Is it better to learn how to draw digitally or with traditional media?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had this question come up over the years. I think it is indicative of a lot of common beliefs about learning any new skill. Naturally, in this day and age, people often gravitate to the latest technology in hopes that by spending more money it will improve their skills. In some regards this is true, for instance, I think it’s important to have decent paint (see this video about oil painting supplies) . But when it comes to learning the basics fundamentals of drawing, a stack of copy paper and a pencil are your best friends. There’s a couple reasons why I believe this.

Undo Undo Undo

For centuries Art Academies across the world have relied upon a simple trick to build confidence in their drawing students. They make them use pen and ink. And what is it about pen and ink that helps those wishing to learn how to draw? Well, it forces students to commit to their lines. Just 20 years ago when I studied at the  Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Connecticut I was forbidden by my drawing instructor to even use an eraser.  Today we have a much more insidious form of an eraser, and it is Ctrl-Z, or the ability to undo every mark we make. It makes beginners much more careless with their mark making, and they kind of just keep hacking away at a drawing hoping that one of the marks finally works out.  Now, this isn’t to say that digital painting and drawing don’t have their place. They certainly do, and have their own benefits as tools. However, if we are talking about learning how to draw, then I think that starting off digitally has a lot more drawback and strengths. Another aspect of drawing with real ink, as opposed to digitally is that it forces to get you into the mindset of practising. Students hate to hear this, they want to labor away on one piece for months and end up with something good. I’ve seen them, they are actually OK drawings in the end. But the problem is that they took 3 months to make.  The same student would raise their abilities much faster by doing hundreds of studies and “crappy” drawings on copy paper (or whatever cheap paper you can find).  Digital painting and drawing lend themselves as a medium to more laborious tasks.  By their very nature they have a proclivity to make students fiddle around with their drawings more.



When i started my foundation studies at the Academy I was immediately thrown into uncharted waters. I thought I had a good grasp of drawing since I did it quite often, and was better than many of my peers. But then came my first life size figure drawing class, and it totally rocked my world. For years, I had learned to draw with my wrist and fingers. With large format drawings I was forced to use my whole arm. I may as well have been drawing with my foot! Using my whole arm seemed unnatural and was frustrating, but then, as the months went on, I saw the benefits of it. For one, working large forces a student to really think about the movement they are making, and the gesture of the figure becomes more apparent. And this doesn’t only pertain to those who wish to become painters. It also is relevant to those who wish to go into entertainment design or animation. The gesture is at the heart of animation and character design, and it is essential for painters to get the rhythm into their works. With those working on tablets, many times (unless they have a huge Cintiq) they are working on a small surface. They are bound by the size of the tablet, and can’t increase the size of their drawing surface (Of course they can zoom into a drawing. An actual benefit of digital work) .  Ask anyone who reviews portfolios for an animation studio and they’ll tell you that they want to see both finished work, as well as work in progress that displays a student’s gestural approach to the drawing as well.


Sketchbooks can easily be put into a backpack and you don’t have to worry about them getting broken, or running out of battery. As someone wishing to learn how to draw my best advice is to simply draw from observation, and practice it daily. It can be just 20 to 30 minutes. Maybe, like me, you have a commute on public transportation every day. This is the perfect opportunity to draw people around you. Or go to a cafe and whip out your sketchbook and begin drawing. The same can’t be said for those who wish to work only digitally. Unless you want to take out a tablet, your computer, get the glare off the screen, and then balance everything while you try to draw. A simple sketchbook is a better option which is also cheaper, more discrete, and more mobile.

Benefits of traditional media

Scientific studies have shown that students who takes notes with a pen and paper actually retain more information and have a better grasp of the material than those who do so digitally or with laptops. The reason being that doing so is a bit more difficult and forces your brain to “exercise” more while consuming the information. By using a pen and paper, it also forces a student to confront the environment in which they are in and try to render it on a two dimensional surface. Working from photos isn’t the end of the world, as some claim, but in general if you are just starting out, then it is far more beneficial to draw from observation. If you use source photos that’s fine, but use them correctly, to study planar changes on a model or quick value studies. You can download my free drawing e books here, and print these out for next to nothing. They contain a photo, and an are right next to it where you can draw the photo which you are looking at. All of the students in my first semester drawing course are required to finish 100 of these drawings on their own in additional to the coursework covered in class. It’s great to have something compact like this which is a clear record of your work. Of course with digital media you can just put all your jpegs into folders and look at them on your computer, but I think there’s something to be said for the act of reviewing your progress page by page, in a sketchbook you hold in your hand. There’s a clear beginning and end, and you should be able to see yourself improve page by page.

