rocala

Can you really learn to draw?

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There seems to be an art gene on my mothers side of the family. Sadly I do not seem to have it although I do love art. With old age looming I have been looking for a hobby and drawing keeps coming into my mind. My ability here is very poor and has hardly developed since infant school, but I do like to try new things. So I have sent off for a "You can learn to draw" book.

 

Do any of you people out there have any experience of this, can a book and some effort  really make much difference?

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Yes, especially if the book is blank. Just cover paper with marks for a while, play with it, scribble. Doodle. See what kind of marks you make. 

 

Actually, Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" is a useful and encouraging book about "how to draw". 

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6 minutes ago, Sketch said:

Yes, especially if the book is blank. Just cover paper with marks for a while, play with it, scribble. Doodle. See what kind of marks you make. 

Already done that hence inquiry about learning.

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The two ideas I remember having the biggest "aha" factor for me about drawing were "Two Point Perspective" - which an uncle taught me, but there'll be internet resources aplenty  - and shading, the idea that adding darkness and heavier lines to the bottom and side of a drawing gave it depth. Figuring out how shadows actually work can take up lifetimes, but there are tricks.

 

However, depicting the 3d world is only one aspect of drawing - it goes in all directions. I find that the best approach is an attitude of playful practice. 

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2 hours ago, rocala said:

can a book and some effort  really make much difference?

Absolutely. 

 

I would imagine there are also a bunch of youtube resource videos posted by folks offering tips on everything from shading and how to hold the pencil for various effects and techniques, to various mediums and even how to make your own paper.

 

I used to love to sketch and did it regularly, it's quite meditative.  Pen, pencil, charcoal, oil pastels...  I particularly loved architectural sketching and had several books full of just bridge drawings.  I loved to hop on my bike, ride to a bridge, make a sketch, have a bag lunch.  Great stuff.

 

One of my more profound experiences of Sammadhi occured while sketching The Getty courtyard and often I would drop into deep meditative states with an ink pen while sketching highly detailed geometric forms for hours on end.

 

But aside from grabbing techniques and tricks from books, videos, or even formal classes... just put pencil to paper and play around.

 

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I think it¬īs learnable, yes.¬† My mom is an established artist but I always thought I had zero ability.¬† As an elementary school kid, I hated art projects.¬† (And liked math -- go figure.)¬† But I¬† recently signed up for an online course in doodling.¬† My doodles were never what you¬īd call artistic masterpieces but my partner, also an artist, showed me how to draw a palm tree.¬† It was like magic.¬† A few scribbles on the paper and voila -- a recognizable palm tree would appear.¬† That may not sound like much, but considering where I started from it was a revelation.

 

Still, no amount of practice is going to turn me into an artist like my mom.¬† I can get better though, and perhaps that¬īs enough.¬† Actually, I think there¬īs value for everyone in taking up hobbies in areas where we¬īre not strong.¬† Non-singers can learn to sing, non-dancers to cha-cha-cha.¬† These kind of learning ventures humble us and discourage mindless competitiveness, a bad habit of mine.¬† We learn that we are more than we thought we were.

Edited by liminal_luke
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2 hours ago, Sketch said:

Actually, Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" is a useful and encouraging book about "how to draw". 

 

I second that -- it was the first resource that convinced me I can learn something for which I didn't seem to have any particular innate ability.  I always doodled, had no problem drawing something imaginary, but had zero skill of realistic drawing and didn't know how to translate observable objects and scenes onto paper or canvas.  That book showed me an inroad and gave a few excellent ideas.

 

Then I took a few lessons from a guy who used to be an animation artist for Warner Brothers, he taught rapid drawing, using a live human model who was instructed to change his or her position every 3 minutes.  You had to capture that human shape fast!  Then -- every 2 minutes.  A minute and a half.  It was fun and exciting (despite the woefully hilarious original results) and accompanied by equally quick tips about proportions, anatomy, motion, etc..  It taught you to coordinate your brain, your eye, your hand and your awareness -- I often remembered those drawing lessons later when I started learning taiji.  And then came the really challenging part -- Chinese "rapid ink" drawing and calligraphy.  Stripped to bare bones, my desire to draw or paint boiled down to the desire to master calligraphy.  Which is a personal challenge -- it goes against my tendency to do "too much" with a drawing, to seek elusive perfection... teaching me how to stop, if it makes sense.    

