View Full Version : Drawing Talent

06-20-2005, 02:27 PM
While I have many artist friends who could whip out a realistic, perfectly proportioned drawing in about 5 min. (since they were 11 or so), I struggle greatly with this. I know, I should be sketching daily. But recently I found a really great Basset picture, and it is obvious even to my husband (this is really bad since he knows 'nothing' about art) he says the proportions are all wrong. I have attempted this drawing about 7 times- no kidding. It still is not right. Since I can no longer work at a job due to a disability, I am feeling extreme guilt at finally trying to do my dream and do artwork, spending way too much on supplies- since everyone tells me I can't do good art with bad supplies, then have this frustrating lack of talent where it counts the most- an accurate drawing! I have taken classes off and on over the years, and it really has just not helped. Does anyone else out there struggle like mad with drawing? Do I just lack the natural talent it takes, or will 10 more years of working like mad all day finally make the difference? I cannot seem to see my mistakes until I finish the drawing! One friend who is a natural artist said all my drawings seem to look 'cartoonish' which would be great if I was trying to do a cartoon!

CM Neidhofer
06-20-2005, 02:33 PM
If I could make a suggestion....try using the grid method. I use it a lot when I'm stuck and just can't seem to "get it right." Especially with a portrait, which is still my coninuing nemesis. Some may say it's cheating, but even the greatest artists used the grid method. It will help you get proportion correct and line up "landmarks" so to speak so you can get the drawing right.


06-20-2005, 03:36 PM
Hi there,

I know the feeling. I am like you, struggle a lot with drawing. Once the drawing is on paper I have no problems. My art teacher mentioned the grid method. I haven't used it yet. The other thing you can do is put your picture on the computer in one of the photo editing programmes. One of the options is pencil sketch. If you apply that you can much better see how the lines run. Hope you understand what I am trying to say. I am not sure whether I am ever so clear.
It seems to help me a lot. The last thing you can do is print this pencil sketch and transfer it on to your paper.
There is even a special computer programme nowadays. Have a look at this website.www.artelligentmedia.com/artworksb1.html. I wonder if anybody has any experience with this programme and knows whether it is any good.
Sketching every day helps as well. I do it a lot at the moment and it seems to help. I have got a lot of pictures stored on my computer. I try to sketch half an hour a day and I use my pictures on the computer for that. Once I feel reasonably confident I want to start sketching outside.

I don't think it is cheating. The result counts. Nobody knows how you got there. I think a lot of artists use all sorts of methods to get their initial drawing on paper.

I sympathize with you.



06-20-2005, 04:38 PM
thank you both very much, will try the grid method, which I have seen and forgot all about, and will have a look at the software. I think the image library has this software, or something like it, but I have a cute greeting card I was trying to draw.

06-20-2005, 04:57 PM
I used to teach a class called "I Can't Draw"- and the problem is, you're drawing what you KNOW something is- not what you SEE. Good drawing skills are really just a good ability to SEE how something looks, rather than what something *is*. Take your pic of the puppy and your drawing, and hold them both up to a mirror side-by-side- you'll SEE exactly where something is "off", and I'll bet even money it's mostly areas which are to your eye "common": "Oh- it's about this long", and "A dog's nose is like an upside down heart". These kinds of observations only work once you've learned how to SEE what is there, rather than what something *is*.

Tips: Try tracing the major portions of the dog- over and over, until you start seeing the lines rather than the dog. Then try drawing it looking at both your picture and the tracing. Get an apple, put it in front of a mirror, and draw it from what you see in the mirror- draw what you SEE- not what it is. An apple isn't simply a round shape- it has flat areas and protruding areas and these observations are what makes it an apple rather than a peach. Next, get a black and white photo of something simple- a chair or a hand- you can find pics like this in magazines. Keep it simple right now- and draw it- over and over- look and look and look again where the major shapes come together: "The crease in the thumb is directly below the first knuckle but the fingertip is extended beyond and below the tip of the thumb." For a challenge, find a pic in a magazine of a rocks glass full of ice cubes and liquor- you know the kind- and draw the major colour shapes in it- crop into it so you have an abstract and it isn't a "thing", and copy the shapes you see in it. Really and truly, while some people do have a drawing talent- much the way some have a mathematical talent or a musical talent- the *skill* drawing is learnable through PRACTICE.

