View Full Version : Question and "announcement"...

05-29-2014, 12:38 PM
The question is: I think I've finally figured out why I am having so much trouble with perspectives and angles, and that is because I can't draw! Give me a pencil or have me try to sketch anything, and it is terrible!

I don't even follow my pre-sketches for my paintings if I even do them. I'll follow them to some extent, then go on without them, "fixing" what needs to be fixed.

In the next few weeks I'll have more time to work with pencils (the reason why I'll tell in a minute), so I'm planning on working with my pastel pencils, but I want to improve my drawing, because I know having better sketches will help with my more detailed paintings. Does anyone have any suggestions, courses, etc. that can help me with this?

The "announcement" is: We have a contract out on our house and will be moving in five weeks! Things just went into "speed" -mode, and we are packing, sorting, and moving things up to our place in Mississippi bit by bit.

This has also put a pretty definite decision on college. I have "changed" my major and will be going for Agricultural Information Science with concentration on Ag Leadership. I may be trying to take an art course or two also.

I'll be doing my art on the side, trying to improve, build up and gear towards a gallery presentation. To begin with, I will not have room to have all my pastels out, so I'll be working with my pencils. I will possibly have limited internet access, so I may not really be able to be on here that much until I start college in the fall. I'll be trying to find an art guild or something to join when I get up there as well.

I'll try to stick around, but I'll probably mainly be "hovering". I'll try to keep up with everyone and join back in after I get into the swing of things in college. As you can imagine, packing, moving, building a house, and planning for college all at once will give me limited computer time anyway!

05-29-2014, 07:10 PM

In my opinion, drawing is something that can only be learned with practice. You may find some interesting books or the occasional video that will help you see some concept in a new way, but beyond that, it's all just practice.

I have drawn all my life, and rely on it extensively in my artwork. I am rather new to pastels, but I did a great deal of drawing and oil painting for years before taking a bit of a break during my higher education career. Anyway, I ALWAYS do thumbnail sketches before I begin a piece, whether in oil, pastel, colored pencil, or even graphite. I find them essential to understanding my subject and reconciling the composition with what I am trying to portray. After the thumbnail, when I know whether I like where the piece is going, I may do a more detailed black and white sketch, or a color study. Then, when it comes time to paint, I already understand the subject intimately. Placing the forms again on the painting is almost automatic.

I know it can be tempting to skip all this prep work and get to the exciting part of painting, but you just have to force yourself to do it. It will get easier over time, and soon you will even enjoy it.

The one tip I have about drawing is to remember that it is all about relation. You have to see the relations between one line and another, where and at what angle things intersect, how far away something is from something else. It's just the relations between things. If you accurately record these relations, you will have a successful drawing. Sometimes it is helpful to draw tick marks on your reference material and your drawing paper (little lines on the outside that divide the edges into fourths, or similar) so that you can judge whether elements are in the right place.

Other than that, just take a sketchbook with you everywhere and draw. One thing I do is keep a sketchbook next to the couch or my bed, so if I am watching a move and see a scene I find particularly beautiful, I can pause the film and do a quick sketch. If you do something like this every day, you will be surprised at how fast your drawing skills improve.

Congratulations on your move, and good luck to you!

05-29-2014, 07:56 PM
I strongly recommend "Your Artist's Brain" by Carl Purcell, my drawing skills grew considerably after reading and using that book. It covers more or less that same material as "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards but it does it in a way that is much more fun, accessible and effective IMO. I agree that there is no replacement for practice, however knowledge of certain fundamentals and techniques can make that practice much more effective.


05-29-2014, 08:34 PM
Good to see another Ag college person/student! I majored in Range Management (i.e. rangeland management) back in the day (20 years ago!) and was an active FFA high schooler. Best wishes for a successful college experience. And a fulfilling art journey too! Great advice above concerning drawing.

05-29-2014, 08:53 PM
Here's another Ag grad, but on the vet med/research side. Good luck, have fun and draw, draw, draw. Food for thought - a recent show judges comment on a loosing piece - "a lot of detail doesn't cover up poor drawing skills". 'Nuf said.

