Some Basic Ideas about Drawing

If you remember these simple ideas as you are drawing, you will notice a dramatic, positive change in the quality of your sketches:

The first thing you can do to improve your figure work is to draw constantly:

This should sound obvious, yet most of us become comfortable with a level of competence that is far below our capabilities. Though it’s good to draw anything, concentrate on the figure. You need to focus on the figure because artists know intimately what the figure looks like and we should be able to easily spot our problems when drawing it. Drawing a tree is fine, but you can move a branch up or down six inches and no one will ever care. Move an arm up or down six inches, and it’s guaranteed that everyone will notice. Practice drawings should be concerned with accuracy and do not have to be beautiful.

Draw from the living figure if possible:

Drawing from a living figure is the only way to learn to impart a sense of life in one’s work. When working from life, you learn how to adapt to the small changes that you see, as the model invariably shifts and moves slightly. If drawing from life is not feasible, draw the figure from available pictures.

When you begin a drawing, lightly place spots on the paper that will help define the outermost points of the figure:

Place a mark on your paper that corresponds with each spot of the body that extends farthest from the body’s center point. These marks, if connected, will form an envelope that will encompass the entire figure and will give you a framework within which you can work.

Always start with the general and work toward the specific:

Start by drawing the simplest shapes that you see. Make them exactly correct and then start adding the smaller shapes. If you get the big picture right, the little picture can do nothing but follow.

Avoid drawing the eyelashes:

Actually, avoid drawing any of the small details that really add nothing to the character and the essence of your drawing.

The devil is in the details:

You can recognize someone you know at a great distance not by seeing the color of her eyes but by the essence of her being. This is what you want to strive for in your work—the accurate representation of the essence of the figure.

Make your proportions correct:

Surprisingly, many pieces of figurative art have awful proportions. With all the available information in books, there is no excuse for not learning it. By knowing what an average human looks like, you will have a greater chance for success when distorting the figure to fill your specific needs.

Learn your surface anatomy:

Knowing how the muscles play out on the surface of the figure makes sketching and building models much easier with more believable results. Learning this information will also help you design nonhuman characters better.

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