So, someone recommended the lessons on http://drawabox.com as a good resource for improving drawing skills. The lessons are shorter and less involved than those in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, so I can do a bit every day, rather than wait until I can block out 3-4 hours to do a more involved lesson. Now, drawing a box is apparently an upper-level task, so the first lesson focusses on drawing lines.
The first lesson has a couple of parts. I spent about half an hour doing the very first part- lines (and connecting lines to make planes). I’m pretty good at drawing lines and planes if they are only a couple of inches in size. As they get larger and you shift to drawing from your shoulder, my lines get less good. Not terrible, but clearly more wobbly than the shorter lines. The most horrifying thing is that my shoulder is killing me! I drew for roughly 30 minutes, and about half the drawings used a wrist pivot and half used a shoulder pivot. And I was reading the instructions and self-grading my work. Probably less than 10 minutes guiding a pencil across the page and my shoulder is exhausted. I clearly need to cross train for drawing. 🙂 While the exercises were very simple, I did find them very useful in evaluating my motor skills. And clearly, I have plenty of work to do with regards to drawing from the shoulder.
No scans/pictures, because, well, they are just lines and squares. As the lessons progress, I will be drawing more interesting things, and those I will post. I’m also getting back into Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain. I mentioned that I got bored with it, but I did find it very helpful in terms of improving my skills, so I have scheduled time over the next few weeks to complete that course also.
This drawing of a hand is another “picture plane” exercise from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. (That is not an affiliate link. This post is about one of the lessons on that DVD.) Basically, you place your hand under the acrylic window and then trace the projection with a dry erase marker. Once done, you now have an outline of 2D representation of your hand on the clear window. This is much easier to draw since it is flat. You then draw this object on your pad and add in the details.
This is one of the earlier exercises and the first one that I felt that I had really drawn something well. Shading is one of the last lessons, so it is not that good at this point. Still, it is good enough that this looks like a real hand.
So my latest big project was a turtle mandala. I followed the symmetry guidelines of a mandala but drew a stylized scene of turtles swimming in a pond. The photos aren’t great since once again I took them with my phone because the picture was too large for the scanner.
Drawing small things is hard. The little turtles made me crazy. Even when I was sharpening my pencil every few minutes, I couldn’t draw the detail I wanted. I had drawn the big turtle previously, and I was aiming for that level of detail. Plus, the turtle head and legs have a pebbly texture, which I could not capture.
I did take a bit more care in trying to keep things symmetric compared to my previous mandala because I was planning this as a gift.
Here it is framed.
I’m pretty happy with it, though I still have a lot of improvement to do.
This week, I tried to draw an orchid flower. I was interested mostly in trying to figure out how to color the petals. The orchid petal is white, with purple/pink dots of various sizes that blend together.
The photo is a little pinker than the actual flower.
Here’s my attempt.
It really isn’t right…
So I drew dots and then used a blending pencil to merge them together. But this made the background purple, instead of white. (You can also see where I spilled water on my paper and then tried to dry it by rubbing. Not a good move.)
I think the next attempt will be to actually draw concentric dots of different colors. If you look at the photo, there are darker dots surrounded by a lighter dots. I thought I could achieve this with the blending pencil, but not so much. It may be that my blending technique isn’t good either.
One of the hardest drawing skills for me is visualizing the picture plane. And as I struggle to write this, is apparently also difficult for me to describe. Essentially, the picture plane is the imaginary surface on which your object is projected. It is what links the 3D object to the 1D drawing. It is how the flattened image should look.
If you can visualize the picture plane properly, then your drawings have the proper perspective. They look like they are representations of a 3D object. If you cannot visualize the picture plane, then your drawing looks like a bad Escher print. Something is clearly wrong with the world.
Drawing from photographs is easier because the image is already flattened out. The turtle I drew previously was from a photo, so I could focus on just reproducing what I saw instead of trying to puzzle out how to represent a round object on a flat piece of paper.
In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, you are encouraged to use a literal picture plane- a small acrylic window that you trace your scene on with dry erase. Once you see how the object should look flattened, then you can draw it yourself on paper. This makes a huge difference.
Below are two drawings of the same stool done at different times. One drawing uses the picture plane heavily and the other one doesn’t.
