The First Truth About Learning To Draw

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I see so many students young and old, leaning closely over their paper, fingers red and clinched, holding their breath as they try to get that perfect line on paper in one movement . Then comes the shaking table as they scrub the exhausted paper again and again.

The first truth about drawing is that it should never be such strenuous work to get a tasteful result.

I recommend getting yourself an inexpensive sketchbook that will let you use as many pages as you wish without worry as to expense.  Try a soft pencil to start. I love a Generals Draughting pencil available through Dick Blick for under a buck.

Why not start by taking your pencil out for a spin? Put on some music and hit the sketchbook. See what happens when you use the side of  your pencil, then point. Try making some big soft swooping circles as light as you can , now darker. You can get a lot out of one little pencil can’t you. A remarkable tool.

So when you start a drawing it’s really a matter  of seeing and really  investigating what’s before you. You should be doing tons of investigation drawings before you get down to even thinking about a masterwork . In fact you should  learn to enjoy the act of drawing and not focus on the final product. This is so important in ALL art that I will repeat myself.  You should  learn to enjoy the act of drawing and not focus on the final product. With your pencil try to start to lightly record the shapes before you . I prefer the side of my pencil and a very light touch. Now here’s the big secret. Don’t be afraid to try representing  what you see with more than one mark on your paper. Do not erase! Relax and Softly draw several lines to represent the stem on that flower. Later, if you prefer one line over the others you can go back and darken it, but that’s for much later in the project. The truth is when your viewer looks at a drawing the brain naturally chooses what it calculates is the best fit . These extra lines if kept light are seen as beautiful and makes the drawing more intriguing. They give your drawing life and energy.

This is one of the most difficult concepts for most of my students to swallow. We are so programmed to bear down and get things perfect. Artist must learn to be loose and embrace the beauty that follows. We are not cameras! Think of your work as expressing a feeling.

imagine your listening to a singer who hits every note and keeps time but lends no creative interpretation. Gifted musicians interpret a melody to have meaning. They take us on a journey. Drawing and painting is the same, yes we should have the skills to get a likeness but good art is much more complex than that. We lend our own voice and style to the image we create. We seek to set a mood or elicit a feeling.

So relax, put on your favorite music and let your pencil sing. Softly try lines of several kinds and locations. Think of the conductor leading his musicians to the score and moving to the music. Let your hand move with relaxed rhythms. These are just for you . Don’t worry about your end product or how much paper you burn through. Try looking at your subject matter more than you watch your paper and pencil.

Next time.  The Evil Eraser! Why I want you to leave it at home. Better yet the trash bin.

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Published by Artist Victoria Smith

Working Artist and teacher

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