Starting to Draw: A Basic Guide: Part 1

The most difficult part of beginning to draw is starting. It may seem a self-evident statement but when you begin art it is difficult to know what to draw and what medium to use (whether it is pencil, pen, or paints). So, where to begin?

It is always best to start by using a proper drawing pencil (a 2B or 3B is best) then you can erase any mistakes when you make them. It is also a good idea that when you start to draw lightly and not press down heavily onto the paper.
In terms of subject matter start simply with a setup of, for example, eggs in a bowl or a plate of fruit. Try to have a controlled light source such as a lamp to give the setup shadow and highlights so you can work on shading and modelling the objects.
The first thing you need to do before you start drawing is to analyse what you are drawing and (if you can) break it down into basic shapes (circles, squares, etc.) that you can then ‘build on’ into more complex forms. Also look at how the shadows fall on the objects
Don’t try to get the drawing right the first time, you need to work and rework the lines to ‘tighten’ up the drawing as you go! Patience is very important. If you get frustrated (we’ve all been there!) put the drawing away and return to it later when you are calmer.
Use an eraser when needed but before ‘rubbing out’ you can use the incorrect lines as a guide when you redraw the shape more accurately otherwise you sometimes end up redrawing the same incorrect lines over each other and you can’t see it.

Always start with a light line to get the basic shape then you can work back over the lines to define and redefine them until they are correct. One common error is to keep going over the lines again and again without cause (see above), this is usually because you are sometimes unsure of the correct line so subconsciously you work back over the lines you already know. Stop and review and analyse the setup to see where you have gone wrong. Only work back over any lines if you are altering them or ‘’tightening up the shape or form’.
You can start working shading and tone into the drawing once you have the shape you want to achieve. But when you do add shading always start by adding it lightly without too much pressure and then gradually start building up the intensity. Never start by trying to get the tone straight off as this is a mistake and could make your drawing too dark.
Smudging is another thing that beginner artists use on their drawings. This can in fact take any shape (or modelling) away and make your drawing look too flat and characterless. Smudging needs to be kept to a minimum, but it can be effective if used sparingly with mark-making. You can smudge a small section of your shaded area and then (this is the difference!) work back over it with suitable mark-making technique,
These are some of the tips I have learned in over 20 years teaching fine art to every level of student and some of these I have learned by making mistakes myself!

Practice. Practice. Practice

Confidence is always hard to develop at the start of any activity and fine art is the same. It usually takes a lot of practice to develop this confidence to a high degree. But with practice and through constant drawing you can develop the skills necessary to reach a good standard of work.
There are a couple of ways that you can help to develop your skills. The first is to draw consistently and with focus looking at line, form, mark-making, and shading. One thing that does help you in developing this skill is to always keep a small sketchbook (A5) on you and a pencil (or even pen) in your pockets.
Use it when you are out and have from 2 to 5-minutes (or longer) and draw!
It doesn’t matter what you draw, it could be a person, a building, car, or even a tree. By doing this you are not only developing your hand-eye co-ordination, but your muscle memory in your hands so you will then be able to work quickly and without too much thought on what to do.
This technique will help to build up your confidence and it will also help you to be able to analyse a subject quickly and work fast on completing a sketch. Don’t worry if at first you don’t finish a drawing, there will be a point when you will be able to complete one in a short time.
But, most importantly, it is an exercise to help you develop your confidence through regularly drawing for a short period of time each day. Over time this will help to develop your skills as an artist that you can then apply to longer studies.

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