Drawing daily is a good idea, but not always practical, and it surely makes one feel kinda- I dunno- lazy and dumb, sometimes. But drawing is the underpinning of any 2-D art- you MUST be able to accurately SEE what you are trying to catch.

You'll do fine once you teach yourself how to see; and you do that by practicing seeing.

I just pm'd this to you, so you'll read it twice- but that won't hurt any, promise.

06-20-2005, 05:06 PM
Applebee, I noticed the link you mentioned above. They have an ad here and I've checking it out. I wonder if anyone has actually tried this software????


06-20-2005, 05:10 PM

Ok, I think this is going to be a bit long and you know that I've got little experience, but will try to give my best opinion.
First of all let me tell that I never had art classes and I consider that my drawing capabilities are poor.
Depending on what kind of painting you want to do, the drawing capabilities will be more or less important. As far as I know it is a fact that in classic art schools, usual in oils, a student does NOT go into painting before he REALLY knows how to draw. Of course I'm talking about those state of the art course like one has in Florence or even in USA.
I don't know what you prefer to draw/paint, but I have this book «Drawing Landscapes in 10 Easy Lessons» from Phil Metzger, that I consider pretty well written for a beginner like me. He's also the author of «Pespaective without pain». Of course that animals is another story.
Of course that we all are better at this and worse at that but with the right teaching we can be good at anything, I suppose.
Mind you that when I look at those great pastel paintings I don't think «I will never be abble to do that». What I think is «I want to be abble to do that». Altough I know it's most unliquely.
I've notice that you haven't posted for a while or on a regular basis; you MUST show us your paintings.
Now about that grid thing. I must confess that I don't have patience for that but I wonder if you know this. I suppose you do but here it goes.
You can build a vertical grid that you will place between you and the subject.
This can be done with strings. Then you use another grid with the same characteristics for drawing.
I would advise you to do searches about what you want to know in the site about.com. I've learned alot there.
And now to end all this bla bla bla, SHOW US YOUR WORKS !

Best regards,


P.S. have you asked for help at the drawing forum ? If not, why not ?

06-20-2005, 05:29 PM

I was wondering the same. It looks interesting but wondered whether in fact it would do different things than the usual photo editing programmes like psp or photoshop elements.


06-20-2005, 06:21 PM
I did not know about the drawing forum- seldom look at the TOC other than pastels. SweetBabyJ- I will try the line tracing and mirror idea- sounds great. I have not been drawing much, other than a series of cactus, most of which I did not like- have had too much stuff going on with the kids and a disasterous garage sale! When I touch up my cactus floweres, I will post that one.

06-20-2005, 07:10 PM
ok, have posted last pastel in the weekly pastel forum.....

06-20-2005, 07:39 PM
Okay, I looked at it. Seems like you have the actual "drawing" part just fine, your shapes all correspond to the proper dimension/direction; what the piece lacks is "form"- and you do that with values and colour.

Value is how light or dark a colour is, and colours can be warm and come forward, or cool and recede. Don't ask which is who, 'cause it doesn't work that way- if I told you "warms are usually yellow-thru-reds and cools are usually blues and purples" I'd be lyin' 'cause I can make a cool yellow and shove it right back into the background, or make a lavender pop into your face. Temperature tones are all relative.

Nowyou used three different colours of green on the cacti, but didn't change their value much- squint at it and see. When you squint, the colour of something kinda disappears, and all you can see is is value. In between those cacti leaves, it should be quite dark compared to at their tips where they are obviously coming out at the viewer. If you need to, take a picture of the cacti, and in an editing program, turn it into grayscale and see; then take your painting and turn it to grayscale and check to see if you went as dark- and as light- as the reference photo.

Each leaf *should* have at least two values- one darker than the other- on it- and if you look and look, it is those values which give it form and keep it from looking "flat" and "cartoonish" to you. You can also use a piece of red cellophane to look through- the red will turn the whole thing into a kind of red-grayscale, and you'll be able to spot your values very easily.

Here is your painting in grayscale- see how eachindividual leaf is the same value pretty much all over?