To sum things up, I think it’s important to remember that new technologies in digital painting and drawing are always just tools. Nothing more, nothing less. Somebody who gets a hundred thousand dollar violin won’t magically become a better violinst. And in the same regard, someone who spends a lot of money on state of the art equipment won’t necessarily hone their skills any faster. At a certain point, of course there are advantages to drawing digitally. Particularly for those interested in Entertainment Design. But at it relates to painting and drawing in a Fine Art context, pen and paper are still king.  Not to mention that my colleagues, students, and friends who have all landed the dream jobs at major animation studios and production companies had one thing in common. They could all paint, sculpt, or draw really well. A fellow student I went to school with ended up working for Industrial Light and Magic, and he was hired without having a lick of computer abilities. He was simply an amazing sculptor with a strong foundation in figurative studies. So, don’t discount traditional media as being something only relevant in the past, it is still something which can help your drawing and painting abilities soar in their infancy. If you want to get a tablet later it’s fine. I use one to refine my sketches for TShirt designs and other more commercial projects. But practice, and learn to draw with good old fashioned pen and paper. Transferring the skills you learn will take literally a matter of hours to a digital format.

How To Shade

How To Shade

Continuing our exploration of the elements of drawing/painting now leads us to Value and how to shade. Value is the term we use when referring to how dark or light a shadow is. This is extremely important as we progress towards painting because every color also has a darkness. We will be exploring the value of color in subsequent lessons. This easiest way to understand Value is to think about shading. The “value” is basically how dark the shading is.

Another important thing to remember is that every object because of it’s color will utilize a different section of the value scale. In the interest of clarity we will assign each differnt darkness on the value scale a number. 0 will be the darkest dark and 10 will be the lightest light.  Thinking this way enables us to see what range of values we will need to utilize in our drawings.  A black bowling ball in low lighting will have a value scale of around 0 to 6, while a snowman in the sun will have a value scale of around 4 to 10.  It is impotant to know where the objects we are drawing lie on the value scale because we want to accurately portray what is in front of our eyes. It is quite common that during figure drawing sessions that a beginning student will make the entire drawing all too dark. Making a caucasian model appear as if they were of African decent.

Drawing # 17 Value Scales

For this drawing you will be utilizing the grid below. Print out the grid provided and do your best to shade the values as close as possible. You can apply shade in a number of ways. As you can see in the example below the student has utilized different techniques including scribbling, making little circles, holding the pencil on it’s side, pointalism, and cross hatching.  Get creative and explore different ways to apply value to paper.


How To Shade

Now that we have some practice matching values we can move on to applying what we’ve learned here to a drawing. Find an image (photograph) which has a broad range of values. Print it out (or you can use a photo or magazine image) .  It is important that you also have a printed out value scale at this point, or you can use the one you just shaded. As you look at your image – hold up the value scale right up against the image and find out how dark you will need to render the drawing. Be careful when looking at your lights (whites). Many times what you may assume is the whitest white ( 10 ) on the value scale will be closer to a light gray ( 7 ) .  It is not necessary to include all 10 values in one drawing. When you are starting out just try to get three or four different values in your drawing. The more values you can realistically render, the more realistic the drawing will look.

Drawing #18 – Value Drawing from a printed image  (charcoal)

Set aside an hour and half of time and try to copy the images major values as accurately as possible. Start off with gray paper.  You can buy gray paper, or rub down a white sheet of paper with charcoal and rub it in with a tissue until the entire page is a silvery gray.  Start off plotting out where the darkest darks go and work towards the light. If you are using gray paper then you can use white chalk to render your lights. If you made your paper gray by rubbing it down with charcoal you can use your eraser as a drawing tool and you will simply erase your lights.  You can use charcoal pencils, or the old fashioned sticks. Once the drawing is finished you can”fix” the drawing by spraying it with an aerosol hairspray. This will prevent the drawing from smudging. There are commercial fixatives available but there’s nothing wrong with just using hairspray.

