Can I learn drawing from books/video/etc.? Or do you really need to go to a class?

I have always wanted to learn to draw and now I have the time. I have no art training (since 8th grade art class) and would be interested in the fundamentals. I am reviewing classes available at the local community college.

Is drawing something where you really need a live instructor? Or can you learn it effectively independently from books or videos?

I have played the guitar for over 50 years and when people ask me this question about the guitar, I say that they have to spend at least some time with a good teacher to get a feedback loop. But OTOH I wouldn’t recommend 30-40 hours of group classroom instruction, which is what the community college class would be.

Why not simply try books and see if you can learn from them?

You can certainly learn the fundamentals from books and videos, see if it’s something you like and see if you have any talent at it.

I’m a pretty good artist and a mediocre guitar player. I would say it’s similar to learning to play guitar-- you can get pretty far teaching yourself with books and videos, then if you get good enough and enjoy it enough you might want to get an instructor to take you to the next level (I never did with guitar, other than playing with friends who were better players than me-- hence, perhaps, my mediocrity at guitar).

It might vary from person to person depending on your learning style though. Some people might do better with an instructor from the start.

I believe that anyone of normal intelligence can learn to draw, with the right motivation and the right teacher. The one book I thoroughly recommend is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

I was going to recommend the same book. She explains in the introduction that the physical skill of drawing is no more difficult than that required for writing. It is all putting lines on paper. The trick is learning how to see and get what you see on to the paper. She makes the point that people will believe that their child “has no talent for drawing” but would be horrified if told they had “no talent for English.”

Her website has before and after self portraits by people who did a 6 day virtual course. So you can see that you don’t have to wait months to see progress.

I think you’re possibly slightly more likely to develop your own slightly unconventional style or method if you self-teach, than if you attend formal tuition, but that’s possibly a good thing, right? It’s art.

But, don’t press too hard with your pencil or you could cause brain damage.

I guess the advantage of going to a class is that your work can be critiqued, with suggested alterations on the way. You’ll never get that from a book. Also, there’s a real joy to being in a group class, sharing tips. * It’s a shared experience, and provides motivation (and a social life).

In the same vein, a few years ago I started learning Italian. I was doing the whole duolingo thing, but it wasn’t until I signed up to a class that things really started to click - you get to practice with others, ask questions and share experiences.

*Full disclosure, I went to art college and some of my fondest memories are group life drawing classes.

Same here. I took 3 semesters of life drawing in college. I had a great art professor who gave two key pieces of advice that I remember to this day; that might help the OP:

Draw what you see, not what you know. I always had a pretty good eye, so I didn’t really have this problem, but people in general tend to draw things as representing how they know them, not how they see them. I used this advice to help a girlfriend’s younger sister who asked me why the airplane she drew looked so ‘stupid’. It was from a side view of the plane, but the wings were drawn straight up and down, as if viewing the plane from above, kind of like this. I told her, you drew wings as you know ‘wings’. Think of them as abstract shapes, since that’s what they look like pointing toward you. I did a sketch to show her what I meant, and she went “ohhhh”. I could see the light bulb going off.

The second tip, which did help me a lot, is that when we practiced drawing portraits in class, I could make what looked like a perfectly fine drawing of a person, but it just didn’t look much like the person I was drawing. He said “pay particular attention to the shape of the eyes. That’s where a lot of our facial recognition keys in on”.

I’m sure this is what you should do when you are learning to draw and making representational art. But if Picasso had followed this we wouldn’t have had cubism. :slightly_smiling_face:

Picasso learned representational art before he went on to Cubism. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk (or run), grasshopper. :wink:

(I’ve heard a heretical theory that part of the reason Picasso went on to more abstract, less representational art was out of frustration that he couldn’t really cut it as a representational artist-- he just wasn’t that good.)

Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. The history of the arts are full of people with classical training who went on to start new movements. That’s why I put a little smiley. I visited the Picasso Museum in Paris and was fascinated to see the progression of his work all in one place. I am not a student of art history so was unfamiliar with his earlier more conventional work.

Actually, the very act of ignoring what you think you see and just focusing in on things like colour, tone, shade is precisely what leads to things like cubanism. It’s just a different way of looking. One of my most memorable classes was where we had to paint a life model using colour as tone rather than what colours we think we see - so shadows become not brown or black, but purples and greens, and yellow for skin instead of flesh coloured. It was one of my best paintings ever

Cool. I only realized what your avatar image was after I made my previous post, and I thought ‘hope I didn’t bum out the OP with my parenthetical Picasso gossip’ :grin:

The Detroit Institute of Arts has a painting or two from Picasso’s Blue period which I’ve enjoyed viewing in the past.

Like this?

Sorry, couldn’t resist :blush:

LOL, damn you autocorrect

I chose that image is because of the guitar, not because of Picasso. :slightly_smiling_face:

Another problem plaguing the small fiery cubist was frequent lion attacks.

I believe the most important things have been said, so I’ll just repeat the most basic lesson: you can only draw/paint what you see. You have to learn to look. When you see somehing, really see it how it is, even if it is only in your mind and not in reality, you can put it to paper/canvas. Then look again and see if you like it. If it does not like right, you probably did not look right. Look again, try again.
Also look at what others do, don’t be afraid to copy. It’s not plagiarism, it’s an homage. Stand on the highest shoulders you can climb.
And enjoy! That is the purpose. And perhaps the only part were others really help (nonwithstanding the copying part - you mostly will copy others, of course). Show what you do. Why not a homepage?

I was a professional artist for years. I’ve done it commercially. I’ve had fine art in museums. I’ve taught people in the past. Getting them past solost’s comment is the hardest part.

Forget that you are drawing what you are drawing (because you do not instinctively know what it looks like - trust me) and consider what you are drawing as shapes, proportions and geometry. That really is it. At least for the basics. Proportions.

So yes, you can learn it from a book - if you get a good one. There is a shit-ton of bad ones out there.

Counterpoint: every illustration in SF and fantasy. (Else I do not want to meet the models in Wayne Barlowe’s studio!)