Will Classes help?
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    Will Classes help?

    Hi everyone. First time poster, long time lurker. I just have a question for you all regarding how you guys learned to draw. I'm a 24 year old Accountant. The only time I drew growing up was in art class in elementary school. And even then, by the 5th grade I stopped participating because I was so bad at it.

    That being said, I had a sudden urge to learn how to draw when I was 22 and have been trying to learn ever since. I am using Betty Edwards workbook (which has been super useful!) and am also using sites like Pixelovely and the Photos from Deviantart to do drawings off of.

    The problem I have is that I seem to be hitting a bottleneck. I've improved dramatically since I started but the honest truth is that my current level of work is worse than many of the "Beginners" sketchbooks I see on this site. I still can't accurately depict the gestures from photographs for the most part. The gestures that I can sorta draw are incredibly stiff. Every time I try to draw a face it looks completely different from my last drawing of that same face. I've tried reading other books like Loomis's "Figure Drawing For All it's Worth" and "The Natural Way to Draw" but alot of it just seems to be going over my head.

    Now after all of that, my question is, are these the kind of things classes would fix? Or at the very least help in identifying my issues and problems? I've read that most art classes/workshops when they say "beginners" they actually mean "Beginners that has the skills to get into art school". Is this so? Would workshop/classes be useful for a person at my level? Should I just keep drawing from photos like I've been doing? How do I learn things like lighting, shading and stuff? If anyone thinks classes are useful can someone recommend one in the NY area?

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    It sounds a bit like you're expectations are not realistic...drawing well takes years of study and effort...and then a lifetime to get better.

    Sure, good classes and good teachers are extremely helpful...just as bad ones are extremely detrimental.

    You'll never really learn how to draw well from photos...so that's a waste of time. Drawing is about developing an awareness of space and creating the illusion of space on a 2D surface.

    I would definitely recommend taking a few classes...NY is the home of illustration and there are a ton of good schools there. I would also suggest "Drawing Essentials" by Deborah Rockman...excellent book on observational drawing.

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    For a lot of people, extra outside instruction usually helps. One of the toughest things to do is to accurately criticize your drawing issues and know how to solve them.

    I would also recommend weekend workshops. A lot of them are a lot cheaper than a class and you get an idea if the instructor meets your needs. Plus, a lot of workshop instructors also tend to hold weekday classes.

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    Yes, for goodness' sake, take a class. You're in New York, possibly the place with the greatest concentration of art classes in the world! You've got the Art Student's League, the National Academy of Design, the Drawing Center, Continuing Ed programs at Parsons, Pratt, and SVA (ahem), local community centers like the Henry Street Settlement and the Educational Alliance, etc, etc, etc. Don't worry about being a beginner, everybody starts somewhere, most instructors will be happy to have you whatever your skill level.


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    Don't draw from photos...you mentioned you were doing faces from them...instead use a mirror and do yourself. I have done the same thing and in even only 3 self portraits there is improvement.

    If you want to draw people dont use websites...use life.

    Draw from life. Life is your best educator!

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    If you can't copy a photo the same way twice, trying to draw yourself from a mirror will be kinda... discouraging. DO draw from life, but start with simple objects that don't move, like fruit and boxes and cups and bottles.

    PS - don't worry about photos too much. You shouldn't be copying them exclusively, but the odd photo is not going to ruin your skill.

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    Thanks for everyones advice. I'm currently looking into the class offerings from the places Elwell has mentioned.

    Quick question though, why is copying from a photo so bad for a beginner? Shouldn't it be similar to copying from a model?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomacatawata View Post
    Quick question though, why is copying from a photo so bad for a beginner? Shouldn't it be similar to copying from a model?
    You'll find out in time...just have to trust us on this.

    OK - short answer is because it is already 2D...which means you are not developing an awareness of form in space as I mentioned...but simply flat shape.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomacatawata View Post
    Quick question though, why is copying from a photo so bad for a beginner? Shouldn't it be similar to copying from a model?
    Because you're stuck with whatever the photographer chose. If it doesn't show what you need to see clearly, or if it's a crappy photo, or if it's focused on the wrong thing, or if it's been Photoshopped, too bad for you.

    If a model or object is in front of you, you know that it's real and that's what it really looks like. You can walk around it and see it from different angles, you can choose to draw different parts of it, you can turn it or move the lamp that's lighting it. You can trace over the surface of an apple with your pencil to see how it goes in and out. If something is ambiguous you can figure out what's going on with the form and the light to show it more clearly. Your eyes adjust to changes in lighting and distance so no part of the picture ever needs to be blurry or overexposed or underexposed. You can easily see the colours in the shadows, where a camera would often just show a dark blob.

    There's really no comparison.

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    Eggs! Draw eggs! Get three eggs, compose and light them any way you want, then draw them. I studied under a portraitist/muralist who taught portrait drawing and figure painting at the local community college. While drawing/painting in conte and pastel from the figure he would also assign us early on to draw eggs as described above, using 18x24 rough newsprint and red, brown and black conte, not only to understand the "pure form" of the egg as an analogy for the head, but to sensitize us to that ovoid form's recurrence throughout the figure; the deltoid, the thigh, certain views of the ribcage, and so on. even the way the shell takes light recalls how our skin divides into light and shadow (hint:watch the edges).
    In 5 years of working with this artist I had many class-mates who found egg-drawing tedious, dull. Fools! I always found the creative outlets of lighting and composition a blast. I'd try to find a three egg comp which presented three different views, I'd try to think like my favorite film directors when it came to lighting. "How would Fritz Lang light and compose this?" The Fritz Lang eggs are included below, guess which. (hint:my instructor said of the drawing in question that he found it disturbing that a man newly become a father should interpret the universal symbol of birth as something so sinister)
    Anyway, here they are from something like 6 years ago. Gotta do some new ones myself...

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    I started out with eggs... I ended up using apples... they were much more interesting to me. Painting apples taught me a LOT about creating form. After 100 apples, I could actually paint a pretty good likeness and I could use what I learned on painting other rounded objects.

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