How many different values can you see represented in the example drawing below? Before you learn how to shade you must learn how to see different values. Once you can look around a room, and imagine that everything is black and white, then you will know that you can draw virtually anything. How to shade is in reference to a technique such as cross hatching, or scribbling.


copy of a duane kassan drawing

Drawing Skills: Measuring

Drawing Skills: Measuring

Lesson 9

This lesson will deal with learning how to improve your drawing skills by creating a unit of measurement for drawing. You will use your pencil to measure and draw a still life which will be set up in front of you. In the first drawing by Honore Daumier you can see that the practice goes back many hundreds of years. People still use it, because it works.


All you have to do is hold a pencil or brush at arms length, close one eye, and move your thumb up or down the pencil to make a measurement. then compare that measurement to something else. Check out these two photos of me measuring distances between points on my guitar.
Here I measure from the bottom of the hole to where the neck meets the body.


I then keep my thumb in the same place on the pen, and compare my first measurement against the new one.  Now I can make a better estimate as to how wide I need to draw the guitar.  Judging from this photo it is about 1 and 1/3 pens wide at that point.  Now correlate these measurements onto the paper in front of you. Remember, you don’t have to draw it to the scale of your pen measurements. Once you’ve committed to the first initial marks on your drawing you have already created a measuring system.Your units can be whatever size you desire. Widgets

Drawing #16 – Measuring and drawing a corner of the room.

For this drawing I want you to draw a corner of the room while using this technique. Set aside one hour of time for this drawing and keep measuring and drawing until the hour expires commander viagra belgique.  Remember that it is important to get a base unit of  measurement first!

Drawing Form

Drawing Form

Lesson 8

Now that we have got a good grasp of line, and the importance of varying our lines in our drawing we are going to continue on to another huge element of drawing/painting. That important element is form.  Correctly understanding form will give your paintings/drawings more depth. Traditionally schools have taught students to look for four key forms. These are The Cube, The Cylinder, The Sphere,  and variations and combinations of these forms.


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Using combinations of these three basic forms can enable to draw virtually anything on the planet. It is no mistake that all of the 3D animation software available on the market utilizes these three forms. So why is this important for drawing and painting? So far we’ve been examining what we can see with our own eyes and trying to duplicate it, however, we must remember that we are trying to render the 3 dimensional world onto a 2 dimensional surface. These common forms are like letters which create words. To put it simply our brains know how to read these forms when we see them. Widgets

I want you to start seeing everything as if it were transparent in an attempt to better understand the underlying form which holds it all together. For hundreds of years people in figure drawing classes will often stand up and look at both sides of the model which they are drawing. They do this because they want to see how the whole form works together.  The angle from which you look at a subject is important, and as an artist you want to gather as much information as possible about the subject you are drawing. That means thinking about what you can’t see, as well as can see. Keep your edges soft and rounded. We don’t want anyone to get hurt if your creature runs into them.

Drawing #15 Industrial Drawing of an animal

For this drawing I want you to find a picture of an animal, and draw it only using these basic forms. Think of yourself as if you are making a schematic drawing.  You want to make a detailed blueprint of this animal because you are going to put it into a rocketship and blast it off to a foreign planet. Where no one knows what a French Bulldog (or the animal of your choice) looks like. 😉

This lesson is especially great for those interested in pursuing a career in 3d animation. Most people don’t realize, but all those characters in all of those big budget animation films start off with a sketch. That’s right. Good old fashioned pen and paper.

You may take up to 2 hours to complete this drawing. Make it as detailed as possible.


Line Variation

Line Variation

Lesson 7

Line Variation.

Drawing #13 “Line Variation Shoe”

In these drawings you are going to be exploring line variation. It is important that the lines in your drawings have varying thicknesses. Because of its versatility and ability to make highly varied lines we will be using a brush and ink. This will make the drawing appear more lively and dynamic. Later on will start exploring how different line thicknesses can also give a drawing “weight” but for this first drawing just trust your intuition and vary the thickness of your line. Before you start the shoe drawing I want you to fill up a page full of extremely varied squiggly lines. Get used to your brush and the type of line it makes, how it responds to different pressures. Then, once you feel comfortable you are going to move onto drawing your shoe. You may feel a bit of trepidation when you start the shoe drawing

line-variation Widgets

because ink is so permanent, and there’s no eraser. This should only make you concentrate harder. If you screw up a line, don’t worry about it. Remember the practice is the most important thing at this point and not the finished drawing. Take 5 minutes to fill up a page full of squiggly, highly varied, lines, and then another hour doing at least two shoe drawings.