05-30-2014, 01:09 AM
Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions! Please keep them coming!

I will follow your suggestion, Saskia, and bring a sketchbook with me everywhere. I'm going to set myself the goal of sketching at LEAST one sketch per day, and try to fill up my sketch book by the end of June.

I will certainly look up that book, David. It sounds like a very good resource to have, and I have precious few in the art department!

Thanks Ron, I appreciate it! It's good to see someone who has been through and loves the same field. I'm looking forward to all I'll learn, both in agriculture and in art!

Another Ag grad Mudfish? Aren't we popular? :-D Thank you for the well wishes, and I fully intend to draw as much as possible. Great quote too! I am finding that very true in my own work.

05-30-2014, 02:47 AM
I have to put in a word here....which comes from someone who began her painting life with rather poor drawing skills, and learned the hard way. Years later I am now an art teacher and art instruction author, so I know what can be achieved, but it goes WAY beyond just practice.

Practice is essential. But so is taking the responsibility to learn the craft. Luckily, we live in a world where the information is there for the taking.

You cannot gain knowledge of the rules of perspective by just practicing.
You cannot achieve good proportions without knowing how to measure.
You cannot achieve proper 3D form without knowing how to achieve correct tone values.
You need to learn about edges - when to have a soft and when to have a hard edge
You need to learn how to capture light in your drawings.
eventually, you need to learn about composition/design if you wish to work in colour, producing paintings rather than just sketching

Go to your library, find a book, or two, about drawing methods, which includes, at the very minimum:

Line and tone - how to use line without tone, tone without line, how tone supports line, how to map tones.
Proportions and measuring - critical stuff
basic perspective rules - also vital to learn

with these firmly under your belt with lots of practice, you will make great strides.

Don't fall into the trap of imagining that simply practice is enough. I promise you, hand on heart, that it is not. Practice, without knowledge and information, means you will continuously repeat mistakes, over and over. Because without the learning, you will not recognise the mistakes you make! How can you correct what you do not understand? You need to fill yourself with information, slowly, one step at a time, mastering each area as well as you can. then, your practice becomes meaningful.

05-30-2014, 05:12 AM
I hope you can find a delightful drawing class to take. I think drawing classes are useful at many different levels.

05-30-2014, 12:28 PM
Thanks for your little "lesson" Jackie. I was planning on getting some books or a course to go through, I just wanted some suggestions. The main reason I am going to draw so much is because I am scared of the blank paper when I have anything besides a pastel in my hand. I'm hoping this will "cure" some of that! :-D

Thank you Mary, I would love to take a drawing class, and I am sure I would learn a lot!!

05-30-2014, 01:25 PM
Maybe different people are different, but for me practice was all it took. I suppose that maybe it wouldn't work for all (and a professional art teacher like Jackie would certainly be one to know), but I never studied the formal rules of perspective or value when learning to draw. I just draw what I see. This has worked well enough for me to draw well from an early age, as drawing for print ads in a local newspaper was one of my first jobs as a teenager. It's certainly didn't pay much, but I was pretty proud of it at the time!

I later studied perspective, value, edges, etc. when learning to paint, but never found it made much difference when drawing from life or a reference. For drawing from imagination, yes, but I feel like if I can see something, I can reproduce the forms and relations in front of me without knowing any of the formal rules. I just needed practice seeing what was there and translating it to a flat page. That's the way it is for me, anyway.

I guess it is just a matter of finding the method that works for you.

05-30-2014, 04:17 PM
but I never studied the formal rules of perspective or value when learning to draw. I just draw what I see. This has worked well enough for me to draw well from an early age,

That's the key, most people need to be taught how to "Draw what you see". The verbal mind gets in the way and people need to learn how to turn that side of their brain off, for some that comes relatively easy, like it apparently does for you, but for most of us we need some instruction. This is why I recommend Purcell's book, that's what it's all about. It's very simple, explaining the basics and with simple exercises that help you learn to "see". No complex perspective lessons in that book. That kind of thing is really only necessary if you are inventing a scene.


