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Drawing: My general method (part 1)

January 17, 2011

Instead of a photo tip, I’m going to mix things up a bit. Sometimes, I like to draw. I bust out the art pencils every couple of years if I want to make a gift for someone special. It’s not a passion, so I haven’t studied or practiced techniques since college (and that was just because of some required art classes for my first major, interior design). My knowledge has stayed the same for many years, and I have no immediate plans to further it. Maybe someday, though–I would like to take a painting class sometime.

I give you that intro so you know that whatever I share here is just the method I was taught and use, but it’s not necessarily the best or most professional method. In fact, those of you who are more experienced in this area might cringe. You’re free to comment with further suggestions, just don’t diss my drawing, por favor. It’s finished and in the recipient’s home, and it was the thought that counts. 🙂 I know it has problem areas.

Okay! I did the above drawing a few months ago as a birthday present. I took some photos of the process with a write-up like this in mind, in case anyone’s interested. This post will discuss the prep I do before starting a drawing. Next time I’ll get into actual drawing techniques.

1. Find a photo to use. I can’t draw very many things from my mind with much accuracy. I need a photo or my proportions and shading will start going haywire. Many people do not require photos. Some people might think using a photo is cheating. I say it’s cheaper than hiring a live model.

2. Print off or photocopy the photo in whatever size you wish. I change mine to grayscale (sometimes upping the contrast or making other edits) first, since the resulting drawing will be in “black and white.”

3. Make a grid on a transparency (like those sheets people put on overhead projectors). You can draw the grid directly on the photocopy/print-out, but it’s nice to be able to remove the lines during the drawing process, plus this step is so tedious that you’ll be glad to have a reusable transparency for future drawings. You can draw the grid (using a fine-tipped Sharpie) in whatever measurement you wish, but it has to be consistent. I typically mark it off in 1/2- or 1-inch boxes, depending on the size of my printed photo. Use a ruler and a straight edge. Be as precise as possible. (NOTE: In this particular case, I tried to save time by using some semi-transparent plastic that had lines on it (pictured), but it’s not preferred. I couldn’t see the picture well enough behind it.)

4. Make a grid on the page you’ll be drawing on. You’ll have to do some calculating and planning to figure out how big you want the resulting image to measure and what that means in terms of the grid size. This whole process can be the least fun and also very time-consuming, but for me it’s necessary if I want to keep on track with proportions and have less erasing to do. Make sure to make very pale lines! They will eventually need to be erased or smudged away, so make them only as dark as you absolutely need them.

By now you have a setup similar to those drawing games you find in activity books. You will be following the same concept of transferring what is in one square to another square. Next time I’ll talk about that process and some of the tips and equipment I use.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    While I think you are incredibly talented and this drawing is beautiful … I'm not sure even the steps would help a novice like me get better at drawing. However, that being said, I do love reading about the processes you go through to accomplish such awesome work. 🙂

    That actually reminds me (to tell you) that our church just began an Art ministry and are going to meet twice a month to draw and paint and may offer classes in the future. I thought that was really cool. Anyway, S signed up for that ministry. -R

  2. Wow … I can't believe I've known you so long and didn't realize you could draw! I can barely draw a stick figure, so I'm in awe of those with the talent. 🙂

  3. Hey, these are really good tips! 🙂

  4. R – Thank you very much. Also, thank you for inspiring the first paragraph of my next post (in the works). *gunwink*

    That's fun–I'd do that art ministry with S!

    Marie – Oh thanks! I don't know how much of it is talent so much as just a whole lot of smudging and erasing, but I appreciate the comment. 🙂

    Brenda – Thanks! I hope I have one or two in my audience who are interested in drawing.

  5. Your drawing is fantastic!!! Wow! I am very impressed. I cannot draw. Period. People say I'm an artist but I have trouble seeing it.
    My sister IS an artist. She loves to draw! She's working on a fox in a tree picture for HSLDA's art contest. She likes to look at pictures too but it's all freehand and then she usually colors with watercolors or pencils.

  6. Anonymous permalink

    Wow, I didn't have even the slightest clue that drawing involved (or could involve) all the grid-transfer stuff and sort of this mathematical precision. I always thought it was “grab a pencil and start scribbling on paper” : ) This is a great post and great idea, thanks for sharing!


  7. Samantha: Thanks! That's great that your sister can freehand it–I just don't feel confident enough without being able to look at something else. Not for something I'd give to someone as a gift, anyway. So are you going to take a picture of your sister's picture when she's finished?

    Dan: Thank you. 🙂 I probably de-artify it with my grid, but that's just more proof that I'm not an artist. I'm a bit too technical and practical.

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