Sketchbook: Drawing #14 “Line Variation Braids”

For this drawing you are going to have use you imagination. You are going to be creating an abstract drawing with form using nothing but line, and your brush. The structure of the drawing is simple viagra achat france. The bigger fatter lines come as all the lines converge at a certain point. You can make the shapes any way you want but just play with the thicknesses of your lines


Observational Drawings

Observational Drawings

Lesson 6

Gesture Drawings and Observation

In the following drawings we are going to work at getting loosened up. One problem many students encounter is that the more they concentrate, the harder the hold the pencil, the stiffer their arm becomes, and the tighter the drawings look.

We are going to loosen up our drawings by loosening up our arms. Before you sit down do some simple arm stretches and take some deep breaths. Sit down at a comfortable table and begin by drawing these circle spirals across the page. I used to have to do these as a child in a penmanship class. But I still find that it is a great way to get loosened up for drawing. When doing this exercise it is important to make the circles by moving your entire arm. Don’t get all tightened up and draw with your wrist. Your arm should bend at the shoulder when drawing. This is why it is very common in beginning drawing classes to work on very large pieces of paper. You have 5 minutes to fill up a page full of these spiral circles.


Now that you’re loosened up it’s time to jump into the gesture drawings. A gesture drawing is more about drawing what something feels like, rather than trying to depict exactly what you see in front of you. It’s more about direction, weight, and speed, rather than measuring and perspective. You are capturing a fleeting glimpse of an object. Be careful not to think that just because you are drawing fast, that that means you are doing gesture drawings. This isn’t the case. A good gesture drawing is fast, but it also captures the gesture of the object itself.

Drawing #10 “30 Gesture Drawings”

The first part of this drawing assignment requires you to collect thirty small objects from around your house. These can be absolutely anything. Small knick knacks, matchbooks, remote controls, pens, forks, shoes, hairspray, etc. Collect everything together and put it on a table. The second thing you need is a stack of cheap paper. This could be newsprint, copy paper, or some paper you pulled out of the recycling bin. Now, you are going to be drawing each item seperately. You will get one minute for each drawing so try to capture the essence of what that thing “is” in that minute. Think about the physicality of the object. How the edges swoop in fast before jutting back at our the rim. I always think about skiing when I’m doing these drawings. Imagine a little skier sliding down the contours of all these little objects. My pencil follows the movement of the little skier and slides in tandem with him. Swooooooop! Here comes the bunny hill! It’s possible that your brain will start to strain at times, this is good! feel the burn. You have 30 minutes for 30 drawings. GO!

Observational Drawings

Made it through? Now may be a good time to take a little break and give your brain a chance to rest. Sometimes drawing will make you feel like you’re cramming for a test. It’s ok. You are simply using parts of your brain to complete a task it isn’t used to yet. Nothing beats practice. You will be amazed at the improvements you can make by just devoting 30 minutes a day to drawing.

For the second part of this Assignment we are going to be doing our longest observational drawing that we’ve had so far.

Drawing #11 “Observational Still Life: Small Objects”

Time Required: 1 Hour

Arrange all of your small items on a table in front of you. Create a strong light source coming from one angle. This can be achieved with a small desk lamp or even by sitting near a window and turning off the lights. Just make sure that your objects have some sort of interesting lighting going on. In the two images below you can see what a big difference the way we light the scene can effect the mood of the drawing. But more importantly, we want our light to say as much as possible about the objects we are representing. I can’t stress how important lighting is in terms of painting and drawing.


In this image the shadows tell us a lot of information about the underlying form.

In this image we have light coming from multiple angles. There are virtually no cast shadows, and while the colors are brighter (the result of blasting the objects with multiple lamps) we aren’t given a lot of information about the forms themselves. If possible experiment with positioning the light in different directions and look at how the light changes the way we see the forms.


Now that you’ve got your lighting set, and your objects arranged, you are going to do a drawing of your “still life”. You have up to an hour to complete this. Squint your eyes! When you squint your eyes it is easier to find areas of shadow. It is ok to exaggerate how dark some of your shadows are. If you are familiar with photoshop you can make the comparison to taking up the contrast on an image. Which means making your darks darker, and your lights lighter. This drawing will be done in pencil.

Sketchbook: Drawing#12 “Rembrandt Copy”

For this sketchbook assignment you will be completing a copy of a self portrait by the famous 17th cenutry Dutch painter Rembrandt. The reason I chose this drawing is because it has a very loose gestural feel to it. You simply cannot do this drawing with a tight hand, so get your arm loosened up and jump in! You can do this drawing in pen and ink, or pencil.


