l promised to share tips to improve your drawing that require no drawing skills right? I really wanted to do this because there is so much advice out there showing how to draw things. Some of it gets very technical and makes drawing sound like something that you need a masters degree to do. In truth if you can write your name you have all the skills required to draw. It is practise that is needed. Just like when you first learned to write your name, you probably copied it over and over again in a scribbly little hand and each time you copied it you got a little better, until one day you didn't need to copy and eventually you didn't even have to think about it anymore. Drawing is exactly the same. No one was born good at drawing. Even Michael D,Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci had to learn.
But there are things that make learning easier. Last week l talked about patience, this week l want to talk about reference photos. This caught me out and gave me problems for quite a while. Here l am sharing two photos that l found on Pixabay to demonstrate what l mean (please see my tips page for a discussion on reference photos and copyright because you can't just draw any photo you find on the net). Both of these are nice photos of close ups of a cat's face, one would be good for anyone to try drawing, the other requires more skill to achieve a good result.
When you begin drawing unless you have been obsessed with the subject since you were in diapers (or nappies depending on where you are from), you will need a very clear reference photo because you need to see every detail clearly to get it right. You don't have the skills and knowledge to make it up. So both cats have green eyes. But in the first photo that is really all you can tell about the eyes, they are a shade of green, you can make out a little gold to one edge and some lighter creamy area to the other. If you draw exactly what you see it will look flat and boring. In the other photo you can see a thousand colours, little flecks of light and dark, you can see clouds and trees reflected in the highlights. Draw these eyes as you see them and you will have a stunning drawing.
Now look back at the first photo, one eye is very much in shadow, you can't really make out the pupil, in fact if you copy exactly like the photo little puss will look like he has one huge round pupil and one small oval pupil, and trust me, that will look very odd. Because here is something else worth remembering, what we accept in a photo and readily believe does not always look right in a drawing, even if we copy exactly from the photo. People will look at the drawing and think you can't draw. They will be asking,'why does that little cat have weird odd eyes?'!
Next take a look at the fur in the two photos. In the second photo you can see every strand of fur and the direction it grows in, in the first lots of sections are blurred and in soft focus. Now if you draw pets for a living these things probably won't matter too much, when you have drawn fifty cat faces you will know how the fur goes and you can probably make it up. But if you are just starting out you will make your life much, much harder if you try to use the first photo.
It took me a long time to realise that l needed to spend longer choosing my reference photos, that until you have a lot of experience of a subject you can only draw what you can see. Make sure that the photos you choose are really clear, that you can really see everything that you need to see. All the details, the colours, the shapes. Make sure that nothing in the photo might look odd in a drawing (like the eyes in the first photo). If you can't make something out, spend a little longer looking for another photo. You can always save that photo and come back and draw it when you have more skills.
I have wasted such a lot of time trying to draw things l can't really see or to correct a shape that looks odd when drawn and have not usually been at all happy with the results in the end. It is so discouraging to spend days working on a piece to be unhappy with it when it is finished. So do yourself a favour. Spend the time to look for a great photo. The more you can see the better your finished piece will be and the faster your skills will improve.
All good things come to those who wait. Tip number one for improving your drawing skills, is patience. It has to be right here, the first, number one! Especially so with colored pencils, but in truth with any drawing medium. The biggest thing that pulls down most artwork is not lack of skill, but lack of patience.
It's hard right? You have spent hours on the eyes or the petals or the nice little part that catches the light and now you have to draw the fur or the hair or the grass and you start with good intentions but it gets a bit tedious and then it gets a lot tedious and then .... well, you just want to get it finished and start the next piece. Stop. Right there. Notice that moment it starts to feel tedious. This is the moment that you choose whether you are going to draw the most amazing piece you have ever drawn or whether you are going to produce a pretty mediocre piece and tell yourself that you never get any better or that you are just not that good.
Patience is the difference between 'blurgh', 'okay' and 'wow!'. It doesn't matter how long you have spent on the amazing eye, the stunning petals or the glistening gem, if you have scribbled the fur, rushed the hair or sped through the background, that part you spent hours on will not look anywhere near so good. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and being served your meal on paper plates with cardboard cups and plastic knives and forks because they are trying to save on the washing up. That is what you do to your art when you rush.
l am not saying it is easy, patience is the hardest thing to learn, but learn it and you will also see some of your biggest improvement because it is patience that makes you keep going, adding another layer, another colour, refining a bit here, rechecking your reference photo etc. And if you ever hear yourself saying, 'that will do' that is a certain sign that it won't and that you can do better.
I know for certain that when l have finished a piece if l have rushed any part l will forever look at it and wish that l had spent just a bit longer working on it. I have never looked at a piece and wished that l had rushed a part. The extra time is always worth it. Take it. Be patient and see the difference right away. I promise you, the more patience that you learn the better your art will be!
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