Since a few things in my “How To Draw” series are things which I’ve never tried to draw before, I thought that it could be useful for people who are new to drawing to write an article about this whole process.
Whilst it’s a skill that I’ve probably always had to some degree or another, I’ve only even got vaguely good at working out how to draw things within the past three or four years.
And, yes, with enough practice and understanding, working out how to draw things can become an almost intuitive skill. In fact, with enough practice, drawing in general can become a fairly intuitive skill.
1) Copying: This is one of the easiest, and oldest, ways to learn how to draw new things. Just look at a photo of what you want to draw and try to copy what you see. If you’ve new to drawing, your copy probably won’t look anywhere near as good as the original.
Yes, you can trace things, but this requires a lot less skill and it’s generally a lot more satisfying to try to copy things the old-fashioned way by just looking at them and drawing what you see.
Plus, if you copy things by sight, then you’ll probably add your own artistic touches to them after a while too (this is something you can’t really do if you trace things).
Whilst this stuff is probably fairly obvious, I found a really interesting book a few weeks ago called “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” by Betty Edwards which explores some of the psychology behind learning to draw and also teaches you how to “see” things in an artistic way. I already intuitively knew quite a lot of this stuff before I found this book but, if you’re new to drawing, then it might be worth finding a copy of it in your nearest library or buying a copy of it.
If you’re still uncertain about how to copy things, the next three tips on this list are techniques which will help you.
2) Two dimensions: Notice how I only mentioned copying from photographs in the previous point on this list? This goes against the more classical idea that people should actually observe things in real life when they’re learning how to draw them (eg: life drawing etc…), but I personally think that it’s best to learn how to draw things from photographs and static images.
The reason for this is fairly simple – things in real life are three-dimensional, whereas everything printed on a photograph or a computer screen is a two-dimensional flat image. Yes, a photo might look 3D, but (in physical terms) it’s as two-dimensional as the flat surface of the paper it is printed on or the computer screen it is displayed on.
Now, if you’re drawing something, then your drawing will be two-dimensional. It’ll be a single layer of ink and/or graphite on a flat piece of paper. So, if you want to learn how to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensional objects, then it makes a lot more sense to copy another 2D image (eg: a photo) which has already done this.
After a while, you’ll have probably learnt enough to know how to draw things that you see around you, without needing to refer to two-dimensional photos or pictures. But, if you’re just starting out, then it’s worth sticking to copying photographs for a while.
3) Simplify: If you’re copying a photograph, then the sheer level of detail might seem pretty intimidating at first. Real life is extremely intricate and detailed (just look closely at anything around you and you’ll probably see what I mean) and trying to copy all of this detail can be overwhelming.
However, one of the most important skills which any artist has to learn is how to simplify things. This skill is almost intuitive when you’ve picked it up, but it can be kind of difficult to describe, so bear with me…
There are a number of ways to simplify things, but it can be useful to start by drawing an outline of the thing you’re copying and then focus on drawing the most important and recognisable parts of it.
When it comes to the more intricate details of something, it can be useful to either give a general impression of them (eg: squiggly lines to represent grass on a field rather than drawing each individual blade of grass) or to only show a couple of smaller details rather than trying to copy everything exactly and “perfectly”.
A good way of learning how to simplify things if you’re new to drawing is to look at a lot of drawings by other people. Be sure to focus on stylised drawings rather than “realistic” drawings. Anyway, once you’ve looked closely at quite a few other drawings and thought about how the artist simplified things, then you’ll probably start to get a sense of how to do this yourself.
4) Add 3D effects: Although you’ll hopefully work out some of these techniques yourself, there are a few basic techniques for making things look 3D (eg: shadows, perspective, 3D shapes etc…) which are very easy to learn. I wrote a more detailed article about this subject a while back, which can be found here.
5) Practice: As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, working out how to draw things is a skill which takes practice to learn. It isn’t something that you’ll probably pick up instantly. But, don’t be discouraged. Once you’ve learnt the basics of it, it’ll quickly become an almost intuitive skill. But in order to get to this stage, you have to practice as regularly as possible.
But, if you really want to learn how to draw, then you’ll probably enjoy all of this practice and have a lot of fun with it. And, yes, practice should be fun.
If practicing your drawing feels dull or feels like a chore, then either try to draw something which you feel looks cooler/more interesting than whatever you were trying to draw or just take a break until you feel enthusiastic again.
Anyway, I hope that this article was useful 🙂