How should I study drawing?

How should I study drawing?

Question from Slater Smith

For the past month, I have been in something of an artistic rut. I cannot call it a creative block, because I get ideas all the time. I just don’t have the technical ability to execute them.

So my question is, how exactly should I study drawing? Maybe focus on one for say a month, then move on to the next area? Or should I study two subjects that are closely related, like architectural drawing and perspective?

Thank you for your time,

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy Tutor

Dear Slater,

Many thanks for your question.

Your challenge is not unique. It mostly comes from the fact that you have to learn art skills on your own but do have not found a proper structure in which to do it.

I’ll tell you my experience; hopefully you will find it helpful.

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. From a very early age, I wanted some way to express myself creatively, even though I didn’t really understand that desire. My mother took me to various arts and crafts studios in the hope I would find a good place to pursue my passion.

Every studio I went was no more than an “express yourself” time waster, pretty much like some contemporary art colleges today : )

One day, a new art school opened nearby. It was a no-nonsense professional art institution for secondary school children. It even had entrance exams! I was only nine, too young to enroll officially, but the school accepted me on the condition that I would spend two years in one grade class, the youngest age category.

It was a proper art education. I spent the next five years studying and practicing art for four hours every day. The curriculum included just 6 subjects – classical drawing, traditional painting, history of arts, sculpture, composition, and decorative arts. This school had professional artists with teacher’s degrees. Art education progressed gradually from the basics to more advanced lessons, step-by step.

I was just following the program they had in place: drawing and painting still-lifes and models, creating compositions, practicing sculpture and decorative arts, learning the history of fine art. No rut, no creative blocks. The teachers had a program that stated the subject of the course, its objectives, and the time limit. We students had assignments, deadlines, and internal and external exhibitions. This school laid a great foundation that helped me to enter another two art universities and graduate with distinction.

The point I’m illustrating here is that to achieve meaningful results, you need to have a good program in place. You already know what fundamentals are required to develop good drawing skills. Now, it is a matter of organizing your learning schedule.

I will outline some key points of your drawing education in sequential order. You can assign the time you need to master them:

1. Understand the drawing materials, arrange your working space, practice holding a pencil in correctly. All of this is quite straightforward, except for the proper way of holding a pencil. You may check the Drawing Academy video lessons on this subject and, so to speak, get a good grip!

2. When you are ready to use a pencil, continue with the absolute basics – check this video to get started, and follow its steps:

Don’t be discouraged by the simplicity of the suggested exercises. Although this video was created for complete beginners, even some art college graduates do not always have the necessary skills and have benefitted from its lessons.

3. Continue with one- and two-point perspective. The Drawing Academy video lessons and bonus materials deliver all you need to know on this topic. A deep understanding of these two perspective types is necessary, as they will underpin 90% of what you must do in perspective drawing. When you are ready, continue with aerial perspective, which will cover the remaining 10%. It is also good to know three- and four-point perspective, as well as perceptive perspective. A Drawing Academy bonus video covers these additional topics well.

4. Equipped with the knowledge and practice of perspective, proceed to constructive drawing principles. Draw simple geometrical still-lifes: interiors and exteriors. Do not worry about shading tonal values at this step, that will come later. Even if you do a perfect tonal rendering of a badly constructed drawing, the result will still be inferior. Develop your ability with constructive drawing first.

5. With time, when your constructive drawing skills improve, begin practicing rendering tonal values. Only start this process when you feel comfortable with your abilities with all the previous steps and can incorporate them into every drawing that you make.

6. Continue with figurative drawing. First, learn human body proportions. The Drawing Academy video lessons give very comprehensive information on this subject. Also, I’m currently working on new video lessons dedicated to human body proportions and anatomy for fine artists.

7. Practice sketching gestures; that is, human figures in various poses. Observe people around you, draw figures from memory, and imagine human characters that you can draw. Apply the rules of human proportions that you learned previously.

8. Study the anatomy of the human head. Start with a skull. Draw it repeatedly, from various points of view, until you can draw it from imagination at any possible angle. You will know you are ready when you can draw the skull from an angle you have never practiced before straight from your imagination.

9. Begin to learn the head muscles – time to put some flesh on the bones : ) Not every muscle in the head will influence its appearance; study only those that make a difference.

