Originally published at www.jangill.com on October 12, 2017.
Do you think you can’t draw? Have you tried and been so annoyed with the results you never want to try again?
Do you want to start a creative pursuit but avoid those where you need to draw?
Have you got some great ideas but find yourself unable to get them down on paper because your drawing skills are not up to it?
Is your lack of draughtsmanship holding you back in your artistic and creative endeavours?
The truth is, if you can write, you can draw. You have the hand eye co-ordination right there. You have the cognitive skills to draw, to take an idea and put it down on paper. Because you do it all the time when you write.
The only thing you lack is practice and a few lessons to point you in the right direction. And 15 minutes a day.
Before the advent of photography, artists and artisans recorded the world around them by drawing and painting. People were trained in apprenticeships in the same way you might have become a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a farmer or any other professional. A student would join a Master’s studio and learn directly. As with all things, some students learned quickly, others more slowly. But they would learn. Just as you learned to write at school.
The problem with life today is we have so much to learn. Schools are training grounds for getting a job and the myth is that few jobs need the skill of drawing. So it doesn’t get taught. Your energies are focused in other directions.
This post shows a simple way to get started and if you put in some practice time each day you will be off on your creative journey in no time.
This method works because you see recognisable results straight away. That encourages you to carry on, to put in the work to get the results you want.
So, if you want to start drawing, here are some simple exercises to get you started.
1. Joining the dots.
When a child learns to write, they often start by going over a series of dots so they learn the way the shape is formed, the way to use their implement. Now, I’m not suggesting you go and find a book of dot to dots, but how about this. Print up a photograph of an object, something simple like an apple or a vase, in black and white. Draw around the contours of the object. Don’t put any shading in at this stage. Just get the feel for the movements you need to make to draw that object. Use different materials to see which you get on with best — try fine-liners, biros, pencils, pastels.
2. Going Solo
This time, using the same photograph, draw the object freehand on a clean piece of paper. Draw it the same size and with the material you found you got on with best. If it helps, draw a grid on the photo and a matching one on the paper dividing the space into 4. Look closely at where the object intersects the grid and it’s relationship to the edges of the picture. Repeat until you need to concentrate less and feel comfortable with the movements. This is like learning to drive. You need to make the movements second nature, like turning the wheel of your car to go in the right direction.
3. Finding the Light.
The next stage is a very big step. We now want to add just a little bit of shading to give our outline some dimension. Go back to your photo with it’s drawn on outline. Now look for the brightest area, the highlight, and outline this very lightly. In this example there are 3 lighter areas. To simplify seeing the tonal areas squint your eyes so that you don’t see the detail. Now draw it on your freehand outline. Shade very lightly everywhere outside of your highlight area(s). I use the side of the pencil tip, colouring in one direction for one layer and at right angles for the next. Already you can see things taking shape.
4. Bringing out the Darks
Now look for the very darkest parts. Outline these first on your photo, then on your drawing. The next stage is to shade them in. You will be working over your previous shading. Try to go in 2 more directions so you fill in all the tiny holes. Don’t forget to look underneath your object for any area of shadow there. Now do this on your blank paper drawing. You will have to think about what you are doing in this process for quite some time, but it will eventually become second nature. Once you have finished this stage, you can blend the surface to create gradual tones. I use my pinky finger when practising but would use a torchon for work to keep.
5. Finishing Touches
On the version above, I don’t like the lighter streak in the dark area on the left, so I will tidy the drawing up by evening out the tone across the picture. This has simplified the result while still being a complete drawing. Learning what to leave in and what to take out is a skill you will acquire as you practise
This is the tidied up version. I won’t do any more to this as it was completed on A4 copy printer paper which doesn’t stand up to much treatment. It demonstrates however that you don’t need to spend a fortune just to get drawing.
6 Record and repeat.
Repetition is the key to learning all new skills. It helps to build up the muscle that makes it easier each time. It may take 15 minutes the first attempt, but soon you will reel this exercise off several times in the same time span.
Recording is a way of monitoring your progress. So sign and date each piece including any false starts. It is all part of the learning process and will help you see how much you have improved in a short time.
Now it is up to you. Get out your equipment, print out this picture to work from, practise. Then practise some more. When you are ready, come back and share your your drawings.
If you enjoyed this article, please pay it forward and share wherever you can.
I’ll be back with more step by step guides soon.