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Drawing – leaving a mark behind on a piece of paper?

Drawing is about making marks but, more fundamentally, before true creativity can develop (in any artistic medium) you need to make sense of the form of things.  In my view, this begins with understanding what you are looking at. I believe that to do this there is no better approach than learning to draw.

There are five basic steps to seeing your object and creating a drawing.

  • The Perception of Edges.
  • The Perception of Spaces.
  • The Perception of Relationships.
  • The Perception of Light & Shadow.
  • The Perception of the Whole or Gestalt.

In order to convert this theory into a drawing, I suggest that you start with the mantra

Look, draw, look look draw, review and repeat.

Mapping out the 2d interpretation of the 3d set up in front of you is much simpler if you repeat this mantra and try very hard to look at the object more than at your paper.

This is Ray doing a textbook look and draw in one of our drawing sessions.

However, before you start drawing, take some time out and doodle for 10 minutes. Draw patterns or remind yourself about the qualities of your drawing implements by creating patterns. I believe this is fundamental to drawing well. It gives your brain time to focus and also to stop the negative process of labelling and telling you you know what it (say an apple) looks like…….

See! you are doing it now …. you had a fleeting picture of an apple in your head. You know what an apple looks like don’t you!!!!….but is it actually the particular apple you are using as a still life object?

No! and to draw this particular apple you need to understand:-

  • The apples’ relationship to the objects and the space around it…
  • Where one edge meets another – be that the edge of your drawing or the other objects in the picture area.
  • The shape of the spaces which join the body of the apple to other things around it
  • Where the light falls and the shadows that this creates

And also –

  • the composition of the image as a whole. (Gestalt)

To start your drawing

  • Mark up where objects meet, and, if using a viewfinder, mark up where they intersect the edge the paper/viewfinder
  • Mark out the negative shapes to help describe the silhouettes of individual components.
  • Work over the whole image drawing the composition as a whole.
  • Start with a harder lighter pencil and use it lightly
  • At this point, you are not directly drawing an apple. Particularly not the apple n your head. You are mapping our a series of shapes.

Don’t be too precious about what you are doing.

Remember:-

  • At the end of the day, it is just a piece of paper with pencil marks on.
  • If you are worrying that someone is going to be judgemental – then don’t ask for their opinion
  • Don’t kid yourself – if it is not right – it simply isn’t right.

But take heart because:

  • Seeing that you are getting it wrong shows that you are getting it right.

 

Moving away from the object and starting to draw:-

As you progress you will break each part of your drawing down into smaller and smaller areas of interest.

  • You will note how one area is lighter than another.
  • These areas of different tome will also make shapes of their own
  • These will relate to one another.
  • In a very short time, you will notice you are no longer drawing an apple but that you are drawing a series of shapes.

change from drawing an apple to a state where you become aware that some areas are lighter than others. Measure the range of lightness or darkness and how they relate to each other.

Critical review:

An honest assment of your imagery is crucial. Reviewing your work is not being self-critical it is not a comment on your skill. It is a chance to ask yourself if (and be completely honest here) the image is showing you what you can see in front of you.

If it isn’t then look at the drawing and the object you are drawing and ask yourself why.

Why isn’t it going well?

If you can’t get it right then ask yourself why –

what are you doing in your head that means your hand can’t translate what your eye is seeing.

Ask yourself – Am I looking at what is in front of me of using a preconceived idea of what this object looks like.

Remember – your brain always thinks it knows best but you want to use the information you see with your eye not what your brain thinks this object should look like.

Don’t worry if your image is looking wrong – be prepared to refigure large parts of your drawing.

To be fair you can buy yourself a good rubber!!! However – never use a rubber because its wrong – use a rubber because you can see how to improve your drawing, use the mistakes you can see to help you judge how to redraw.

Be prepared to accept that you may well have to loose parts of the drawing (that have taken you a long time) but accept that it is better to be proactive and concentrate on training your hand eye co-ordination than it is to kid yourself into believing you are picture perfect (even though when you look at your drawing you know it isnt – we re all very good at this little brain trick!)

  • The more honest you are with yourself the quicker your hand and eye will co-ordinate
  • The more you practice the more quickly this will happen
  • The more open you are with yourself the better your drawing will be.
  • When your hand and eye can co-ordinate efficiently – then you will begin to draw what you can see.

Look, draw, look, look, draw – review – repeat.

and remember

The reason to come to drawing lessons is to learn to be self-reflective, not self-critical.

n.b. As a teacher of a creative skill please note that I am striving to be constructive. I am here to teach you how to draw what you can see in front of you!  When I offer feedback it is not a criticism of you. I am not passing judgement on your ability merely offering constructive advice on how your eye could inform your hand more effectively.

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Mapping a drawing with Negative Space

Creating an acurate depiction of a still life can be much easier if you understand how negative spaces create structure to a composition.

Today our drawing class was pretty small…well very small! Everyone gets so busy over the summer. So DPH and I had a one to one session – Thrown in at the deep end rather as it was DHP’s first session with us…… She did survive – LOL – and enjoyed herself too.

Today’s session was working with negative space and, as usual started with a doodle warm up. It is always such a good idea to start your creative session with some time out repetitive drawing. Whatever pattern you chose repeat it and set yourself tasks such as starting in a different place, changing pencil grip or drawing hand. Do this for around 10 minutes (or, if you are enjoying it keep going until you are suddenly mind-blowingly bored.

Reading through our hand out and having talked through how useful it is to understand negative space and use it to map out your composition we were ready to start.  As usual we began with a series of quick drawings to help get “our eye in”. One, two, four and twelve minutes working small on four separate drawings of the same set up really helps you assure your brain that whilst you know what a ???? looks like (in this case a pair of nut crackers) drawing it relies on making sure that each area is mapped out as a shape and not as a nut cracker!

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This drawing shows how I mapped out the still life using the paper meeting points and the angles the nut crackers created as they crossed the papers to map out a negative drawing of the objects. Something that DPH soon realised was a new and slightly brain straining approach. However, with each attempt I could see how well she was bringing the idea on board; having begun to understand what we were looking at it was time to start on a longer study.

With the longer study I was pleased to see GHP critically appraising her drawing, realising that she was tending to rely on what she thought rather than what she could see. By encouraging her to really look and evaluate she was more and more ready to move lines and remap her composition.  This is a great start and possibly a difficult approach as, in general, it is so easy to try and work round parts of a drawing which you have invested time in and are reluctant to discard.

Below are some of the mistakes I was making along the way and the final layout done in around 1.15hours.

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