In PS, I tried to show you how to put some lights and darks on individual leaves to give them form- problem is, my colours don't match yours, and my by-hand cursor work surely isn't as smooth as your- but you get the idea, I think:


Dont' be afraid to go pretty dark- it's pretty easy to lighten a dark, and much harder to darken a light. I'd use dark purples and dark greens-purple will make the yellows in the lighter greens *pop* nicely, and the dark green will make the purple read as "green".

06-20-2005, 08:46 PM
SweetBabyJ- yes, I see what you mean- and I never understood although I have read it what 'value' really was about. The actual photo had most of the colors the same- but it had shaded areas and some brighter areas that were highlights. Since I did not think I could do something all the same color, I made the different angles different colors, but the shading was much more like you have it, and the color of purple and yellow will certainly make it a better painting. I just read part of a painting book that said to squint a lot to see values- but I really see no difference. I have extreme vision problems and this is common, as with the red film, or seeing 3D. Perhaps that is why I tend to 'flatten' things out- that is how I see them...but the basset is improved (can't post it here it is in watercolor ha), and I will work on rejuvinating the cactus tomorrow.
thanks so much!

06-20-2005, 10:12 PM
While I have many artist friends who could whip out a realistic, perfectly proportioned drawing in about 5 min. (since they were 11 or so), I struggle greatly with this.

Boy, do I struggle with this too. My kid sister is one of those who could whip out one of this prefectly proportioned pictures in 5 minutes since she was 11 or so, and boy did it do a number on me. I was the older sister and was struggling like crazy to do what she could do without even thinking!

That was the main thing that kept me totally away from art for about 35 years! Now I'm trying to get back but it's a struggle all the way. When it's something really scary I have tried the grid method, and it's helped. Here's a picture I used the grid method on. I don't think it actually turned out very well, but the point is I would never had DARED attempt it without the grid method, which did help me a lot, even though the final picture was not nearly what I'd hoped it would be.

Debbie C.

06-20-2005, 10:25 PM
WOW- I really like that picture! I love the colors and the perspective seems really good. Isn't it amazing the effect your siblings and parents have on you? My older sister became a teacher, which is what I wanted to be besides an artist, so I majored in physics then geology because she could not do that LOL.

06-20-2005, 11:34 PM
Your drawing is really quite winderful- even if you say it wasn't what you were hoping for. Each house has its own personality, these funny little houses enjoying themselves under a big grey sky.
To use a cliche, childrens drawings can be really wonderful because they put down on paper something other than what they see. It is the impact on them that things have that they put down on the paper. Their big brother is really big, the house and trees are a symbol not a realistic rendering. But then we all grow up to be teenagers and get #2 pencils and draw the edge of everything and get really discouraged if things aren't drawn right. The problem is how to get past that. To get the energy that children have back into the drawings. There is no poetry in getting things to look right, the poetry is getting them to feel right.

Piper Ballou
06-21-2005, 12:30 AM
Purples- you are getting wonderful advice here, and what is nice about this, I am learning a lot too, thank you for posting the questions
Have you ever read, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, cannot remember who wrote it but it is an excellent resource.

Debbie, I too love you houses

06-21-2005, 12:38 AM
hello purples,
there is a wonderful book by betty edwards called 'drawing on the right side of the brain' it is super helpful, you can probably find it at the library if you don't want to spend any $, but it is available in paperback. there are good drawing exercises in it, one of which is to turn whatever you are trying to draw upside down, so your brain no longer sees 'things' but instead, the shapes of things. it will really help, and you can teach an old dog, because i'm one!
looks like starjoy and i crossposted, re this book. get it!

06-21-2005, 02:38 AM
Hi Piper and Serra- I have had that book so long on my shelf I forgot about it. I do remember the upside down exercise though. I will have to dust it off and actually read it, I know I skimmed it but must have been close to 20 years ago.

Karl- I have a large framed picture of colorful fish- drawn by a 4th grader that I have had for about 18 years. I believe that is why I love folk art- it is very childlike.

SweetBabyJ- I truly love the edits you made, and am going to try that ASAP

06-21-2005, 04:53 AM
I can relate to this "lack of drawing ability" thing. I realize, though, for me, that I am not jazzed about drawing, I don't really enjoy it. Being the rebel that I am, I also decided I could just do what does make my heart sing. There is something to be said for following one's heart. I absolutely know I need help with my drawing skills, but I don't have a strong desire to sit and draw unless there is color involved. I see plenty of art styles that are wonderful with crooked buildings and so forth. If you are going for absolute realism, then I suppose drawing is a must. I have found many creative and flowing outlets for my art that don't involve detailed drawing ability and I am just happy with that. Of course, I am not trying to make a living at art either. I just think it is important that we do what really makes us joyful, because life is so short.


