BlizShadow's Guide to Drawing
*Reposted from old forum.

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My belief is that drawing isn't magic; you can learn it if you're dedicated. People usually like to respond that there's artists who're more talented than they are and that this is discouraging. And? Did you quit math, English, social studies, or science simply because you weren't Einstein, Shakespeare, Jefferson, or Darwin? Of course not. Whether out of necessity or interest, you stuck by these things and increased your abilities over time. You're better at these things now than you were last year, or when you were ten, or when you were five. Drawing's the same; it's just a skill.

I myself sucked when I started, (in the grand scheme of things, I still do). What proved to be the best thing I could've done for myself- especially as far as a prospective animation career was concerned- was to copy cartoon characters: the classic "easy" ones, like Mickey, Donald, Bugs, and Daffy. For years I just drew the art from my video cassette covers, merchandise, and even still frames on the TV in order to see for myself how animators and artists achieved interesting characters and poses. 

This was a valuable gateway for me, one I'd only realize after abandoning an art teacher who started me off drawing flat geometric shapes and especially so now in art college: Golden Age cartoon characters are created by "construction"- using forms to make a figure- and this carries over into the fine arts where good construction skills are a necessity. If I were to be simple for clarity's sake, I'd say that that's what drawing boils down to: Stacking shapes and throwing details on them. =P

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Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi champions what I'm talking about, probably to an extremist degree, but there's a point in the passion: Construction through shapes is the basis of good drawing whether you're sketching Jerry Mouse or painting a realistic still life.

The easiest way I'd be able to teach anyone drawing is if they not only understood this but practiced it. Again, drawing isn't magic. You need to sit down with some paper and a pencil and practice construction. Draw plain shapes. Then draw Sonic. Draw Bugs. Draw Darkwing Duck. Draw Gundams and Zoids. Draw the Coke can you'll inevitably spill over your work. You don't have to sit there deliberating for hours either, (I did, but I'm a shut-in). Draw a few sketches and put it down. Then go back to it. But ultimately keep drawing.

And don't shortchange yourself! Don't ask artists for perfect numbers or formulas and things of that nature. Most of us don't draw from math formulas; we draw from muscle memory and imagination which is impossible to define, and we hate having to explain this or give a half-hearted answers to such questions because it's not going to help you in the long run. There are no shortcuts. If prompted and alone, go on Google and look up how things are done. If you want to try learning human anatomy, type it in a search bar. Look at photos. Look at family members. Look at other artists' styles. Use e-books. Trace a picture if you have to. Trust me, there's no shame in tracing! (No, that is not a photograph). You have a ton of tools at your disposal; take advantage of them.

If you gain nothing else from this or got tired of reading, know that the basis of good drawing starts by understanding shapes and how to apply them in interesting and sensible ways. To improve is simply a matter of physical practice. Reading will do you no good, drawing will, so ultimately this topic will only help you so much. If nothing else, I hope to lay a foundation for you to learn to love drawing, to get a handle on concepts ranging from posing to shading to clothing, and to understand how to take it further and go off on your own. You can do this. You can put shapes and details on paper. Now let's get started. \o/

To cater to direct beginners and drawers that aren't quite up to speed, let's focus on the most basic of basics and advance to better techniques. You'll be practicing this the most- even when you're good- so you'll probably find it tedious. But Rome wasn't built in a day, or even a week, or a month, or a year. Probably not even a decade, but you get the point. 

First, you have to know how to draw convincing geometric shapes. Triangles, quads, and ovals are the two-dimensional shapes that'll most make up the three-dimensional forms you'll begin utilizing in more convincing characters, like so:

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Before beginning, know that you need to be as loose as possible. Plain copy paper is barely four-thousandths of an inch thick and is usually pure white; trust me, your pencil lines will show up on there without your hard pressing. 

Aside from not being paper abuse, drawing loosely will give you some advantages: You'll get faster at putting things down on paper, you'll possess more hand and finger control, and imposing details on top of sketches and erasing will be much easier achieved. Surely we've all had drawings ruined because we couldn't erase the lead we'd gouged into the paper. 

So practice having a light grip as demonstrated here and in other similar videos. Know that the less of your drawings you can see, the better off you are. Also, practice drawing basic shapes in the meantime. Try your best to make the shapes visually balanced. Their sides should be as solid as you can make them within three to five seconds:

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I'm being literal on that time; you shouldn't need to spend longer than that on a single shape. Speed will be key on getting you to be able to reproduce these shapes intuitively, which will allow you to put your time and energy in drawing the character which is the most important and fun part. 

As you get comfortable with practicing good posture and sketching skills, you'll probably be chomping at the bit to work on some living things. Indeed, once you've become proficient at these things, it's then that you're moved on to yet another basic skill which will better allow you to produce sketches like these:

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These are "gesture drawings," sketches that focus on the pose of a subject versus the details. Despite their squiggly-ness they're still multi-functional: They keep your speed, precision, lightness of grip, and intuitive knowledge of drawing forms up to par. These human figures were probably each rendered within 15-30 seconds. Needless to say, you don't have time to be distracted.

The aforementioned new skill involves training the eyes to see complicated objects and creatures in real life as merely a mass of the shapes. Underneath this artist's messiness, these figures can still be broken down as a conglomerate of ovals, quads, and triangles. However, he's gotten to the point where he can travel from one form to the next with lines instinctively whilst focusing on more important things such as the pose and the proportions. Here's another demonstrative video, although this artist opts for one-minute timing.

More on your eyes: There's another technique called "sighting." This is fairly formal and usually used for accuracy in things like still lifes, rooms, and humans, but you should be aware of it. Sighting is just using your drawing tool as a ruler to establish the proportions of your subject. You've probably seen stereotypical artists in film and television holding up their pencil or paintbrush and have probably wondered what they were doing- This is it.

Gesture drawing along with sighting are just a few ways to train your eyes how to see and establish basic shapes and proportions. The last link provides further information and techniques too vast to cover in just one post. But hopefully you've gotten an idea on how to lay a foundation down for yourself in order to either begin drawing or strengthen the talent you've already accrued over the years.

  • 2D shapes like triangles, quads, and ovals are the basis of any good drawing. Know how to draw them quick and well.
  • Practice drawing.
  • Learn to loosen your grip on your pencil too. A loose grip increases your speed, precision, and allows you to easily add and take away detail.
  • Practice drawing.
  • Understand what gesture drawing is and how it uses both understanding of shape and good posture.
  • Practice drawing.
  • Train your eyes along with your hand. Gesture drawing also helps with this, but sighting does as well. You need to be able to see well to draw well.
  • Pratice drawing.
Did I mention practice drawing? I cannot stress this enough. Even with this basically free college-level education I'm giving you, you still have to sit down and draw if you want to get good at drawing. So do it right now, and have fun with it. =P

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