05-30-2014, 04:37 PM
That's the key, most people need to be taught how to "Draw what you see". The verbal mind gets in the way and people need to learn how to turn that side of their brain off, for some that comes relatively easy, like it apparently does for you, but for most of us we need some instruction. This is why I recommend Purcell's book, that's what it's all about. It's very simple, explaining the basics and with simple exercises that help you learn to "see". No complex perspective lessons in that book. That kind of thing is really only necessary if you are inventing a scene.

Yes, the formal rules are important when inventing a scene, but not so much when drawing from sight. And I still maintain that those rules can indeed be learned through practice observing and reproducing what is around us as well, just as they were before the first person decided to write them down for others to read.

But you are absolutely right, seeing is the important part. I suppose I have never thought much about people needing to be taught how to see, but now that you say it, it makes sense. I have seen people struggle with drawing in the past and just assumed they weren't "looking properly" at what was in front of them. If someone has devised exercises to improve this ability, they would no doubt be extremely helpful. Maybe I will take a look at that book myself to see what it is about!

05-30-2014, 05:47 PM
Thanks for the interesting commentary, David and Saskia! I have that book being sent to my library right now, David.

I will be trying out a couple different methods, to see which works better for me. I have a book with a lot of exercises like Jackie mentioned that has six small exercises every day that will take all of five minutes to do. It basically gives the how and why of all the little details.

But, I will also be bringing my sketch book around like Saskia suggested, because I know it will help me overcome my fear of a blank piece of paper, and will give me experience with drawing from real life!

This is amazing help, everyone! I am appreciating this! Keep it coming! :-D

05-31-2014, 01:53 PM
one of the problems of drawing from life without ANY instruction, is that people often revert to what they THINK is there, rather than what is actually there. So, for example, I have seen people draw a distant field huge, when in fact, it is just a tiny sliver in the distance. It is because their mind tells them that the shape must be bigger, it is a field.

When I sit down with these kinds of students, and show them how to measure, I can almost see the lightbulb going on over their heads!

Yes, some people do have a natural ability to draw what they see, with accuracy, but they are few and far between. And they are jolly lucky, without realising it.

01-19-2015, 11:55 PM
I just wanted to say Jackie, that you were SO right! I took drawing in college last semester, and it has totally changed my perspective in art. Go ahead, say "I told you so!" :-D

01-20-2015, 06:35 AM
Jackie is right about those lessons, especially in one regard. You may learn some of them by life drawing and exact observation. But you won't have the terms for them even if you get it and that may make it harder to apply to a different subject.

It's also harder to master them all and it's a much slower road with many gaps in it unless you've got good teachers or books. It's possible to get it from books, which is where many good self taught artists come from. Many of the people who have a natural knack at perspective or proportion learned young, it's easy to forget the moment you first got something right if you were a toddler when you first got it. But when a little kid does, adults notice and give immediate feedback!

Drawing the same thing at many different angles and poses can do a lot to help make that become second nature. For me that was a white rat.

I think back to whether I had instruction though, and I did. I had art books from the library. I had a handful of those giant How to Paint books that had maybe 20 pages, cost a dollar or two or three and full four color printing, stuff like How to Paint Cats (my favorite). I had my father teaching me how to draw accurately for science illustration - he taught me to shade accurately, how to put in the shadows. He'd say shade it when he meant add modeling shadows and put in the shadow when he meant cast shadow.

I also had a whole lot of small unmoving irregular objects for careful life drawing and relatively few spheres and boxes. Pebbles and rocks and fossils, especially trying to get the fossils as accurate as a photo to be printed. I succeeded - and that left me ignorant of composition for a long long time, because layout was dad's job.

Purcell's book covers every lesson she mentioned. So do three very good books I have literally worn out multiple times. Jack Hamm "Drawing the Head and Figure," "Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes" and "How to Draw Animals." Those three taken together are a very thorough drawing course. Each is a soft cover Dover book still in print. Scenery has much more on perspective and composition than the rest. They are unreadably dense but give a lot of good one-page or two-page lessons on specific things. I would decide what I was going to draw and go looking up what I had trouble with, be that black hair or eyes or mouths or whatever. I skim-read the whole book and then settled on looking up what I was doing next, which worked.

