I want to learn to draw

Anyone know of a good book/website that can teach a person to draw “realistically?” I have always wanted to be able to draw well but have never had the time or a good source to work from.

Yes, this


STOP RIGHT THERE!!! Put your wallet away!!!

There is only one way to learn to draw and that is practise practise practise. All of this rubbish about rules and thinking of the world as a set of shapes is unhelpful and leads to stiff drawings with no feeling or intuition.

You must be as one with the canvas. You must learn your subject. You must watch it. Practise timed sketching, 30 secs, 2 mins. Good luck!!

Well, I want something to draw that gives me some more direction than thatt, Theom. However the portrait-artist link is a bit too general. It really hawks the book “Drawing from the right side of your brain.” Has anyone here read through it?

That’s a great book, IMO. I had a teacher who was a student of the lady that wrote that book, and all his students showed great improvement after going through his class (and that book). That book is pretty much a staple amongst many artists. If you look at the “before” and “after” drawings of the students of the lady who wrote that book, you will be impressed.

But yes, you also must practice, practice, practice.

Oh, one more thing: DON’T, DON’T DON’T DON’T get the abomination of a book called “How to draw realistic lifelike portraits” or something like that by an artist named Hammond. Never have I seen such hackneyed, miserable, lifeless, dead, non-drawn portraits. Everyone who studies her book produces dead-looking cookie-cutter blah artwork that is heavily “gridded” (not that gridding is bad, but if that’s all an artist can do, it’s a little sad in my opinion).

Well, I certainly have an opinion, don’t I?

Well, now that I’ve thought of it, I guess I shouldn’t say that everyone who uses that book written by Hammond does dead, lifeless work. A lot go on to do great things, but it is in spite of the Hammond book, not because of it.

In my opinion, that book is the pencil portrait equivalent of Thomas Kinkaide. Yes, you heard it here first.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about in regards to this specific book, consider yourself lucky. But just stay away from it.

Not that I have any strong opinions, or anything…

I would say any anatomy book would be a good start. People say it again and again but redundant practice really is the best way to get good and stay good.

[[I haven’t picked up the pencil in years and I’m afraid of what might come out :P]]

Realistic drawing?
The only thing you need to do is get really good at looking at things. That’s what all the drawing exercises, gridding, looking at shadows, looking at things upside down, visualising shapes, practice, is for. Getting good at looking at things, and looking at them in different ways. You could even just practice looking at things, but it helps you concentrate if you’re actually drawing it. That’s why practice is so crucial.
Me, I’m so spacey that I could spend two hours examining the texture of a white ceiling (I have!) but it’s still good to practice. I can now draw with either hand.

Stylistic drawing is a whole ‘nother basket o’ pickles.
That’s what I’m attempting to learn now. Manga art.

But IMO, the most important quality in an artist is that you recognize that mistakes are going to happen during the course of every single project you ever put your hand to, and you don’t let them faze you, just fix them. A project can never be ruined.

I highly recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Dr. Betty Edwards. Here’s a link to her Web site.

The simplest thing I ever heard, ‘draw what you see, not what you know’.

Look at the subject and understand what you are SEEING, don’t filter that with what you KNOW about what you are seeing.

Foreshortening is the hardest thing to learn/unlearn. You know the object is long, but it is pointing towards you, so you don’t see the full length. If you forget to SEE what is there, your drawing is disporportionate from the outset.

oh, and practice. You need dedicated time to do exercises in timed drawing, unseen drawing, don’t lift the pencil drawing, shadow drawing, but you also need free doodle time that you do for the love of it. It is passion that will help you improve, passion and diligence.

NOOOOOOO! Kinkade scares me and does bad things to children. :stuck_out_tongue: I won’t be picking up the Hammond book, but the Right Side book sounds like it has potential. I will go looking for that one soon.

I can already do cartoony types of drawings. I suck at buildings and I can’t draw what I see very well. Is there any type of special equipment other than a good pencil, pad, and eraser that I should get?

