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How to draw accurately and fast?

How to draw accurately and fast?

Question from John

I want to learn how to draw rapidly from life. What are the best ways to get accurate values?

John

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear John,

Getting accurate values comes “automatically” after practicing tonal drawing for thousands of hours and training your eyes and hand to see and depict values in drawing.

There is one thing you need to avoid—using gray-scale or similar tools for judging tonal values. The measurement should happen in your brain, not by an external device.

Here’s what you need to do to improve your perception of tonal values by eye:

Spend as much time comparing values in life as you do shading them in drawing. When drawing, constantly compare different values to each other and hatch tones in layers with a graphite pencil. 

Regarding fast drawing, speed comes with practice. It is a “byproduct” of experience. Art is not the Olympics; they do not give medals for speed in drawing. Strive for accuracy and correct proportions; work on anatomy and likeness.

Start with two- to ten-hour-long poses to learn how to draw from life using constructive drawing principles. With time, your speed will increase, and you will be able to sketch “short” five- to ten-minute poses. 


Many life-drawing classes advocate fast gesture sketching for beginners. This only gives students frustration and disillusionment. If you don’t know how to draw a proportionate human figure with understanding of anatomy and body construction, doing it fast under time pressure only makes things worse.


When visiting drop-in life-drawing classes in London, I have seen so many artists who have come for life drawing for many years, and they still have rudimentary figure-drawing skills because the longest pose they ever did was less than 20 minutes. Combined with lack of knowledge of a human body’s proportions and anatomy, this explains why their progress in life drawing is so slow.

Here’s good advice—learn constructive drawing principles, human figure proportions, anatomy, and above all the sequence of steps of figure or portrait drawing. Spend enough time applying your knowledge in drawing long poses, and gradually shorten the timing to end up with fast gesture sketches that are beautiful, precise, and have high likeness.

Best regards,

Vladimir London

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