Purcell's much more readable but Hamm's books also have a lot of good pencil and pen techniques.

My two cents: life drawing done small and lots. Get a pocket sketchbook and a relatively soft pencil in the high B range, 6B or 4B, a good dark smeary one. Also some pens to stick in your pocket. Sketch fast, don't try to get too detailed, just draw anything that interests you at the moment. Use it whenever you have to wait. Every waiting room is a chance to practice and it's a lot less boring than just waiting. I usually get in some quick studies whenever I have a medical appointment because I will spend time in the waiting room and hate waiting.

This is true in many of those other situations. Waiting for someone to come over and see the house? Sketch something, like the shape of the room if the furniture wasn't there or one table or something. When sketching, stay in the same position seated or standing. Your eye height will change the perspective. That's what creates the horizon, it's not imaginary but it's where your eyes are in relation to what you actually see. You don't have to see where the horizon lines would converge, sometimes that's not on the page. You just have to be able to imagine it and be consistent about it.

Another thing to put in your pocket or purse, since you're a lady you can carry some stuff, a handful of interesting pebbles. Then if there's nothing interesting in the waiting room you can sketch one or two of them, just set it out on something and draw them.

Do fast sketching. I got much better accuracy in freehand life sketching after I learned how much could be drawn in a timed one or two minute gesture sketch with a model. Whenever interrupted just leave that one unfinished and move on to the next. It's okay to do that. You will get faster that way and this is sketching, not drawing.

I learned to draw meticulously and accurately with a real scientist for a first teacher, he was concerned with accuracy above all. In a sense I had a pre-camera childhood because most of that early drawing experience was about having a sketchbook when you don't have a camera. The more often I draw a familiar subject, the better and more accurate I am with it. I'm currently doing a 2015 Cat Study, heading deep into my specialty to gain even more nuances of cat motion and expression and behavior. Anything feline will do. I hope to be able to do motion poses from observation, where I don't even get a minute of seeing him swipe at the feather wand but remember it clearly enough to choose one representative stage of the repeated motion to sketch.

For sketching to paint, you could also get the little matchbox set of Conte sticks or the little six color tin I got from Blick, tiny enough to pocket. Conte sketching comes closer to pencil sketching but stays in the realm of pastel and does allow quick smudge shading. Wet wipes may help with staying clean but if your sketchbook is any bigger than an ATC the Conte sketching is good.

It may be scary sketching in ballpoint pen without being able to erase, but that's good too because it will let you abandon a sketch after learning something from it. I do a lot of pen sketching without pencil now because I started doing that and it helps. To my delight, I've found out that this sketching thing allows me to use sketches as references. There comes a point where I don't need the photo and can do the painting from my drawing, since the act of drawing something also helps clarify your visual memory.

And take lots of phone pictures. If you carry photos of loved ones that's another source of something to draw in waiting rooms. Just anything that takes your fancy. Vases and potted plants and things are good, or people waiting with you. Watercolor pencils on multimedia sketchbooks allow a bit of color or color notes in the sketching. Half a dozen in spectrum colors is enough to get a good idea of color in sketching, the Derwent bubble pack color choices seem to be particularly good mixers for that. I found that out when I got a six-pack of Coloursoft free thrown in with a tin of 24 and stuck the freebies in my pocket. They mix well.

But basically keep some small sketching supplies on you whenever you go out. Any minute that you're stuck waiting is a chance to get in a sketch.

01-20-2015, 07:58 AM
Hey I'm an Ag related major too...veterinarian. Anyway I was always told I couldn't be an artist because I couldn't draw but I found out while doing a bucket list after being diagnosed with brain cancer that you can be taught or learn to draw! I found that drawing something that I know literally inside and out really helped me! I started in graphites and blending sticks to learn edges and perspective and shadows. I started drawing dogs and wow I was good at that and with time I've begun portraits of people. I'm still working in landscapes I can't seem to get them even for backgrounds. But once again I'm best at drawing something I know and I'm passionate about. But be careful to draw what's there or what you see not what you know is there or should be there! Good luck and read read read and practice practice practice!