Improving your drawings

One of the fastest ways to improve your drawing is to improve your concept of what you are trying to accomplish. In other words, to draw better, work on understanding very clearly and specifically what you are trying to do. This is the real starting point of every drawing process. 

A few thoughts about drawing: 

  • Drawing is a way of thinking -- or, better yet, many ways of thinking.
  • Drawing translates an object into an idea. 
  • A drawing can make an idea, a conception, or a feeling visible. It can do all three at the same time. 
  • Drawing is a simplification process, an approximation.
  • Learning to draw is a psychological journey. ( A journey means you have to keep moving.)

A selection of drawings
From midterm portfolios of Drawing 1 at Rocky Mountain College.

The following drawings are a result of studying the values of a still life. Students were asked to simplify the tones they saw into separate divisions based on their relative darkness or lightness. 

Here is my new insight about why this exercise is so important -- first, I think this way of working helps you jump right into drawing shape without using outline.  Often we are fearful of leaving the edges created by drawing the contour of an object. Building a drawing using value shapes challenges you to cover the whole area and be bolder with your use of value and mark-making.

Second--you will see shape as something more than just object. It can get boring doing drawings of objects. Thinking about things in terms of value helps you translate what you know into something visually stimulating. It is a whole new way to relate to your subject and establish a different kind of relationship between parts.  

In the drawing above values are grouped using two divisions -- white and black. Student's selected a point near the middle of the value scale and any value lighter is left white; any value darker was drawn black.

Student's continue to draw from the same still life, using three and four value divisions. 

Here is a group of drawings that study the value structure of the same subject. Paper was split into four sections. Notice the changes in the shapes as the number of values used were increased from 2 to 4 value divisions.