Believe it or not, one of the best how-to-draw books I’ve ever read was:

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Perspective, faces, foreshortening, drawing the figure – it’s all there. Plus, you learn how to draw larger-than-life superheroes. (“The average human figure is 6-and-a-half heads high. But a hero should be of heroic proportions – 8 heads high.”)

I had read that one a while back tracer. In fact it helped me, learn to draw cartoony. I got ok at it, but it wasn’t really what I was aiming for so I put it down. They now have it in the Klutz kiddie section in the bookstores. However, I really want to learn to draw what I see and the Marvel book is really only good for cartooning, in my opinion.

Practice drawing from photographs using a rule and compass for scale. Don’t be afraid to use straight edges and protractors for accuracy and above all…take your time. It doesn’t matter if it takes several days to get something right.
Draw using light lines and sketches (so you can erase). As you practice you will gain speed. Start with simple objects and progress to more detailed drawings.

Remember depth is probably the most important detail to get right. Use horizon lines drawn in VERY LIGHTLY if necessary. They can be erased later.

I would draw things to equal scale in the beginning for comparison sake, then after I felt confident begin working on different scales, until it is no longer necessary to use a photo. By then you will have trained your eye to see what you previously missed.

good luck…and most importantly is to have fun

I learned at a place called Mission: Art Renaissance. I couldn’t draw at all. The program is very structured, and breaks it down to the basics. They give concrete tools in learning to translate what you see into a drawing. They gave me confidence!

The teaching was self-paced, patient, and reinforced with videotapes and workbooks. You don’t progress to the next lesson until you understand the principle of the current lesson. They start with how to hold your pencil.

The program is only in southern California and Quebec, and I’m guessing you don’t live in either place. There are videotapes available on their website. There is a short 30 second streaming video here, on the “online video”.

It’s not cheap, but it’s the only class I found that really got me to see and draw realistically.

After that, like everyone else said, it’s practice, practice, practice.

Get a bigger pad of paper, or just a roll of paper. Learning to draw is far easier on a larger surface. Drawing small is much harder. Try to get something about 24" by 36".

Get an easel, or something to have the paper close to vertical. Draw while standing when you can. If you are looking at the paper from an angle, the bigger the angle is the more problems the drawing will have.

Get pencils of different hardnesses (HB, 4B, 9B are a good set). This allows you to start off with a lighter pencil, and then go to a darker one when you get it right. You don’t have to erase the marks you don’t darken; in fact they will likely add to the drawing.

As for advice, the first thing that everyone says is that you have to learn to see. It’s true. Don’t worry about what your drawing looks like. Just draw what you see. Your drawings may look funny at first but you will be improving fast.

Also, don’t be afraid to draw. A good tool for drawing accurately is to use relationships between parts of what you are drawing, but if you are tentative and you don’t put down all the parts, then you can’t use the relationships.

In other words, if you start off and try to get a perfect mark, and keep erasing and trying again, you will never be as accurate as if you had quickly put down the big picture, and then used the relationships to gradually use darker marks and become more accurate.

A lot of interesting stuff here and I figured since I use to be an Art Studio Major in college (my BA is English) I’d toss in my cents as well:

The real pain in the ass, as many people have already mentioned, is drawing with the right side of the brain. If you’ve ever seen a painting on the wall and it’s straight but your brain is screaming at you that it’s not and it needs to be fixed, that’s the left side. Drawing what’s there vs drawing what you think is right takes practice.
My professor summed it up well with a small exercise. She picked up a pencil and asked, “What’s this?” Of course we all said it’s a pencil. She said, “No. This is an object of various shades and pigments which YOUR BRAIN interprets to be a pencil.” In other words, if you want to draw someone’s face, you don’t DRAW the face, you use various shades and pigments to create something which the brain will interpret to be A FACE.

My best drawing ever, a tromp l’oeil, went as follows. It would be a good way to start:

Take a black and white photo that you’d like to draw, and make a grid on it using the back of an exactoknife or razorblade. That way you can make a grid and take very little away from the picture.

Draw a grid VERY LIGHTLY to scale on your paper, because you’ll erase it eventually and if you can see it, you’re screwed.