In fact, the no picture plane drawing was so horrible that I stopped drawing for 4 months because I was completely discouraged. This is certainly something I need to work on. I need to balance the fun of being able to draw something recognizable (working from a photo or the acrylic picture plane) with harder and less fun sessions where I try to visualize the picture plane in my mind. (Hmm, I cannot actually visualize, so this might be part of the problem. I’ll post more about that someday.) The fun sessions are less likely to improve my skills, while the harder sessions, while likely to lead to improvement might be too discouraging.
I’m a process kind of woman. I like following a set procedure whenever possible. It increases efficiency and reduces errors. This is similar to my love of habits. Having to think carefully and then motivate yourself to do that thing is hard. It takes away from the energy that you could be spending on actually doing the thing. Learning new skills is hard because you are usually spending effort on multiple fronts- learning how to physically or mentally do the thing, thinking about the best way to do the thing, figuring out how to fix your mistakes, etc. That is why I really like courses for learning new skills. Some people may chafe under the rigidity of a course, but I find the structure freeing. I just follow the instructions/lesson plan and I can focus the bulk of my energy on learning the skills I want. It is all execution and no overhead at that point.
That is part of the reason why I describe my process in so much detail, such as in my recent post on diagnosing my calf problems or my posts on revising my novel. Are my processes the best ones? Probably not. But it is likely sufficient for a novice. A beginner doesn’t need the best system. They just need one good enough to get them to the next level. As I build my skills, I will likely optimize my processes. I may abandon them entirely. But I hope that my posting my processes here, I can provide a shortcut for the next person. Right now, I have three big projects: revising my novel, learning to draw, and improving my fitness level. I let my novel draft sit for over a decade because I didn’t know what to do next. I haven’t drawn since high school, and I was never good at it. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. And fitness, goodness, that is a complicated subject. Couch to 5K is simple enough, but try to figure out a simple weightlifting routine, and things get complicated fast. There are tons of resources for all these topics on the internet, but sifting through them is time-consuming. So, hopefully, my work on these projects will provide
Right now, I have three big projects: revising my novel, learning to draw, and improving my fitness level. I let my novel draft sit for over a decade because I didn’t know what to do next. I haven’t drawn since high school, and I was never good at it. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. And fitness, goodness, that is a complicated subject. Couch to 5K is simple enough, but try to figure out a simple weightlifting routine, and things get complicated fast. There are tons of resources for all these topics on the internet, but sifting through them is time-consuming. So, hopefully, my work on these projects will provide a set of great resources and a framework to accomplish these projects efficiently. Obviously, everything will be filtered through the lens of what works (and doesn’t work) for me, but I’ll try to provide an alternate approach if I find one.
For this week’s drawing practice, I drew a box turtle shell. A friend suggested that I explore using color after he saw my mandala. So I bought some colored pencils and went crazy. I only planned to draw one tile of the shell, so I didn’t center everything up. But then one tile ended up leading to a second, and then a third, and 3 hours later I had an entire turtle shell. I’m not sure I have space to add the head, so assume that this is a scared turtle, with all the tasty bits pulled inside the shell so bad eagles cannot eat it.
This drawing is done on resume paper, which is not the most ideal material for colored pencils. I wanted to be able to scan the drawing, so I was stuck with resume paper, copier paper, or trying to cut down my drawing paper with scissors. I thought the texture of the resume paper would help it take the color better, but it was actually too textured, and it was hard to cover all the white paper in the depressions. I also know nothing about colored pencils, so I was winging it. Still, I think it came out pretty well.
I’ve been working through the video lessons from Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain. My skills have improved for sure, but the lessons are pretty boring. As a consequence, my pace for going through the lessons has been one lesson per two months. As part of my “reinvention” subsequent to being laid-off, I am committing to drawing at least once per week. This may be a lesson from the series or it might be some other drawing exercise I’ve run across. This week, I decided to draw a Mandala. Several months ago, I saw a video by Paul Foxton on drawing Mandalas as a way to foster creativity. I thought this might be a good break from drawing chairs and doorways and whatever else I should do as part of the Right Side of the Brain lessons.
One thing I liked about Foxton’s lesson was the emphasis on entering the meditative state while doing the drawing. He doesn’t use a ruler or traced circles as a template like some how-to videos on Mandala drawing. So it is less about achieving rigid perfection/symmetry, and more about experiencing flow. This was appealing to me since the pressure of trying for realism (in the Right Side… course) was stressful. Trying for perfect symmetry seems equally stressful. But just meditating as you draw, well, that sounds very relaxing.
My drawing paper is too large for my scanner and I drew all the way to the edge of the page, so here is a not so great photo.