There is no better way to become a skilled drawer than to simply draw. Drawing tools are easy to carry and require no special equipment other than a few choice grade pencils and a sketch book. For the beginner, practicing the basic elements is a fundamental first step toward developing excellent realistic drawing skills, no matter the subject.
Beginning artists have the tendency to depend on the eraser too much, which will not train the eye and hand to work together quickly and accurately. To break free of eraser dependency, each time you begin to draw, sketch lightly.
Once the basic outline is done satisfactorily, begin darkening the lines and finishing with values with pencil pressure, and only then use the eraser to aid in the development of these lights and shadows.
Years of simple childhood drawings have created patterns in the brain that will limit a beginner's ability to see from an artist’s perspective. The beginner must teach the brain not to interpret but simply to record what the eye is seeing. One of the best drawing exercises is to find a simple line drawing; a child’s coloring book is a perfect resource. Tear a page out of the book, flip it upside-down and draw the lines as you see them. Here’s the tricky part; don’t think - just draw. The goal is to not interpret what you see but simply recreate those simple lines (contour lines) exactly as you see them upside-down, creating your own drawn copy of the upside-down image.
Do not turn either page right side up until the picture is finished; once again, do not use an eraser.
Negative Space Drawing
The ability to see not only the object of drawing interest but to visually break down the negative spaces in and around the subject. To better understand this element of negative space, look at your hand; open palm up, fingers straight and together. Next, keeping fingers straight, evenly spread the fingers apart. Visualize the spaces between fingers, forming a loose “V,” as drawable shapes, as well as the fingers themselves. Don’t look through the fingers; instead, focus and identify the actual triangular shape between the fingers.
Find simple objects such as a coffee mug, a wooden chair, a fork; any object that has easily identifiable negative space areas. Draw these spaces instead of the subject by simply recreating the space shapes and then filling them in with a softer led pencil. The finished picture will look like a silhouette image.
Blind Contour Drawing
Initially, you may feel this exercise is crazy, but it will accelerate your drawing skills. Keep a sketch diary specifically for this exercise to monitor progress.
Place a large piece of sketch paper on a table; you may need to tape it down to avoid slippage. Turn your head away from the sight of the paper, and then without looking at the paper, draw a simple line sketch of the hand you are not using to draw. This does not mean slapping your palm down on the paper and tracing around it. Instead, draw the hand without looking at the paper. Start at the bottom of the paper and begin recording, slowly and methodically, the small bumps, curves and lines on the hand as they appear. It is best to start at the bottom of the wrist and visually work around the hand in a clock-wise direction. The key to this exercise is never to look at the paper until the assignment is complete.
Once again, turn the mind off. Don’t think: just draw. Take your time, and try not to lift the pencil off the paper to avoid losing intuitive spatial referencing. Don't want to draw the hand? Any simple object with visual interest will work, such as a desk lamp, a leaf, or a figurine.
Sue Krippner started writing professionally in 2006, with work appearing in various online publications. After teaching high school art for several years, she became a licensed realtor and a certified home staging and interior redesigner. Krippner studied art history at Thomas Edison State College and advanced studio studies at the University of the Arts in Pennsylvania.