Click on image for larger version

Symbols of Drawing

Symbols of Drawing

Lesson 5

Negating and Identifying Powerful Symbols

Drawing #8 Find an image of anyone. Could be a famous person, could be a relative. Doesn’t matter who. But try to find an image that is at least is decently lit. You are going to stare at this image for three minutes. Trying to take in every little detail you can. Then, after three minutes is up I want you to put the photo away and draw the person from memory. You have 20 minutes. You may begin.

STOP! You must complete drawing #8 before you go any further.


We are surrounded by symbols in this day and age. We may even react to them without knowing. A red octagonal sign means “Stop!” all over the world. Other basic symbols tell us where the elevator is or where to run in case of fire. The most common type of symbol we see in every day life is something called a pictogram. In the pictogram below it is very easy to understand that this is a washroom for both women, men, and handicapped accessible.


While these types of symbols can be great for communicating basic messages they cause big problems for drawings. Here’s one of the most important things to remember in this entire course. If you want to learn how to draw you have to stop thinking about what it “is” that you are drawing, and instead think of what you are drawing as a giant puzzle of shapes, shadows, and lines. So, if you’re drawing an elephant, don’t think of the trunk as a trunk, but instead the elephant trunk is just an abstract mass of shadow and line. This is what it means to start “seeing” like an artist.


Let’s look at an example of a student’s work who also did the “Drawing from Memory” assignment. In the first image we see the original image the student was working from.


Symbols of Drawing

In the memory drawing we get a good feeling for how the student makes certain features of the face. It is important to identify these symbols for “eyes” and “nose” so we can catch them when they sneak into places that we don’t want. Everyone has a certain sets of symbols they use to construct drawings (especially portraits). Later on we can use these symbols to our benefit, so we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. But for now we need to identify what our habits are, and what symbols we use. This way we can stop using symbols for “eyes” and “noses” and start to really look at the shadow shapes present which give the illusion of an eye or a nose.

Drawing #9 “Drawing A Portrait from a Photo” (Sideways)

For this drawing you are going to be drawing from the image that you memorized for your first drawing. But as always, there’s a twist. We really want to stop your brain from naming everything it’s drawing so you will be drawing the portrait on it’s side. No, you don’t have to stand on your head, instead just turn the image on its side (see example below). For the shading you will be making simple left to right marks. Imagine that you are drawing the way a printer prints. Your pencil makes a simple left to write mark every time it sees an area of shadow. And yes, you may look at the source image.


You can touch up a few small lines indicating direction in the end but try to keep most of the lines moving in the same direction. You have up to an hour for this drawing so take your time. Once finished compare the drawings side by side and it will be obvious what symbols you generally use. Now that they’ve been identified they can be quarantined and perhaps we’ll use them later, but generally, they are just left-overs from what someone told you when you were 14 years old. Forget about them and push forward, you still have to learn all about form, line, value, shape, space, texture, and color. Your old symbols probably won’t be of much help. In fact they are generally the biggest stumbling block for older students to overcome. Learn to draw seeing shadow and light shapes.



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Drawing Lines

Drawing Lines

Lesson 4


Lines don’t exist in reality. Everywhere you look you can see various forms bouncing into other forms, but no lines. This is the first thing to understand about a line. It is completely a creation of the human mind. We understand lines and pictures because we know how to read them. When a line is drawn on a piece of paper it’s intention is to depict the three dimensional world on a two dimensional surface. You are the magician deciphering what you see in reality and transforming it onto a two dimensional surface.

In the following drawing assignments you are going to be exploring contour lines. That means no shading. You are going to be focusing only on the edges of forms and shadows. It is on these edges where your line will wander.

Assignment #2 Contour Line Drawings

Drawing #4 Blind Contour Drawing of your Hand

Sit at a table where your arm is lying comfortably on the surface. Turn to a clean page in your sketchbook. Now I want you to pose your hand. Try to be a bit creative and scrunch up your fingers and position them at interesting angles. Hold your hand in this position. With your other hand place your pencil on a clean page in your sketchbook. Now I want you to begin drawing it. But here’s the catch. You are not going to be looking at your paper. You are going to keep your focus on your hand, and do the drawing looking only at your hand. That’s the “blind” aspect to this drawing. I want you to imagine that your pencil is touching the outward contours of your palm, winding in and out of all those wrinkles, and sliding down those slopes. As your eye moves: Your pencil moves. Think of yourself as Luke Skywalker when he’s on the Millennium Falcon for the first time. And he’s got to use his light saber to fend off lazer shots with his blast shield down. Use the Force! The urge to glance down at your paper will be strong. But don’t fall into the dark side. Just keep your focus on your hand. The good thing about this drawing is that you have absolutely no responsibility to try and make it look “right” at all. Just let the lines wander all over the page as your eye traces the outside contours of your hand. As you can see in the example below, if the drawings look “correct” then you’re not doing it right. You have 20 minutes to make 5 blind contours of your hand. Go!


