I am going to teach you how I was taught. Now my freehand still needs work, but the method I am going to teach you first is different than that. It’s more about teaching your eye than your hand. This is probably one of the most important things you could ever learn as an artist – and you will hear other’s mention it, if you heard of it already. But it’s called Learning How to See.
I’m sure you have heard of the notion of how we have a Left Brain and Right Brain. Our Left brain controls all our logic and reasoning, our Right Brain our creative centers. There is a great book out there called “Drawing with the Right Side of your Brain” and what the author is teaching is learning how to see.
When we think of a bird, we know exactly what it looks like. We all know HOW birds should look. So when we sit down to draw one it can get a little disconcerting when we realize that what we have drawn doesn’t look anything like what a bird SHOULD look like. Our left brain is ruling our eyes.
But when we have a reference, be it a picture or a real life object sitting in front of us, we can train our eye to throw away what our brain tells us we’re seeing and actually “see” the lines, planes, angles and form. It’s about breaking down the “bird” into parts, so we can draw it accurately, without our left brain getting into the way.
One of the best ways to learn to draw this way is by using a grid. The masters used this system! They did it differently than us, with our wonderful computer programs, but it’s the exact same idea.
I am going to begin extremely basic, so we can get used to the idea of using a grid. There are two ways we can achieve this goal. I will explain the traditional way, then the way we can use these things in photoshop. For the very first exercise, we will all be using the same picture:
Start with a blank sheet of sketchbook paper. Using a ruler, draw with the lightest touch you possibly can a rectangle or square for the drawing space you will be using. Use whatever your reference uses. If it’s a square image, use a square drawing space, and so on. We want it to match as closely as possible. Then, nick off each inch and half-inch mark across the top, bottom and sides. Using the ruler again, join these lines drawing a grid over your paper, lightly. You want to be able to see the lines, but you want to be able to erase them as well. You want it as a guide, not something that will be interrupting your shape.
Using photoshop you can create a new document using whatever dimension you want, pixels or inches, but make it about the same size as the reference.
Go to: View> Rulers -- click on it.
A ruler on the left side and top will appear. You can now click and drag ‘guides’ onto your drawing area from the ruler. Just click down and hold on the ruler, and drag it down or over across the canvas. Wherever you un-click it will stay – but you can drag it around as much as you like. Do this on each inch and half-inch across the top and bottom. What you have is going to look something like this:
Now do the same for your reference. In this case it’s a digital photo. You can drag the guides over it in photoshop and it looks thus, I suppose really you can use this guide-covered apple as the reference but I want you to learn how to make the guides/grid yourself.
Now, we have a reference with guidelines/grid over it and a blank canvas/sketchpad with our grid over it. We’re ready to begin drawing what we see.
This is very methodical. In some instances you may find this testing, even boring. But trust me, this is an incalculable tool to help shed the left brain when drawing. It’s utterly necessary.
Set your ref and your drawing area side to side. Begin at the top left corner of your grid. Go through every square. Go from left to right, moving down the image like you would read. Draw ONLY what you see in each grid square, and just a contour. No shading, no crosshatching, nothing but the contour line of what you see in each square. I know now it’s just an apple, but this is just to show you the technique.
Here is my quick and dirty example of what you have when you are done with this initial exercise.
I know it's just an apple, but you can take this and bring it to /anything/. It's precisely how I did my master copy of Michaelangelo's David in fact! When learning to "see" its always best to throw out what you THINK you see and get down to the nitty gritty of what is actually there. The tool of the grid is one of the simplest forms of helping our brain forget what we think we see. By breaking down the whole picture into parts, we begin to understand that drawing is really just about intersecting lines, and angles.
I don't think will take very long, so a couple days will suffice. How about we see some results by Saturday night/Sunday morning? I already know what I want to move onto next. It's up to you guys!