What I did next may be considered cheating, to which I say: bite me, it works. I went grid by grid and drew an light outline of the subject, including major changes in pigment. It was a good way to map it out. Then finally I went grid by grid, slowly but surely and I finished the picture.

Now, the Commandments that I’ve followed when I draw as they were passed down to me:

DO NOT TOUCH your picture if at all possible. The oils of your skin will change the way the pencil lead bonds with the paper. If you need to rest your hand, have a piece of paper you put over your drawing paper.

DRAW IN LAYERS, especially when creating dark pigments.

DRAW IN CIRCULAR PATTERNS and do it all of the way through your piece. If you change in mid stride, it WILL be noticed.

DO NOT EAT around your work. YOU WILL drop food on your work and mess it up.

DO NOT DRINK around your work. YOU WILL spill your drink on your work and mess it up.

DO NOT WORK ON THE FLOOR IF YOU HAVE PETS. THEY WILL walk all over your work and mess it up.

The last 3 I’ve never had happen to me, but in my art class of about 20 people at least ONE person ignored each of these rules and messed up their work and had to start over…and when you’re putting 16-20 hours into a work, that really really sucks.

Finally, don’t be afraid of two things:
1)Walking away from what you’re doing if you’re getting burned out. You don’t do yourself any favors running on empty. Take a breather, watch TV, then go back.
2)Make mistakes. This is more of a painting thing. But if you make a mistake there’s two things you can do. You can either get rid of it and do it over, or you can work on making it fit.

Anyway I’m done my lecture. I’m now jonsing for chinese food and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT!! (The Art Building was right in front of a street where all of the vendors would drive up and sell food and there was a nice asian family that could make up Sweet and Sour Chicken w/Pork Fried Rice for 4 bucks that could curl your toes.)

homer voice mmmm…Chinese… /homer voice

PS-Another great way to draw is to take a piece of paper, cover it ALL in black chalk, smudge it with your hand, then take a maleable eraser and draw using that. I did it with a nude artist in class. Another one of my best works :smiley:

sanscour, I second drawing with an eraser on a smudged coal surface. A great variation on the old knack of looking at the negative shapes.

My advice, though, is to go easy on the gridding and drawing from photographs. There’s a risk that you’ll only learn to reproduce photos or existing pictures accurately and not much else. Life drawing is another matter completetly - to actually see the world and be able to put it to paper in your own personal interpretation.

I’ve made it a habit to have a sketchbook handy at all times. Do this and enjoy drawing whenever you have a moment to spare and you’ll soon see improvement.

But what if what you see is an armored supervillain holding up a bank with a chrome-plated energy blaster pistol? Then where’ll you be, mister smarty pants?

Man, Sanscour, I always eat and drink when I’m drawing! But I’ve never (that I remember) have had a mishap.

dorkusmalorkusmafia, I am glad that I have warned you away from the Hammond book. Just remember what I told you. She’s like Kinkaide. If you go to some art message boards, you’ll find people who just love her, though. Now, some of these artists are pretty good themselves, but a lot of them are not. Some of them are stuck in this gridding-everything rut, and their work is dead and smudged and blah and nasty. I think her book allows many new artists to think that they’ve "arrived’ as an artist if they can grid something and smudge the pencil graphite around in an attempt to do “shading.” But most artists agree, you can’t always grid everything. Sooner or later you’re going to have to try something else.

Not that gridding is bad. After all, Betty Edwards’ book teaches gridding. It’s great for a lot of things, and especially great if you are just starting out.

Others here have given some good book recommendations. And I remember hearing of Mission: Art Renaissance, boobah! I never did take any classes there, but I have heard of it.

That site that Ryle linked to has a page of book recommendations for newbies, and I agree with all the books listed there. I especially want to recommend the Bert Dodson book. Next to the “Right Side of the Brain” book, I think that the Dodson book is next best. Actually, the Dodson book is excellent in its own right, really. There are a lot of good drawing books out there. (Too offset the “Kinkaide” type books!)

I’ll repeat what others have said about drawing–practice, practice, practice. Enjoy what you’re doing. Do fun subjects. Take a break when you start to feel burned out. Don’t get discouraged if you have trouble sometimes. Everyone has trouble sometimes.