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Getting Back To Drawing

I want my journals to be more visual. While I learn a lot about myself from journalling, and it’s helped me achieve a lot, I also want my journals to be interesting to look at later in live – more like a photo album.

I know the basics of sketching from my years as an engineer. I can draw basic orthoganol drawings, isometric, perspective, etc. But when explaining to someone how a piece of machinery would be laid out, there wasn’t much need to draw kids I wouldn’t have for 10 years, plants or other bits of scenery.

So if I want my journals to be more visual, and I’m not going to turn them into scrapbooks, then I need to get better at drawing. I started out with Edward’s classic Drawing on the Right Side of the brain. It is a good book. I know that if I did the exercises as suggested, I would get better. The problem is that they are pretty heavy. A frequent requirement is an hour to an hour and a half of uninterrupted time. I’ve got three kids below the age of 7 – an hour of uninterrupted time usually comes while I’m sleeping. Still, I tried  them – first back in ’06, and again recently. I ran into the time crunch and decided to look for a book with some simpler exercises.

That lead me to You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less
(affiliate link). I’m on lesson 20, and it’s working pretty well. I don’t imagine I will be using what I’ve learned directly, but I’ve gotten less rusty and more confident. Not as good as I need to be, but better. The Kindle version has worked fine for me.

Another thing I’m doing is to try to take a quick snapshot of my daughters each day as I walk them to school, and then spend 5-10 minutes to sketch the photo off my iPhone. I’m hoping that I will increase my ability to get down basic shapes quickly. I’ve done two, and I think i see improvement so far.

I’ve also gotten the book Sketching People (affiliate link), and it has some interesting exercises for learning gestures, but I haven’t dug into the exercises yet.

Here are the top 4 things I’ve learned so far:

  • Drawing is like most other manual skills. Some of it is “like riding a bicycle”, but much of it needs to be maintained. Drawing for short periods, frequently, produces the most growth.
  • Patience and quality go together. If I’m not willing to slow down to do shading properly, or clean up extra lines, then I’ve got to live with the results.
  • Details make a big difference. Lines that don’t quite line up, shading that isn’t smooth or the right shape, sloppy corners, etc. The list is endless. This is the hardest thing to get used to because for most of my life sketches were an explanitory tool accompanied by lots of talking. To stand on their own they need to be precise.
  • The materials used do make a difference. Really, it comes down to erasing. If I can erase without feeling like I’ve just dug a hole in the paper, then I’ll erase. Otherwise, I’ll try the “No, look at the thicker, clearly more correct line over here” method. Thicker paper, like the Stillman and Birn stuff, and softer pencils makes erasing the same spot several times a non-issue.

4 comments… add one
  • Isadore December 27, 2011, 9:13 pm

    The desire to draw (though unable to draw a stick figure) led me to many of the books you mentioned above. None worked… until I stumbled upon the Creative License from Danny Gregory:


    I can’t say enough good things about this book. And I’ve been drawing, almost daily, since 2004.

  • Steve December 27, 2011, 10:51 pm

    Hi Isadore, Thanks for the comment!

    I’ve ordered “An Illustrated Life”, and I’m looking forward to it. I think I’ll check out your suggestion as well.

  • Aisazia January 31, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Nice to hear that you’re interested in drawing again. 😀 I am still learning myself, I always hear that’s it’s practice and it’s true. Books do help, I end up borrowing a bunch from libraries because I’m cheap but they still work. 😀 It’s good that you’re dedicating time daily. That will help a lot. Good luck on your illustration journey. 😉

    • Steve February 1, 2012, 9:06 am

      Hi Aisazia, thanks for the comment!

      I’m actually finding that maintaining the discipline to draw daily is challenging! But it does help a lot.

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