I’m making a two-pronged attack on learning to draw. The first is physical: learning to manipulate pencil on paper to create a realistic-looking drawing. The second is process: understanding the steps to making a good drawing or digital painting.
I hadn’t realized that drawing a picture could be broken down into steps. Not having had any experience with drawing, I just assumed it was a magical process whereby an artist sits down in front of an object and a finished drawing appears. Sort of like this phase of a mathematical proof:
As it happens, drawing can be broken down into logical steps: sketching the overall shape, adding more detailed lines, adding shading. They don’t necessarily have to be done rigidly in that order – the process seems rather iterative, gradually building up details – but it’s by no means magic.
Digital painting follows a similar course, but with a bit more elaboration. You start by brainstorming a series of thumbnail sketches, with just enough detail to capture the layout of each idea. Then you expand the more promising thumbnails into slightly larger, black and white sketches, to develop the idea a little further. Finally, you’re ready to start the actual picture. You start by laying down the bones of the piece – light and dark areas – on a background layer. From there you develop a few more details – still vague, you’re just doing the big stuff. But you add a bit more detail – and continue on in that vein, developing the piece iteratively and re-evaluating after each part you add, until you’re done.
Those who have read the book blog and/or my manuscript may recognize that this is exactly the creative process I describe in my book. I feel vindicated. 🙂
Anyway, to achieve this understanding, I have been blitzing my way through three books:
(Yes, the black blob in the very top of the last photo is Fritz, helpfully blocking some of the light to reduce glare. An instant later, he decided to be even more helpful and sit on the book, but fortunately I’d already snapped the photo.)
I’ve also been working on my drawing skills, though less so during the week, as the cats are particularly active (helpful) during the times I have available to draw. On the weekend, though, I can draw while they’re asleep, which is about 11am-5pm. (And here I thought that by not having children, I could avoid waiting for nap time to get my projects done. Ha!) So I’m hoping to get a bunch of drawing exercises done today and tomorrow.
I did manage two quick sketches yesterday, though – simple geometric solids, so I can work on my shading skills. (I’ve decided to study physical drawing before digital drawing; the direct feedback of pencil on paper is much simpler to manage than the digital form.) Here are a ball and a cone:
The ball looks a bit ovoid and the shading on the cone doesn’t quite match shadow and light source, but they do capture the basic idea of light and shadow. And I’m learning a lot about how to see/draw shading, so I’m pretty happy with my efforts. Later today I will do more geometric solids, to practice shading on simple things. Tomorrow I’ll try something a little more complicated – perhaps a flower or two from the farmer’s market. By alternating between simple and more complex drawings, I figure I’ll get plenty of practice without getting bored. And perhaps someday I’ll be able to draw these clowns:
But that will be the advanced class!