 

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3 hours ago, rocala said:

Do any of you people out there have any experience of this, can a book and some effort  really make much difference?

 

Absolutely!

 

For me, the most important thing is how much time and patience I am willing to invest when learning a new or unfamiliar skill.

The second most important thing is whether I can derive pleasure from the craft and process without being overly concerned with the outcome. The skill, the experience, and the improvement in the finished product will come but it can be very slow so it's important to enjoy the process.

A book can show you things that can allow you to waste less time with trial and error.

On the other hand, that very trial and error can be the source of creativity, of your own unique voice.

So by all means use whatever books, youtube videos, etc... you find supportive but there is no substitute for putting in the hours just doing, over and over and over...

And be kind to yourself.

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3 hours ago, rocala said:

There seems to be an art gene on my mothers side of the family. Sadly I do not seem to have it although I do love art. With old age looming I have been looking for a hobby and drawing keeps coming into my mind. My ability here is very poor and has hardly developed since infant school, but I do like to try new things. So I have sent off for a "You can learn to draw" book.

 

Do any of you people out there have any experience of this, can a book and some effort  really make much difference?

 

 

There's left brain predominant drawing, and there's right brain.  The left brain art is second nature to people who are highly organized and like to see things fit into where we think they belong.  Right brain art is the total opposite - it is used to express feelings, or to create a feeling of stillness, etc.

 

Left brain art is precise, you are duplicating what you are using as a subject.  This type of art is very appealing to me because of my detective brain - I can work on a piece for days, a little at a time.

 

Right brain art is done in the moment - I do this as well, but it doesn't come naturally.  I love the abstractness of right brain art, so I have to trick myself into doing it by doing a squiggle and closing my eyes - but the pieces always come out very creatively.

 

In your case, I would first ask yourself what type of artist you will be.  Do you want to draw pictures as you see them?  Or would you be more comfortable doing an impressionistic or abstract and not worry about any particular form?  These are things that you might want to figure out before you begin.

 

Also, there are so many mediums.  My advice would be to first start with pen, ink, colored pencils, good heavy drawing paper.  It doesn't cost much at all to start, and it will give you an idea of what you like to do, rather than spending lots of money on paints, brushes, etc.  Becoming proficient as an artist or a musician involves being willing to do the art, knowing it's going to be imperfect, and continually doing imperfect art until you get better.

 

If you think you'll be a left brained artist (precision), then the thing to do is figure out where things are going to be in relation to each other.  If I'm going to draw a human figure, I first determine how much space on the paper I want her to take up - lightly mark with a pencil the top of her head, the bottom of her feet.  Then, I go to the picture (I'm currently doing a drawing of a lady in a clothing catalog) and determine the size of the head in relation to the rest of the body.  I'll figure out how many 'heads' piled up upon one another will equal the height of her body, and then lightly make marks on the paper, so that each body part will be in relation to something you've already measured out.  Once you've drawn one part of the body, then look at where that part of the body is located in relation to another part of her body - and actually, at some point, it sort of just becomes mathematics.  You just keep your eye on the relationship of one thing to another, distance-wise.

 

There is a real easy technique for having your drawings pop.  If you're using a nice thick drawing paper, it works best.  Very lightly, with a pencil, shade an area of something.  Then use your finger and smear it (within the section) to where it's all just a muddy pencil area.  then, take a GOOD eraser (not one that leaves marks, but a good pink one) and erase a round area that is in the center of the area you have shaded.  Kind of blend it together so it doesn't look obvious, and voila!  You've created 3-dimensionality.  Another thing to do with the shaded area (I've done this with horses) is to shade the whole figure and then 'erase out' the parts you want highlighted - you draw the veins, muscles, angles by removing the pencil shading with a good pointed eraser.

 

Whatever you do, it will evolve.  I can promise you that.  Have fun, and develop a skill that will be with you forever.

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