Introduction: 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Thuglas )
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.