Drawing #5 –   “50% Blind 50% Looking”

In this drawing I want you to continue to draw while looking at your hand. But you can cheat. With that being said don’t allow yourself to fall completely back into how you would normally draw. Do an outside contour of a finger blind, then regain your positioning, and start again. So half of the time you should be looking at your page and the other half you should be drawing while looking at your hand (blind contour). You have to really slow down in order for this to work. One hand should take you at least 10 minutes. You have thirty minutes to make at least two hands.


Drawing #6 “Finished Contour Line Drawing”

For this drawing you will be positioning your hand once again and drawing it however you wish. Try and remember everything you’ve learned from the last few drawings and now incorporate those ideas into making the best completed drawing of a hand you can do. Don’t worry about shading. It’s still about the contour lines. You can outline areas of shadow if you wish, but please refrain from shading them in. We’ll get to that later. You have 20 minutes.


Rock on.

Drawing #7 “Mucha Copy”

For this drawing you will be copying a master artists work (Alphonse Mucha). I choose Mucha because it’s hard to find anyone with a more elegant and crisp line. Get as much done as you can in an hour. Look at how Mucha varies the thickness of his lines in different areas. This Mucha drawing is extremely difficult, however one must remember that as a student you are training and practicing. You are not obligated to make gorgeous drawings yet. Do your best. You have 1 hour.


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Start Drawing

Start Drawing

Lesson 3

Finding Your Baseline

Before we push forward into the lessons, we need to make a record of exactly where you are at now. This is your baseline. It can be a very daunting task but you are just going to have to jump in and start drawing!

Open your sketchbook and on the first page write the date and sign your name under it. As you sign your name, imagine that you are signing a contract with yourself to give your passions the attention that they deserve. People can have very strong past associations with drawing, and many times students get discouraged because their drawing skills aren’t up to snuff. But instead of buckling down and working hard they give up. This makes it hard for many to start drawing.For whatever reason you’ve made a pact with yourself to learn this new skill. There’s the date, and your name. This marks the beginning of your commitment! enjoy! Now all you have to do is put that pen to paper and start drawing. Don’t worry if it’s terrible, just jump in, and start drawing today!

I understand why drawing can be really hard for some people. Gazing at the white page mustering up the courage to make that first mark. And then suddenly, there your drawing is. Staring right back at you. During this point of reflection it is important to identify if you have any evil inner critic present. An evil critic is a voice in your head that discourages you, and tells you how you don’t know anything. It is great to look at your own drawing and see where you need to make improvements, but don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning.

For your first assignments you will be creating three drawings. You will also get a “sketchbook” assignment which I will explain later. The accompanying images come from students, as well as famous artists. The point being that I don’t want anyone to just copy how I draw. So I’ve tried my best to vary the drawing styles as much as possible.

Assignment #1 : Your Baseline .

Time: 2 Hours

Drawing #1 “Small Object Still Life”

Materials needed: Sketchbook (Click here to buy a Moleskine, but any sketchbook will do). Pencil.

For this assignment you will find a small object, position a light source on it, and draw it. It could be a salt shaker, a little figurine, a toy car, etc. For the light source you can use a desk lamp or even some tall candles. Just make sure the light is coming strong from one direction. If light is streaming in through the window in your kitchen sit down there and draw! Give yourself 20 minutes for this drawing. Set a timer, or an alarm clock.


Drawing #2 “An Interior Space”

Turn to a clean page in your sketchbook. You are going to be drawing an interior space. Let your lines touch the edges of your page. Do the drawing across two pages if you wish. The main concept here is to see how you deal with space. So you can draw shallow space (such as a table with an assortment of objects) or an entire room. You have 30 minutes. Go!


Drawing #3 “A Self Portrait”

This can be the scariest of all the drawings so why not just get it out of the way now! You are going to set up a mirror (even a small pocket mirror set up a meter (3 feet) away is big enough to get your whole face) and then you are going to light yourself. In drawing it is very important to always understand where your light is coming from. The best way to light a model is to use something called “form lighting”. Form lighting (illustrated below for all you visual learners) is when you have a direct light source coming at a fourty-five degree angle above the model.


