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How to learn good drawing skills

How to learn good drawing skills

Feedback and questions from István

I’ve been following this site for a while now and seeing the great artworks, friendly environment, and the professional and passionate care of the tutors; I decided to save up some money to one day enroll.

I really want to learn good drawing skills because so far I have been drawing for about a year now, with little to no success. I worked mostly with books, but none of them provided proper guidelines. They give me pictures, but I know that simple copying is no good. There are many videos on YouTube that offer thousands of ways to draw, but none of them seem professional.

Is there a specific routine I should follow when practicing? What order should I follow to achieve a broad sense of drawing?

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear István,

If you are serious about learning how to draw, you have to start from basics and build your skills gradually, going through the sequence of exercises from simple tasks to more advanced ones.

I cannot cover the whole curriculum for an art student in one article. For this purpose, we created several art courses: Drawing Academy, Anatomy Master Class, and Web Art Academy.

In few words, here’s how to learn good drawing skills:

1. You start with basic things like the knowledge of drawing materials, how to sharpen and hold a pencil, how to draw lines with correct pencil grip, how to measure with a pencil, and so on. I’m not joking about such skills as sharpening and holding a pencil. As far as my research goes, there’s no contemporary art college where students are taught these things. I have also seen some art teachers who don’t know how to handle a pencil correctly. This is shocking.

How to learn good drawing skills

2. You progress with learning and practicing constructive drawing principles—rules of linear perspective, drawing objects as if they are transparent, applying lines of symmetry, virtual cross-sections, lines of angles and alignments, and so on. You learn how to “build” objects in drawing, so you can draw whatever you see, think of, or imagine in a realistic manner. These all go towards learning how to draw what you know, not copying what you see.

How to learn good drawing skills

Recently, I saw a new drawing course by one very popular and respected art teacher who advertises that in his course, students will learn “how to draw what you see.” I’m so sorry for those students. Instead of learning proper drawing principles, they are falling into the trap of becoming reproducers. This teacher gives students reference photos and shows how to copy photographs inch-by-inch. There is a big difference between a “human photocopier” and an original fine artist. Being able to reproduce another instance of a photograph by hand is merely replacing photo equipment with human labor. This skill does not make one a fine artist who can draw from memory or imagination and create new original artworks. You can check why drawing from photos is treacherous for your art education in this video: http://drawingacademy.com/why-drawing-photos-is-treacherous

3. Proper drawing education should continue with learning golden proportions and rules of composition. Golden ratio is a divine formula that rules the arts and nature. A fine artist should know what it is and how to use it in creative compositions.

4. Learning drawing goes from simple creative tasks like drawing flat patterns and reliefs to three-dimensional objects, both man-made and organic. The complexity of objects should also increase as you go. Draw household objects, plants, still life, interiors, landscapes, cityscapes, and so on.

How to learn good drawing skills

5. Learn and apply rules of aerial perspective in drawing.

6. Learn traditional methods of rendering tonal values in pencil. Develop your own “hand signature” of stylish pencil hatching. There are certain rules for rendering tones that are sadly not taught in many contemporary art colleges. Don’t get bad drawing habits from YouTube, which is full of “how NOT to draw” videos, including those where amateur artists smudge graphite pencil to achieve smooth gradations.

7. A man is the measure of all things and, as a fine artist, you should learn how to draw human figures and portraits. This includes learning human anatomy as well as body, head, and face proportions. There is much “know-how” in drawing figures and portraits. This information is accumulated from the time of the Old Masters, and once again, contemporary art colleges persistently ignore this rich heritage of valuable figure-drawing knowledge.

How to learn good drawing skills

Learning strong drawing skills takes at least four to five years under proper instruction of a professional fine artist and art teacher. Don’t be hard on yourself for your slow progress.

Regarding learning drawing from books, I haven’t met a single artist so far who learned how to draw solely from books. I’ve seen some books on how to draw that can do more bad than good for art students. For example, “The Natural Way to Draw” by Kimon Nicolaides is one such book. One day, I will write an article explaining why principles of learning drawing that are proposed in this book lead to a dead end. There are many other books that can be useful, but reading books is not enough to acquire good drawing skills.

Another way to learn drawing is by watching good video lessons. As you mentioned, not every video is suitable. By watching an array of self-taught, semi-professional and atelier-created videos, you haven’t experienced “the system” of structural, logical and time-proven professional art education.

To learn proficient drawing techniques, you can enroll in the online drawing course.

As a Drawing Academy student, you will get a lifetime membership and unlimited personal support from the Academy tutors.

Kind regards,

Vladimir London
Drawing Academy tutor

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