's what I've been doing more or less.
    Maybe I'm just being too obsessive about this but, maybe, what I'm looking for, is to enter the head of a professional illustrator and discover his process while he draws.
    Because that's what I'm extremely curious about: not the overall areas of study (perspective, composition etc) but the drawing process itself in the moment it happens.
    Do you guys think I'm focusing on something not so relevant?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod.F View Post
    Maybe I'm just being too obsessive about this but, maybe, what I'm looking for, is to enter the head of a professional illustrator and discover his process while he draws.
    Because that's what I'm extremely curious about: not the overall areas of study (perspective, composition etc) but the drawing process itself in the moment it happens.
    The best way to do that is to learn to draw like a professional illustrator. And the way to do that is to go through the discipline of learning all the things you'd rather skip over - the studies, the theory, the years of real, disciplined, focused practice.

    Because the process that goes on inside the head of a professional illustrator is built on those years of study and practice and theory. You wouldn't fully understand the thought process of a pro unless you understand everything the professional illustrator has learned. And you won't understand that unless you learn it, too.

    There is no magical "learn to draw" pill.

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  17. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    There is no magical "learn to draw" pill.
    I'm sorry if, again, my posts are being interpreted as a way to find a magical pill when they are, in fact, the contrary. I'd like to definitely clarify this misunderstanding, please, in order to have a relaxed exchange of opinions.

    My focus is on actual instructions, best practices etc during the process of drawing, when the usual trend is to tell to a beginner "just draw", "just study a lot", "draw a lot", "just do it". These are magical pills, in my humble opinions. And this last approach is so wrong, in my opinion, don't you agree?
    An example of advices and directions I'm looking for and helped me enourmously, are found in mainly 3 books, for me very powerful and full of insights: Nicolaides, Speed and (I know that's not commonly regarded as a classical text) Edwards.

    They are able to clarify subjective processes that are happening during the drawing process and how to recreate them at will.
    Maybe my bias is due also to my formation in psychology; that's the reason why I'm so fascinated by the learning, cognitive process.

    With this post I hope to have clarified my original intentions and curiosity.
    I hope this will help everybody in getting rid of any prejudice, which could has easily been forged after silly threads and posts. I urge you to understand this is not one of them.
    So please no hate or prejudice, just unbiased and spontaneous opinions.

    Peace and love


    Last edited by Rod.F; April 22nd, 2012 at 08:33 AM.
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