Adventures in Drawing – A New Beginning

Previously on “Adventures in Drawing,” I discussed several matters of art. I specifically placed emphasis on the three valuable lessons of learning to actively see thingsthe value of repetition, and drawing what one sees, not what one knows.

The second half of the drawing course followed the application of said rules with a series of projects. I had the wonderful opportunity to test my skills with various mediums from charcoal, graphite, and conté sticks. Along for the ride came an assortment of healthy drawing techniques I had learned earlier involving the use of guidelines, the ability to delineate depth and active perception in objects, as well as blind contour drawing etc. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to test my skills with the various media (Figures 1-2).

Figure 1. Man’s best friend (using charcoal, and graphite). 

 

Having completed the course, I can certainly say that my knowledge, and library of resources pertaining to drawing has grown exponentially. If there is a takeaway message from my experiences so far, it would be the following: simply put, anyone can be an artist. All you need is an HB pencil, a sketchbook, and a little bit of incentive. Most importantly, practice makes perfect.

In my opinion, I view drawing, and art, in general, as a personal interpretation of one’s environment, and imagination; a realm of infinite possibilities. The uniqueness factor of one’s works is dictated not through the judgment of external critics but rather one’s own individuality. Thus, you have nothing to fear in the criticism of your own doodles. We are all artists in our own measure. As Mason Cooley put it, “Art begins with imitation, and ends in innovation.”

Figure 2. Unfinished swimmer (using conté sticks)

With every passing day, I get closer to achieving the same with my artwork. Once again, I’ve learned that practice makes perfect. (On a side note, it also helps to have an encouraging partner, especially one who goes out of their way to buy you a legit Japanese manga kit but I digress.) If I could briefly summarize the steps that I have taken so far in my journey in drawing, and that I wish to share to my fellow aspiring artists, they would be:

(1) Start with doodles, and doodle frequently. Sketch whatever you wish to sketch. Freedom of imagination, and action is important in drawing.

(2) Get a few guide books on the side, or even better, just parse through the overwhelming history of artists, and their works that we can readily find information about on the WWW (world-wide-web).

(3) Trying a short, and supplementary course is highly beneficial too. Learning drawing also involves the communication of ideas, and techniques. (Check out the arts center in your city. If you don’t have one, Udemy is a wonderful online resource for awesome, and cheap courses. And if that doesn’t work, then it’s even more simple, learn from nature, and become your own artist. There’s no limit to human creativity, and imagination.)

(4) Aggregate the lessons you learn in infinitesimal steps, and integrate them toward a full learning experience.

Moving on from here, I intend to eagerly pursue my dream of becoming a mangaka in the future. For those among my readers who are avid comic fans, and are particularly interested in making their own comics, I highly suggest the constructive anatomy, and figure drawing books written by Burne Hogarth, and George Bridgman (shown below) to get you started.

But after all is said, and done, remember to relax, and just have fun with it!

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Adventures in Drawing!

Making good progress on my dreams to be a mangaka in the future, I’ve spent the past two months attending a basic drawing class, and so far, I’m having a blast. This post is dedicated to my fellow amateur artists, or anyone interested in drawing; I thought it would be a worthwhile effort to provide a summary of what I have learned so far, and share my efforts with all my readers.

Art, in general, is a highly subjective field. At the first session, it was a relief to hear my instructor recite the philosophy, “Anybody can learn how to draw,” mentioning that one’s drawing ability isn’t measured by how gifted they are, but is rather a reflection of their perseverance, and efforts to hone their skills.

Though I’m only halfway through the course (four sessions out of eight in total), I’ve learned a lot. Much of this learning has involved the transcription of my observations, and perspectives of a random subject onto a paper, following three fundamental principles of drawing.

Techniques aside,  drawing is the ability to closely observe your subject. It is an exercise in learning to actively see things, and deduce differences.

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Figure 1 – My first work, a shoe!

 Lesson 1 – Learn to actively see things. Figures 1-2 describe this principle. Both figures were drawn within the same period of time, with Figure 1 drawn initially, prior to instruction, and Figure 2, after learning to remediate my ability to observe, and focus on the details of the shoe.  

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Figure 2 – The same shoe, after really learning to observe my subject.

Rather than have a passive approach, I was instructed to use continuous lines, which provided a sense of structure, and certainty to my artwork. Now, drawing a straight line in itself is difficult, continuous lines even more so, and it is here I found the value of repetition.

Lesson  2 The value of repetition. It is imperative that you repeat the exercises you learn in drawing. Figure 3 presents simple exercises in “doodling,” such as drawing circles of varying sizes, and figure eights, using continuous curves (without lifting the pen). Such activities helped with hand-eye coordination, particularly with blind contour drawings. 

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Figure 3 – Part of aggregating your skills in drawing is to practice, repeatedly. 

I spent many an hour practicing my hand/eye coordination by simply doodling around on a piece of paper. This also helped big time in learning to draw with my arm rather than my wrist which is essential when one wishes to draw continuous lines.

Lastly, I was encouraged to draw what I plainly see in my subject, and not give in to the natural urge of presupposing what I believe the subject should be from prior knowledge.

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Figure 4 – The botched pepper.

Lesson 3 – Draw what you see, not what you know. This makes a big difference. Figure 4 presents the infamous drawing of a pepper from memory (looks more like a pumpkin). Figure 5 presents a pepper drawn from observation.

Now, does this make a difference when it comes to drawing from imagination. I think it does, but we have to realize that our imagination is in many ways an exaggeration or extrapolation of what we observe in our reality. Learning to draw what I see in reality helped nurture my imagination.

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Figure 5 – Pepper from observation. Seeing versus knowing makes a difference in drawings!

These three principles have formed the foundation of my progress in the class so far. Supplemented by lessons in individualizing one’s artwork, and finding a measure of focus, and shape consciousness (which calls for basic interaction with your subject) my drawings have come a long way (Figures 6-7).

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Figure 6 – A half-finished portrait of Natalie Portman using graphite pencils, cheese cloth, and blending stumps.

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Figure 7 – Another exercise in graphite. A portrait of Marcus Aurelius. I’ve still got a long way to go!  

In this review, I wished to provide a generalization of the primary lessons that were essential to getting me started in drawing. Of course, there is always more to learn especially when it comes to the various techniques that can supplement your skills such as the use of guidelines, sighting angles, drawing upside down etc. But ultimately, practice makes perfect.

In my case, drawing has served as an extension to my imagination, as well as an entertaining activity in interpreting the world around me. As an art, it stresses our abilities to interact with the environment using our physical, and mental faculties, providing a medium through which one can express his/her individuality.  Most of  all, it is a lot of fun!

On a conclusive note, for those among my readers who live in Edmonton, I attend my drawing classes at the Edmonton City Arts Center.

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The course is 8 sessions long, and is well worth the money. The City Arts Center boasts a variety of programs for adults, and children alike. If you’re interested in polishing your basics for drawing, certainly give the Drawing 1 & 2 course a try.

And for my readers who occupy various other corners of the world, but are aspiring artists, I would highly suggest Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing.

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It is an excellent resource to learn the principles of drawing, and is a great complementary reference for any basic drawing course.