Drawabox is an online platform for learning how to draw (for absolute beginners). For about 4 months, from the end of summer to the end of the year, I worked through through the curriculum. I made it up to lesson 5 before I got frustrated and needed to take a break (this was a good idea). Nonetheless, you can see my work/progress/thoughts below.

For larger context, read the page on Drawingº.

General Takeaways

  • Get feedback sooner. Don't wait and develop bad habits.

  • Take your time.

  • Learning is hard work. There are no shortcuts. You need to do the work.

  • Drawabox is, in my opinion, excellent for starting learning to draw from scratch.

  • The community is helpful, if just for seeing how other people's work looks, and then (healthily) comparing your work to see what you might have missed.

  • While feedback is essential, it is digital feedback in the form of text discussion. For some, that may not be a replacement for in-person feedback from an educator.

  • Become a patron to support the project (and get credited feedback from instructors and / TAs.)

General Timeline

These are the dates that I submitted / completed work (as describe in more detail, with links to images in each section below).

DateLesson Name
[2020-09-11 Fri]Lesson 1: Lines, ellipses and boxes
[2020-09-27 Fri]Submitted 250 Boxes challenge
[2020-10-14 Wed]Lesson 2: Contour lines, texture and construction
[2020-10-29 Thu]Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants
[2020-11-12 Thu]Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
[2020-12-13 Sun]Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
[2020-12-21 Mon]Lesson 5 Redo
[2020-12-29 Tue]Drawabox Hiatus

Lesson 1 - Lines, Ellipses and Boxes

I started this in August 2020, if I remember correctly. I submitted the assignments for this lesson sometime in September. I had moved on to lesson 2 before getting any feedback. This was... not the best. I had to go back and redo some of my work, at the recommendation of the TA who graded my mark.:

As you can see, I made a huge improvement. I think I knew from the beginning that I had made mistakes and that I wasn't doing the work correctly. I think I even knew some of the feedback I was going to get. But the act of receiving feedback itself and being asked to redo work was . I was able to identify where I had rushed as well as where I had not done my due diligence reading the homework instructions.

I still struggle with confident linework, but I understand that it will come with LOTS of time.

Lesson 1 gallery link ➡

Challenge 1 - 250 boxes

250 boxes gallery Link ➡

This took a while. I completed the boxes immediately after finishing lesson 1. I made lots of skewed, wonky, strange boxes. 250 is a lot. It takes a long time. I think the greatest takeaway was realizing that it was ok to make mistakes. I would usually say something like "well, this one wasn't great. It's a good thing you have 212 more boxes to make."

And that is a GREAT lesson. Learning is about making mistakes. I think ridding yourself of your fear of failure is the fastest way to improve quickly.

Lesson 2 - Organic Forms and Textures

Lesson 2 gallery Link ➡

I kept an eye on the community submissions for this lesson while I was working on lesson 1. I recall thinking I wouldn't be able to create anything of the same caliber. While there are plenty of excellent texture drawings, I did manage to do ok. This was a good example in recognizing the value of comparison and finding a healthy balance in just pushing forward when something feels challenging.

Further, the lesson dictates that it will be difficult.

Lesson 3 - Plants

Lesson 3 gallery Link ➡

Time to draw actual things! This was very satisfying. A few weeks after starting lesson 3, I was on a hike and decided to sketch a plant I found in front of a river. I found myself thinking I can't believe I'm doing this. The drawing I did was by no means good, but for the first time I felt like I was actually able to capture the dimensionality of the plant (especially the way a leaf folds over itself).

Certainly follow along with the demo videos as well (drawing the mushroom, hibiscus, etc).

Lesson 4 - Insects / Arachnids

I went ahead and did lesson 4 before I got feedback from Drawabox. This was a mistake and I was asked to redo lesson 4 before submitting. I was a little annoyed at first, but after doing the lesson again, I realized the feedback and practice made a huge difference. I also started vigorously following the 50% rule - I alternative drawing for fun with drawabox every morning.

Lesson 5 - Animals

Lesson 5 Gallery ➡

Lesson 5 has taken the longest of all the lessons so far. I now closely follow the 50% rule and am splitting my time drawing for fun and working on Drawabox. but beyond that, I had several days working on lesson 5 where the results were just terrible. I couldn't grasp how to layer additional 3D forms onto constructed shapes, I struggled with drawing limbs, and I couldn't draw faces on pretty much any animal. Many of these initial bad drawings will never see the light of day, but they definitely made me laugh (and grumble) during the process.

I think this lesson was the one that made me feel like there is the longest way to go with learning to draw. I think there are inherently difficult things about drawing faces, so maybe that is part of it.

After getting feedback, I was asked to redo 4 animals and pay more attention to the following:

  • Avoid adding 2d lines to "fill in" gaps when you shoudl be using 3d-masses.

  • Use plain sausages (don't elongate one end, such as for a thigh muscle or shoulder).

  • Re-inforce the "sausage" links where there are additional masses.

The four animal re-drawings can be seen here.

After more feedback, I'm still not quite ready to progress. This made me sad, but I knew that I needed (need) to be able to accept feedback to improve.This is perhaps the second wall I 've hit with drawabox. I'll take a break and start retrying with a fresh mind at the beginning of January.

Drawabox Hiatus

After lesson 5 I felt pretty frustrated. I was not grasping how to "layer 3D" forms. I wasn't sure what to do. I knew that if I attempted the homework again (I was re-assigned parts of the lesson 5 homework two additional times) I would still not fix my mistakes and I would likely submit work that did not demonstrate that I had taken the time to absorb the feedback (ie, keep throwing myself at the problem without reflection / pause, getting increasingly frustrated).

I decided I needed a break. I'm not sure why this felt shitty - probably because I was pretty convinced that I was going to make it through the course and not give up (although I am not giving up!). Even after taking a week off from the coures (and writing about it now) I see that I'm starting to encounter more specific and advanced feedback and that this feedback is actually much more crucial (I thought I was good at getting feedback). So, I'm learning a lot of lessons. Taking breaks is hard but I think it might be for the best in the long run. One of the reasons I started drawings was to improve my patience and to slow down a little. I can see now that when I got feedback on something that needed to change, while I did try again and (sort of) listen, I was just rushing through thte motions to be granted the go-ahead to move on to the next lesson. I'm still just rushing through and this is absolutely not what I want (in drawing, or in life).

Anyway, I've taken a break to just draw for fun in my sketchbook - it's been great. I've tried drawing from photos, drawing figures, some doodling, and a bit of vector illustration. I might poke around at some Andrew Loomis textbooks and try some new things before returning to Drawabox.