Deborah Secor
06-21-2005, 12:49 PM
Interesting discussion, one that I find timely since just yesterday I published a class I'll be teaching in mid-July on drawing nature! I've been wanting to teach a drawing class but with my regular teaching schedule it was impossible, so I decided to do a short summer class.

I was NOT one of those kids who could draw naturally from the beginning. I had to learn how to draw! I had already graduated with an art degree, yet I found that in all my 'training' (or lack thereof) no one ever taught me to draw, or even expected me to be able to do it... I learned how to do it by doing it. What Julie was saying about 'seeing' versus drawing what you think was so key to the development of my drawing skills. I could suspend knowing and see every now and then, which was sort of like 'getting lucky' in my drawing, but that frustrated me, too! I wanted to draw, not occasionally luck into drawing.

Then I started working in pastels and ended up doing several years with Albert Handell. It was he who made me draw. I was frustrated with my inability to paint trees. He said, "Draw a tree every day for three months." I could use any drawing tool or paper--and after a while I did. I started with the elm tree outside my window, since it was wintertime, and did little studies of the branch. Soon I was pulling out big sheets of paper and using marker pens. Some days I drew fast, some days very slowly and carefully. I learned every nuance of that one branch. I branched out (pun intended--go ahead and groan) soon to other trees. But after drawing the darn things for three months, I gotta tell you how much I learned!!! Trees do not baffle me any more.

So I say, practice every day. Don't limit yourself. Use the grid, turn a photo upside down, draw from a blurry picture, do 30 second thumbnails or five minute thumbnails, try conte, charcoal (really fun to draw on sandpaper!!), markers, pen and ink, anything that gets your juices flowing that day. Draw from nature, draw what's in front of you on the breakfast table, draw using photos--just don't get stuck and stop drawing.

I love Betty Edwards' books on drawing, too, and I use a lot of her exercises. In fact, when I get blocked, I go immediately to her books and just draw. It seems to unstick something in my brain, freeing me of the need to make something look 'right' and simply allowing my hand to record what my brain sees.

I think this is part of why I love pastels, because they are a drawing medium that's painting in color! What other medium does that? Very freeing for me...but I did have to learn how to draw. Yet working in pastels was the vehicle for learning to draw, not the other way around. So I believe practicing drawing every day AND painting in pastels can go hand in hand. That's the way I teach pastels, anyway.

I'm going to be keeping an eye on this thread, since I'm teaching this drawing class. I'll be interested to see what has worked for you all!

(Good thread...let's rate it so it goes into the library!)


06-21-2005, 03:35 PM
Well, the first picture that was so frustrating to me was a basset puppy, and just could not get the proportions right to save my soul (since my mother in law sent it as a card- I called and told her she was in deep trouble for sending somthing so cute).... but after trying SweetBabyJ's methods and the grid method, it is much better (I am watercoloring it). The cactus was not that hard to draw (after all, it could really look like anything and not be noticable that I made a mistake) but once the black and white and enhanced (shaded) black and white was posted, I could see that I have been avoiding shading most things since about high school- hence the 'flat' 'cartoonish' look to my work. Shading does not come naturally to me either- someone will ask where was the sun coming from, and I say huh? I have no idea. I like folk art and children's art, but WOULD like to be able to really draw realistically without one simple drawing taking all day. So thank you everyone for the wonderful imput, which I will use again and again!

06-21-2005, 03:45 PM
You might want to try simple still life set-ups with a lamp set to one side or another so you can learn to spot the shadows and highlights more easily. One of my problems with art has been my inability to convince my hubby that high noon is NOT the time to go plein airing! He just never understood it, but with all the colors flattened out it is MUCH harder to paint the scene.

06-21-2005, 04:50 PM
Purples, have you been on this website already?
www.drawright.com It is interesting.


06-21-2005, 05:12 PM
Marina- that looks really cool! I will check it out- thanks. Sooz, if your husband thinks high noon is a good time to paint, have him mow the lawn then in the summer- actually I am REALLY kidding as he might have another heart attack.