Friday, August 11, 2017

Fastest way to learn how to draw

5 years ago I've set out to learn how to draw and paint and find the best training techniques.

Turns out, the answer was simple:  You learn to draw and paint by copying drawings and paintings made by someone much better than you. You copy stuff over and over thousands and thousands of times. That's the secret.

Here's the long explanation.

My first goal was to learn how to make believable pictures representing what I see in front of me or what's in my head. I didn't want to be good at drawing a few things, I wanted to be able to draw and paint anything and everything with a high degree of fidelity. My second goal was to learn how to draw an accurate and believable human figure in less than 30 minutes. My third goal was to figure out what was the quickest way to achieve my first 2 goals.

I've reached or came close to achieving most of my targets. Of course, it will take years to perfect my craft and my ability, but my main objectives have been reached.  Here are a few before and after images for your entertainment and education. The stuff on the left I did in my mid 30s. The images on my right are relatively current (as of 2017). You be the judge of how much I improved.



Now back to the point of this post. How do you get from random unskilled scribbles to the image on the left, and then, to the image on the right. 

Crude repetition of copying someone with superior skill is how human beings acquire knowledge and abilities. You and I learned to speak by copying our parents for several years, then our teachers. We learn to write by copying letters from the schoolbook. We learn to play an instrument by watching another musician play and by playing countless scales. 

This is how every single brilliant artist learned the craft. Leonardo copied his master, Michelangelo copied his, Mozart copied his father, Beethoven played the scales, copied his father and his teacher, etc.


Here's what  you will need: 

1. A few good books to learn a few important theoretical concepts. I will list them for you. 
2. You will need to learn never to judge yourself or the "quality" of your art; let others do it for you, and when they do it, don't listen to anything they say.
3. You will have to learn to set aside from a few minutes to a few hours every day or every other day, when you can not be bothered or distracted by anyone or anything, except your own thoughts and your art practice. And even if you do nothing during your art time, you still are not allowed to judge yourself or your art. An hour spent in quiet meditation on the problems and possible solutions is just as useful and productive as an hour spent drawing or painting.
4. Most importantly, you will need to throw away all the mental and emotional garbage and become singularly focused on one thought: this art stuff is a skill! Just like any other skill it can and will be learned through effort, patience and ridiculous amount of repetition.

In other words, you will need to learn to have unshakeable faith in yourself and your ability to reach your goals, no matter the circumstances or the words, thoughts and opinions of everyone around you.

You can find an extensive list of books at the bottom of this post, but to get started you only need one single book. 

If you don't already have it, obtain a book filled with artwork by your favorite artist. The most useful book will have sketches, line drawings, and finished art (paintings or inks), but any art book will do, as long as you love the art in it and the art is created by 1 artist.

My favorite of all time is Sergio Toppi.

Here is how you learn and practice.

I will explain a few key concepts. Once you understand them, repeating them over and over will allow you to build tremendous skill in a short amount of time.

1. Every drawing or painting is made out of lines (strokes)
2. There are no lines in nature, so everything you see around you and in your mind's eye has no lines

If you are having trouble drawing what you see, this is exactly why: you need to learn how to convert a line-less image into a series of lines or strokes.

The job of an artist is to see the world around him or her and represent it on a physical surface or on a screen as a series of lines

The first line you draw is always correct, so don't hesitate, put it down, it's impossible to go wrong with the first line.

The second line is never correct. All your effort and practice goes into making the second line as correct as the first line.

Here is the procedure:

1. open your favorite art book on your favorite page (or any page at random)
2. pick an image
3. pick a line on the image
4. draw a line you think is similar to it on your paper or your screen
5. find a line next to it the first on the image
6. make a copy of that line

Now compare the 2 lines in your drawing to the 2 lines in the original piece.

Do they look exactly the same, the lines themselves, their shape, their twist, their lengths in relation to each other, the space between the 2 lines, the angle between them, etc.

If not, repeat steps 3 to 6. 

If your lines are correct, pick a third line on the image and copy it. Now observe if the 3 lines in your study match the 3 lines in the image you are copying from. Observe all attributes:length, width, twist, angle, the space between all 3 lines, etc

You will then add a 4th line, a 5th and eventually, the whole image will be copied. The study will be complete. If your study looks close to the original, pick a new image and do all of this again. If your copy does not look like the target image, start over.

This is it. There is no other magic to learning how to draw well. It will hurt, I promise. If you don't quit you will become an excellent draftsman and you will understand how to apply this same method to learning how to draw or paint with value and color. The procedure is always the same.

The secret: thousands of hours of study (copy). Just like in every other field of human endeavor. This practice to an artist is what playing scales is to a musician or memorizing and reading lines is to an actor.

Will this make you a great artist? No, it won't.

The art is in you and only you can unlock it. 

But your visual art ability will only unlock after you have full control of your hands, eyes and your mark-making tools. 


Here are the most important books which I would recommend to anyone serious about their art education to have and use:

1.  Light for Visual Artists: Understanding & Using Light in Art & Design - Richard Yot
2. How to Draw - Scott Robertson
3. Draw Naturally - Allan Kraayvanger
4. Any decent anatomy book you can afford. I use Artistic Anatomy by Richer Hale and the 2 anatomy books by Peck. Most anatomy diagrams are available on the internet today, so having these books on your shelf is not critical

Books I would recommend (these are my favorite):
1. The Natural Way to Draw - Nicolaides
2. Alla Prima - Richard Schmid
3. Composition of Outdoor Painting - Payne
4. All books by George B. Bridgman
5. All books by Hogarth
6. Keys to Drawing - Bert Dodson

Good luck and I hope to see your amazing art in the near future. Don't forget to start posting your work on your walls, other people walls, on the Web, or all the above. Here are some of my studies.