Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learn to Draw ... forget which side of the brain -- just use your eyes.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: One, but the light bulb must want to change!

If you are enthusiastic about painting but feel that your drawing ability is holding you back, then I hope the following can help you change the way you think during drawing.

If you enjoy painting, an ability to draw well is a major asset and can move you towards a higher level than your peers. Drawing anything more complex than an apple can sent a lot of people who enjoy painting into a run for the hills. Fine if you are drawing a river or trees, or mountains. Who cares what shape they are as long as they are generally okay. But try drawing a dog or horse (how to draw a horse - part 1), or a child on the beach, then depending on ability, the fun or frustration can really begin. But it doesn't have to be so hard. Allow me to share the thought process I use when I am drawing.

Many drawing books give examples using basic shapes of how to draw a person, a horse or whatever. They break it into squares and circles and slowly refine the image to whatever it is supposed to be. Eventually you rub out the original shapes. This is a laborious approach I feel, and doesn't build confidence because as soon as the person has to draw a different object the learned approach doesn't convert easily.

Well in drawing as in most things, thoughts become actions. So what are my thoughts when faced with a difficult drawing.

The first thing to think about is fitting it all in the picture and in a place on the page that gives the image balance. Look at the object, say for example a dog who is running and facing left. Is his tail long? If I start at the face and I'm in the middle of the page will it all fit in? Maybe I don't want it all to fit in. In that case it would be okay to start in the middle. Or alternatively I can start in the middle but I will have to draw it smaller so it takes up only the right half of the space.

Also I think about the edges of the page. I want at least a little gap between the dog and the edge. A tangent is formed if the dog's body touches the page edge. This always attracts the eye and is bad from a compositional point of view.

So now I am ready to start. I decide which is the easiest place in the image, head or tail? Well, it is easier to draw a tail, but actually harder to work backwards up the body. If it was a dog or horse I usually start with the head. If a church I would probably start with the steeple. Either way, it has to be where you feel most comfortable. But just before you put down the first line is a critical time. Double check exactly where it is to go to fit it all in.

A neat trick if you are working from a photo is to put the page/canvas on the floor/table. Hold the photo in front of your face and look down at the page. Move the photo up and down between your eyes and the page until it and the page edges line up. Now look at the photo and touch the photo with a pencil on the edge of the object, head of the dog for example. Take away the photo but hold the pencil steady. Focus again on the page on the floor. If you got this far, the tip of the pencil is over the point you need to start at. You should see exactly where to start drawing so that it all fits in!! Put a dot on that place and do the same for the other side of the object. Now you just have to make it fit between.

As you gain more experience you can dispense with this method but I still use it sometimes on complex subjects. It's there to fall back on.

That's all about finding the starting point.... I'm going to take a break for the moment but go into more detail on how I actually draw any object when I add to this post or start a further one. If any of this is useful to people, please let me know and I'll keep expanding on it.

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