This gives you a lot of nice cast shadows that fall on the form in a pleasant manner. There are many different ways to set up your lighting and once you get the hang of drawing you can delve more into using the lighting to create mood. But for now lets just stick to using form lighting.

So once you’ve got the lighting set you are going to sit down and draw yourself. Try to have your head take up a good portion of the page. You have 30 minutes.


George Richmond (28 March 1809 – 19 March 1896) English

Sketchbook/Blog Assignment.

You are going to photograph or scan your drawings (instructions on how to photograph your work are below. ) and upload them to your blog. I also want you to make one blog post post about one artist who you admire. It can just be a few short sentences and an image of their work. Don’t skip this though. Learning about loads of different artists will only help you find your own creative vision. If you cannot work out how to maintain a blog then print out an image and paste it into your sketchbook. Write a few lines about the artist. You can also go to which serves as the art history department of . Here you will find constantly updated artist profiles from all throughout history.

How to photograph your finished work

Unfortunately photographing drawings isn’t that easy. The best way to get a good copy of your drawings is to scan them. If you don’t have a scanner available then there’s always the possibility of photographing your work. Under optimum circumstances you will have two light sources. Both at pointing at the drawing from 45 degree angles. This minimizes shadow. However it can take a lot of trial and error before a good picture is made.

One of the big problems is that most digital cameras have an automatic setting. There are light sensors in the camera and they detect how long to expose the image. So, when you point a digital camera at a white page the camera thinks it’s lighter in the room than it really is. This can make the drawings look really dark. One way to fix this is to hold the button on your camera half way down (this sets the light settings) while pointing it at a shadow, then (keeping the button held half way down) point the camera at your drawing and push it down the rest of the way. This makes the camera think it’s taking a picture in the dark which will make your page look a lot whiter. There are also services through facebook and twitpic which allow you to sms your images to the internet from your phone. So, if you’ve got a camera in your phone. You can post those images to the web! Having digital images of your work will make it easier to show off your skills and is a good habit to learn early.

Lesson 1: Learning To See And Draw

Learning To See And Draw

Welcome to Wonderland


“`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). “

Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland


Learning to draw is a bizarre and wonderful process in the sense that in order to really learn to draw you have to first learn how to see differently. It means changing the way you look at the world. All the time. In this course you will not only be sharpening your drawing skills on paper, but you will also be practicing your seeing skills. You are on the pathway to becoming a painter, and the first step on that path is to become confident at drawing. Through these lessons you will learn to draw step by step by starting with the basics and moving towards more complicated techniques.

This course is meant to be used and that means you need to draw and paint in order to make it work. The lessons are planned to build upon one another. You are going to go from basic contour line drawings to finished oil paintings. Everyone comes into the course at different levels. Get comfortable with where you are, know your limitations, and start working at getting better. Drawing is akin to yoga in this sense. If you push yourself too hard and too fast, you are doing it wrong.


How your brain draws

Certain activities cause changes in the way our brains work. There is an instrument called an EEG which measures different brain waves. In the photo below you can see a participant in a study which measures brainwave activity.


(attribution )

Our brains produce four major brainwaves. Beta waves are present when we are in a normal awake and conscious state. Theta waves appear when we are in deep relaxation or problem solving. Delta waves are present when we are basically asleep but not yet dreaming, and Alpha Waves are present when we are in a relaxed state yet still retain our sharpness and creative vision. Alpha Waves are where its at. You will not only improve your hand to eye coordination, but you will also learn how to get your brain to reach the Alpha wave state. Your brain learns these things step by step, much the same as one learns drawing or music.

A great example of an activity which requires a mastery of Alpha wave functioning is archery. When an archer pulls back his bow, closes one eye, and focuses on his target he may stop hearing the sounds and words around him. His fingers hold the string firmly. His breathing becomes more controlled and even. He calms his mind and this makes his aiming arm steady. He begins to visualize the arrow sailing straight into the big red spot. The bullseye wavers less and less as his finger tips begin to release the string. The string recoils and snaps forward. Splat. The arrow sticks into the target, and the archer begins to inspect his work.

