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Basic Drawing

Lesson #1

Introduction

I believe that you must learn to draw things as you see them - realistically. That is, you must reproduce the dimensions and proportions of a given subject. To render a faithful, realistic drawing, you must be able to observe the basic structure of an object, regardless of how complex and obscure by detail it may be. You must train not only your hands but your eyes as well.

However, the ability to depict an object literally doesn't make you an artist. No one ever claimed that the faithful duplication of nature (an impossible task anyway) produces art. But the ability to draw things as you see them is the first step toward becoming an artist.

In other words, throughout this series you'll learn to draw realistically. The objects before you will dictate what you should do, and the result will be the literal representation of the object. When you've finished the projects in this series, you'll be equipped with the necessary skills to enable you to express yourself as an artist. Having learned the fundamentals, the craft of drawing, you'll have a solid point of departure from which to create. Then, if you wish, you can leave the literal imitation of a subject to the students behind you.



Basic Structure of Objects

Every object you see has a structure or form based on either the cube, the cylinder, the cone, or the sphere. Any object may be based on one or a combination of these four geometric solids. A solid, for our graphic purposes, means an object that has three dimensions: height, width, and depth.

Basic structure doesn't mean that things are geometric perfect cubes, cylinders, cones, or spheres. (They can be, of course - for example, a square box, a round can, or an ice cream cone.) It means that objects are based on these four geometric solids. The shape of the object is modified in various ways that depart from the strict geometrical form (Fig A).

This principle was a revelation to me. I found that I could concentrate on overall dimensions of an object; then at my leisure, I could add whatever details I wanted to include. In addition, because the four basic geometric forms are solid, i.e., three dimensional, you get a feeling for the bulk and the weight of everything you draw. In the next three projects, we'll explore the first of these basic forms - the cube. We'll flatten it down, pull it up, or lengthen it, depending on our needs for representing an actual object. There are so many things that have the cube as their basic shape that it seems logical to begin with it. But before you can draw cubes, you must practice drawing the straight lines that form them.



Drawing Straight Lines

All you need to do the exercises in this project is a standard "office" pencil and a pad of drawing paper. I've used a KOH-I-NOOR #555, grade #2 pencil, and a #307 Ad Art layout and visualizing pad made by the Bienfang Company.

The range of pencils and drawing papers is so wide that I won't even attempt to enumerate them. Actually, for your first explorations, almost any pencil and any type of paper will do. Later you'll be more discriminating.

Drawing Lines Freehand

Since the first objects you are going to draw require primarily straight lines, let's look into ways of making them without any mechanical aids. I want you to draw them freehand; it's awkward and impractical to be encumbered with rulers and triangles as you sketch, especially outdoors. Besides, there's a certain life and vibrancy to a line drawn freehand when compared to the cold and mechanical line made with a ruler.



Holding the Pencil

Drawing a straight line, despite the old adage about it being awfully difficult, is easy and fun to do if you use the right approach (Fig B). Begin this very moment. Don't procrastinate. It doesn't matter in the least if the way you hold your pencil isn't the same as mine.

Hold your pencil in the usual writing position or "under the palm", whichever feels more comfortable (Figures C and D). Swing the straight lines from the elbow, not from the wrist. Swinging from the wrist will make your stroke too short and your line will be choppy and labored.



Angle and Direction of Lines

By practicing, you'll discover the best angle at which you can draw a straight line. Then, all you have to do is turn the paper to execute a horizontal, a vertical, or diagonal line. Try them all. My own personal choice is in a northeasterly direction, beginning southwest. Your favorite direction may turn out to be the same or be a horizontal line that runs from west to east. The direction of the line isn't important. It's the
spontaneity and directness of the line that really matters.

Don't be timid and make short stabs at drawing lines. Dash them off with one stroke. No one is going to see or evaluate them. Relax. Let yourself go, and swing away so that you can limber up your entire arm. If you can draw a straight line in any direction - without turning the paper - you're to be envied. find out right now if you're one of the fortunate few.



This is the end of the first lesson. In the next lesson, we talk about Eye Level, the foundation of perspective. See you then!