Ed is a ten year old son of a friend. He loves to draw and paint. Recently, he completed a four week block of weekly drawing lessons with me. He already has very good drawing skills; largely due to his keen observational skills. *More of Ed’s lovely drawings, and my lesson notes a little further along.
Some thoughts on Drawing
A vital key in learning to draw anything, is to draw from looking closely at your subject matter: to draw well – so as to gain a likeness – is to “see” well. This is how I learnt to draw – which I, Ed and others somehow cottoned on to as a child.
Therefore when I teach drawing, I think it is of great importance, to help people to really “see”, so they can draw: the lines, shapes, tones….of their subject matter.
Drawing from imagination is also important, yet unfortunately, has often become the main or only focus in modern art teaching trends.
Children from 8 and 9 years old onwards, often want to draw in a more realistic manner; and when helped to draw from “seeing”, many discover they can do this. I did some practical research into these areas, during my Art and English (high school) teaching, by taking a group of primary school students, through some observational drawing classes.
It was a joy to see the expression on children’s faces as they drew: toy cars, toy models of animals, their favourite stuffed toys….an so on. Many were delighted and surprised they could draw in this way. Their age was a helpful factor, as by the time they enter high school – in those fun teen years 🙂 – many decide they can’t draw, and it’s difficult (though not impossible) to convince them otherwise!
As well as my own personal experience, my interest in these areas, was sparked by reading, Betty Edward’s book,”Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”.
These areas of right and left brain hemispheres and their specific functions, and in particular, theories on how they may relate to the ability to draw, or to “see” in order to draw, have been well researched in recent times.
You may already be familiar with these theories. I think they have helped to create a trend back to the teaching of the traditional skills, involved in drawing from direct observation. Here are some more relevant links you may find interesting.
Springer and Deutsch: “Right Brain, Left Brain”
Donald H Taylor: “Modern myths of learning: The creative right brain”.
Ed’s Drawing Sessions
Most of the following notes here are from a sheet I wrote up for Ed, which I gave to him at the end of the four weeks, to recap his drawing travels. It also includes some of the following drawings
*There is more information under each of his drawings.
Along the way there was time allowed for plenty of discussion. I also did demonstration drawings and sometimes we used our iPads to extend an exercise. He mostly drew with a Hb graphite pencil on paper.
To begin I placed a branch of gum-leaves into a glass jar and asked Ed to do 3 x 3 min drawings…and to work as quickly as possible. The drawing above, is one of them – unfortunately, I didn’t get to scan them all.
I’ve used this exercise with others, and often by the third drawing there is a quite noticeable improvement in the drawing: a lighter touch, a more fluid line and a better likeness to the subject matter.
Perhaps, drawing quickly, encourages a right brain type of thinking, which is presumed to be a factor in learning to draw.
We looked at:
- the importance of looking 90% of the time at the subject matter and 10% at the paper;
- how to use light pencil lines to find the edges of the subject matter to depict the shape;
- using light and dark lines; and
- thick and thin lines.
Looking at an individual leaf.
Ed went out and picked some more leaves and found one with an interesting marking on one edge. He really focused deeply on it and did a lovely detailed drawing.
Also looked at using tone on and under the leaf to create its shape.
We considered some compositional elements.
- Focal point(s), areas.
- How the picture space around the subject matter helps the overall composition; and
how if you subtract or add a visual element, it can add or detract from the composition – and whether doing this changes, weakens or strengthens the focal point of the drawing.
- Looked at how the picture space boundaries and the shapes (negative space) around the subject matter, effect the overall composition.
- The final arrangement of visual elements (“language”) of our drawing within our picture space; it’s overall composition…is part “happy accident” and a lot to do with “conscious” decision making along the way. This happens albeit using different elements in: sculpture, writing…. dance, music…: the latter two have a time-space element as well.
- And how colour can be used to emphasize a focal point.
A few times we used the iPad to scan in one of his drawings, (as with the one above) and cropped it in different ways, while we discussed compositional factors. Also, some were printed, and Ed added more tone and/or line work to them.
The “Pro Scanner” app is very handy; great for capturing details. Below are Ed’s drawings of an apple. A couple of prints were made of one of them and he painted them with his watercolours. Ed has a great collection of art materials. *My scanning skills have improved in the last few months since doing these scans!
Considered how: the horizon line, the placement of a simple line, behind the subject matter makes it appear as if it sits on a surface – rather than floats.
Ed was and is enthusiastic to learn all he can about drawing and painting. I really enjoyed these art travels with Ed. He seemed to have a lot of fun, too. If he continues to learn and practice – which is so important in learning any skill – he’s sure to go a long way with his art. I wish him all the best.
Thanks Ed, for letting me share your wonderful drawings here on my blog.
As I’ve said earlier, drawing from the imagination is important: doing doodles, playing with colours, creating imaginary scenes – all have a part in a well rounded drawing experience. *I’ve seen some beautiful Zentangles; an art form becoming quite popular.
However, I do think, the drawing skills learnt as we look and “see” the wonderful world around us, aside from being a common (and logical!) desire for many; can inform and enrich our ventures into this more whimsical type of drawing.
This has certainly been my experience.
Some people have a flair, perhaps a little of that illusive thing called “talent”. However, as I mention elsewhere in a post, I believe to a large extent –
drawing is a learnable skill.
I hope if you don’t draw yet, you will find encouragement from this post, to give it a go.
Whether on: paper, canvas, iPad…any touch screen device, back of a newsletter, on the corner of a paper napkin…..or just about anywhere! 🙂