This story encompasses all three of the major brain states. As the archer walks up to the line with his bow in his hand he is in Beta state. He is alert, conscious, and aware of his surroundings. As he pulls the string to his cheek he begins to slip into Alpha waves. He begins to relax and block out the sounds around him, yet he is still alert. Here’s the crazy part, the moment before he releases that string his brain waves dip dramatically, almost all the way down into a near sleeping state! It’s only for a split second, and then the arrow goes flying, and sticks into the target. He inspects the target to see if he hit the bullseye (Theta waves) then he snaps back to reality, and back to a Beta wave state.

When we draw we are going to be entering the Alpha and Theta lands. It’s a place that anyone who has a skill of any sort knows well. The basketball player throwing a three pointer with 2 seconds left, the concert pianist, the marksman, even the gardener or mechanic. All of these people have worked on a project so hard that they’ve completely lost track of time. I’m sure you have as well.

Think about a time recently when you’ve slipped into Alpha and Theta brain waves. Perhaps it was while fixing your vacuum cleaner, avoiding a deer in the road, or arranging a flower bouquet. Become familiar with what it feels like when you are in this state.

Learning To Play The Tuba

Everything you see through your eyes, all of the feelings, joy, sadness, whatever, your whole world comes from your consciousness. When drawing, you are simply trying to make this consciousness readable. It doesn’t need to be anything deep. It could involve something as simple as the way a guitar leans up against a windowsill. You are transmitting YOUR view of the world to others. Sure there are technical aspects, and training that will be involved in order for you to be able to measure accurately the distance between shapes. These fundamental aspects of drawing are teachable, and with practice, you will learn them. The question then, is going to be, Who Are You? Why do you want to make a mark on the world? What do you choose to draw?

This is the big thing that separates this book from others. I am aware that you want to “learn how to oil paint” and “learn how to crosshatch”. All I need to do is look at what people type into Google before finding my site. But these are just skills, they don’t really get to what making art really means. Of course we will go over all the skills you will need in order to become a sucessful artist. I will teach you some tricks, and new materials. But at the end of the day you also need to know WHAT it is you want to paint or draw. Through the following exercises in this book you are going to be exploring both your artistic vision as well as practicing exercises which will sharpen your eye and steady your arm.

Many people who are interested in art feel intimidated because the lines have been blurred as to what is good art and what is crap. During the 20th century what it meant to be a “painter” or “artist” changed drastically. Previously draftsmanship and craft were highly valued. However this is no longer the case. Many times concept has taken precedence over craft. This basically means that today we give as much importance to ideas as we do to aesthetic appeal. You, on the other hand, have already decided to pursue the path of becoming an artist working in a very traditional medium. Paint. The goal of this introductory course is not only to make you technically proficient (that just takes practice), but also to help you find what you want to communicate through imagery. That being said, there is nothing worse than knowing what you want to do, but not possessing the technical abilities to bring the idea to fruition. If you know exactly HOW you want to draw and paint, and WHAT you want to draw, then consider the following analogy.

Think of an instrument you have no idea how to play, for instance, a guitar. Now it is generally accepted that if you want to become great at playing the guitar, you have to practice hard. No one expects someone to sit down and start playing the guitar immediately. A person generally needs a teacher, or at least a book and a whole lot of passion. But what it comes down to is that people are playing (practicing) daily. When they’re not playing they may be listening to music and tapping out scales with their fingers.

In most drawing and painting or “art” (as it is so often referred to in the school systems) classes, many times teachers leave too much open to the students. They put too much emphasis on what the student is trying to express rather than addressing the fact that they may not even know how to get paint to stick to a canvas. The results are terrible paintings and drawings. No amount of pretense can make up for a poorly executed painting.

Let’s return back to our guitar player analogy. Imagine you are listening to someone playing the guitar and singing. The voice is off key, the strumming is out of sync with the tempo, the chords are clumsily played, but the lyrics are fantastic. Are you going to say “He’s a great musician!” just because the lyrics were great? Of course not. With music we put a great deal of importance on craft. A good guitar player’s fingers had to get calloused in order to push down the guitar strings. At first the stings clunk out, but then, with a little practice, it begins to get easier and easier. The same is true of drawing. It’s just practice. If someone tells me that they are a terrible drawer, I tell them that I can’t play the tuba, but I bet I could learn.

For some of you reading this book. You may already be comfortable with drawing, but find yourself coming up against certain stumbling blocks over and over again. You are going to learn to identify the problem areas of your drawings and become your own teacher. Even concert pianists practice scales. Drawing and Painting are no different.