10. Learn the proportions of the human head and face. This knowledge is indispensable when it comes to drawing portraits from life, memory, and imagination.

11. Practice constructive drawing of a human head. Once again, tonal rendering is not required for this step. You want to learn how to “build” a head according to its anatomy and proportions. Don’t forget the perspective rules!

12. Expand your portrait drawing skills with tonal rendering. Learn the stages of portrait drawing intimately. They are described thoroughly in several Drawing Academy video lessons.

13. Learn the skeletal anatomy of the human body. For you as an artist, it is not necessary to learn every bone in the body and all their Latin names! Focus on those that are essential to the appearance of the human body.

14. Learn the musculature of the human body. This could be done simultaneously while you learn skeletal anatomy.

15. Practice constructive drawing of the human body and its parts. Draw from classical sculptures, as well as from life, memory, and imagination. Worry about tonal rendering later; emphasize first your figure proportions and proper construction.

16. Continue by drawing human figures with tonal rendering. All the previous points need to be mastered – proportions, perspective, constructive drawing, and anatomy. Only when all these different pieces are in place will you be able to achieve realistic, correctly drawn, believable figurative drawings.

17. Learn the rules of composition. Everything that has been learned thus far can be put in one place by the use of good composition. Figurative artworks, still-lifes, landscapes—in fact, anything you draw will only look good if you compose your artwork correctly.

18. Develop a solid understanding of the Golden Proportion. This is the ratio that rules the world. Human body proportions, nature, man-made objects, beautiful compositions – all look good for a reason. The secret is the Golden Proportion. In the Drawing Academy course, you will find video lessons on the Golden Proportion, what it is, and how to use it in your compositions.

This is not an exhaustive list of the drawing disciplines you need to master. By the way, the only drawing materials you need to practice all 18 points above are graphite pencils, drawing paper and an eraser : )

By time you finish these exercises, you will find that there are many other artistic avenues you may want to pursue. You may wish to master different drawing media, like metal-point, pen and ink, and colored pencils. You can learn the techniques of figurative drawing that were used by the Old Masters. You may want to improve your speed-drawing skills. There are countless different fields you can explore once you master the basics; for now, you have a very comprehensive list of steps to go through as you get started.

As for how long it takes to master those skills, the truth is, it depends. Don’t expect to achieve mastery by spending an hour or two on each step. It took me five years to get the basics right : )

Dedicate as much time as you can to practice. Master every point before continuing to the next one, and follow the sequence recommended above.

You can only achieve good results in figurative drawing when you build your skills on a solid foundation – in this case, human anatomy and constructive drawing. Constructive drawing, however, requires that you also learn the rules of perspective beforehand.

Thank you for your drawing! I like it, although it has needs some improvement (in constructive drawing and anatomy, for example). I want you to take few steps back and start from the basics. When you start working on portrait drawing, we will discuss this subject again : )

I hope this was helpful.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

To your creative success,

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Svetlana Vukmirica says:

    Thanks for wish and advices.
    It is exactly what i want to know but i did not know how to ask.
    Thanks one more time and i hope it will be as soon as it is possible, i learnt anatomy in high school and have some practice knowladge.
    However we keep in touch during the course and thanks dear Vladimir, it was more then friendly what you share with us , it is pure gold.

    Kind regards


  2. Wendy Speight says:

    Thankyou for the information of the process. It helps greatly to know where to start the discipline to begin the process
    Of getting the basics correct. Thank you again Valdimir
    Kind regards
    Wendy Speight

  3. Maelysi says:

    Merci pour les commentaires sur la façon dont les cours vont de dérouler j’ hâte de suivre les cours!cela va m’aider beaucoup merci encore à bientot

  4. glamarart says:

    I’m fascinated just by reading so important steps to start my drawing jurney! Ijust enrolled today. Have a very minimum knowledge but a lot of desire of accomplishment, Thanks for the info. Very helpful Vladimir !!!♡

  5. Pedro says:

    as a student i believe that turning compostion into a set of rules can be limiting, observational skills will help you better than knowing the golden ratio and dividing the canvas in thirds. Be attentive when you see composition used like stiff rules.

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