I got into drawing in early 2020. This page has a few notes & reflections on learning to draw. See the resources sidebar for linked pages/additional notes.
With any new hobby I'm trying to ask why I am doing it and what my goals are. After a night () of reflection, I think these are some of my motivations:
Fun & Relaxation: to have fun learning to express myself through drawing.
Growth & Motivation: to learn something I thought couldn't do.
Aspiration: to create drawings inspired by favourite artists.
Fundamentals & Cross Pollination: to have the option and the comfort level to try different branches of art without immediately getting discouraged.
Adjacent Projects: to branch into projects that involve or are related to drawing, but also other skills (creating a font, designing a map, or building a game, for example.)
To Develop Patience: perhaps contrary to the first point; drawing challenges my patience and the desire for fast results.
Below is a general timeline of the resources I've used and am using to improve. I try to split my time drawing between practice/exercise and drawing for fun. During the start of my drawing journey I was preoccupied by going through tutorials and books, often not really giving the information enough time to sink in (and practice!) before moving to the next.
If I was to start again - even still focused by an improvement-oriented-approach, I would be, ironically, more strict about just drawing for fun.
This is a loose description of the resources I used. Anything in this table I was able to read/follow/watch at least 75% of the material, and found it useful.
|Rendering in pen & ink.|
|Pen & Ink Drawing Workbook|
|Drawing lessons from the great mastersº|
|Return to Drawabox! - cylinder challenge|
|Proko Figure Drawing Playlist|
|Figure drawing for all it's worthº|
|Drawing the head and handsº|
|Perspective made easyº|
|"Andrew Loomis - Fun with a pencil"|
Here are some brief notes on some of the above resources. All the following notes dated to the time I used the resource and the resources may have changed since. At the end of each section I will note if my present-self would still recommend the resources for my past-self.
As a side note, the books I especially enjoyed I suspect I will revisit more than once to catch things I inevitably missed or was not yet struck by.
Notes from Drawabox Circa 2020.
Drawabox is excellent for beginners. It is an exercise oriented online course/curriculum. It helps teach some very important basics, like how to use your shoulder while drawing, and how to focus on creating confident lines. As it progresses, it advocates focusing on using construction to begin thinking in 3D. The rigidity of the rules and recommendations in the course are helpful and not a hindrance. The provided drills / exercises are what makes Drawabox unique - it provides a set of highly opinionated out of the box challenges, that other online resources often don't have (at least free ones). With that said, the creator is humble and admits that they are still learning at the same time, continuously improving Drawabox. I found this mix of decisive-humbleness to be relatable and also useful for getting a kickstart at actually drawing rather than sitting around thinking "what should I do" or "where should I start?".
Recommend?: yes, but - follow the 50% rule. Don't feel compelled to do ONLY drawabox. Taking breaks from it is ok.
Figuary is a drawing 'challenge' to encourage people to try and do a figure drawing everyday for the month of February. This takes no more than 15-25 minutes each day. I found this to be an excellent way to just get started and go; I had not read any figure drawing books before I did it and that gave me the motivation to not worry too much about fundamentals, and just try. Further, as I had never done something like figuary before (I had done one off life drawing classes), I found the continued exposure to the human form to be an important and beneficial experience. From this alone, I can see how beauty (and courage) are wrapped up in ways I had never previously considered.
Loomis - Fun with a Pencil
This is where my drawing practice started. Loomis is well known in the community for several reasons, and he was especially adept at creating a diverse set of resources for different levels of experience, and for speaking candidly and kindly with the artist. He communicates directly to the reader and often provides very poignant and encouraging comments. Largely, the book covers drawing people, specifically in fun, cartoon-ish ways. There is some cover of perspective and value, but it is for the most part, a description of techniques for creating somewhat cartoonish characters.
Recommende?: yes and no. It was a good place to start, but I spent maybe a bit too long drawing silly faces when I wasn't that interested in it.
Perspective Made Easy
This was a great place to get into learning Perspective. I was slated to start studying "How to Draw" by Scott Robertson after doing Drawabox, but I could see that it was going to quite a bit more intense than I was ready for. Perspective Made easy is a good introduction to perspective; chapters are nicely formatted with introductions and conclusions that provide a series of points to remember and possible problems to try working through.
See my notes: Perspective made easyº
Loomis - Drawing the Head and Hands
Another well known title. I think this was largely a good read, and while I did take notes, not a ton comes back to me when trying to remember what I learned. I would treat this book as a reference with choice advice on thinking about sturcture and anatomy, as well as finding sort of "mnemonics" for drawing ("The Loomis Method" is quite well known for drawing faces).
Loomis continues to be humble and to show there are no secrets. In the section on drawing hands he specifically states that it's a matter of practice to get good at drawing hands. Draw your own hands. Do it again (and again).
Often Loomis' work is very dated (in several ways), but there is often text on becoming an illustrator / doing portraiture. I usually don't heed too much of this as I'm not interested in being a working artist and it's quite dated.
Recommended?: yes but - treat this as a reference material. Read what the author has to say, study the anatomy parts, but don't sit and copy their drawings. Read enough to feel like you have a few more tools in your toolbelt, and then go draw people from reference or from photos.
Loomis - Figure Drawing for all it's worth.
I actually quite liked this book. Similar to Drawing the head and the handsº, this is good reference material. The first quarter of the book provides several useful drawing mnemonics for thinking out how to size / scale / draw your person.
Recommended?: yes but- similar to the above, use this as reference material. Read the author's advice (it's quite good, especially regarding talent, and determination). Then draw people from life, or from photos. Drawing from the author's examples will look better than drawings from life, because you are copying a drawing, which has already made decisions about what lines, values, contours, shapes etc are brought into the drawing and what are discarded. This is valuable, but it needs to be done from life to learn, I think.
Proko Figure Drawing Playlist
A useful series of videos that provides a modern take on some of the topics covered in Figure drawing for all it's worthº (FDFAIW). The concepts of drawing gesture, drawing "the bean" and "the robo bean" were all new to me and helped provide additional tools from those in FDFAIW. The Drawing Measuring Techniques video was also quite useful as a refresher, as well as providing insight why it's necessary (avoiding tunnel vision).
Alphonso Dunn's Pen & Ink Drawing Workbook
This was a fun change from doing a lot of pencil work. I skipped reading the more instructional sibling book "Pen & Ink: A simple guide" and went straight to Dunn's workbook. I appreciated having a workbook so that I could practice drawing without having as much cognitive load of coming up with something to draw while also getting instruction on new techniques. This book was particularly helpful at identifying different types of strokes (hatching, cross hatching, curved hatching, uneved hatching, scribbling, stippling and flowing lines) and ways of varying those strokes (size, spacing, layers, direction and weight) - and then practicing them a lot. It took me about a month to work through this book and it has since informed my doodling and sketching - especially with a mechanical pencil where standard pencil shading doesn't really apply.