Drawing, The First Steps – Pencil to Paper

Your First Drawing

Now set up a “Still Life”. It’s called a still life because it doesn’t move. What you draw really doesn’t matter at all, what matters is what happens between your ears not what happens on the paper. Seeing a teacup for all its complexity for the first time can be real fun! What I would suggest is that the first things you draw are very simple. I would suggest objects that have straight edges to them, with our students we draw a cube, a rectangle, a cylinder and a cone. These are all painted white and placed on a white paper surface. I eliminate all colour from the still life and I eliminate as many curves as I can. The objective is to make its as simple as possible. Drawing is hard enough.

Having set up the still life you now need to set out your easel with the paper and drawing board set upon the easel. Sit down to draw, this will make sure that you stay in the same place. It is important very important that your head remains absolutely in the same place when you look at the still life. If necessary mark where the feet of your chair is placed. Make sure you’re easel and drawing board is vertical it is much harder drawing on a surface that is leaning away from you. Now move the easel backwards and forwards and your chair backwards and forwards until your easel is placed in a position where you can see the still life alongside the paper and your chair is in a position where if you extend your arm to full length, you can just easily reach the drawing board.

I don’t want the easel too close to you I want your arm to be extended and your elbow not bent when you draw. This may seem a little awkward but it will make drawing easier. If you’re drawing board is placed in the right place you will see the object alongside the paper and you will be able to look at your paper and imagine that object on the paper. Draw it full size not bigger or smaller, its easier that way. Imagine, curious word that, could be to do with “image.”

My first question is: does it fill the paper nicely, is it too tiny, is it too big? If it fills the page nicely that’s fine if not you may have to move your easel and chair once again. Setting up in the right place is half the battle.

Now you have to engage the side of your head that is responsible for visual and holistic thinking. I don’t want any thoughts occurring in your head that is not involved with visual decisions. Should this be a little bit higher? Is that too large, is that too high is that too low is that too long? I want no judgements that are non visual. I don’t want to hear “you’re no good at this” and I don’t want to hear “you can’t draw, why are you battling with this, its a waste of time? What is in your head is of paramount importance. If you hear this it will be the logical and language based control centre of your brain, that should be put to sleep pretty soon. I stop all talking and noise in the drawing studio, music is good as the right side of the brain is also the centre of musical thought, but avoid playlists with lyrics, I listen to opera but that’s fine because I don’t understand Italian.

Now comes the fun bit, I want you to draw on the paper what is in front of your eyes let me repeat that I want you to draw on the paper exactly the same size what is in front of you.

Start at the nearest corner choose the corner of that box all I want is a representation in the lines, of the edges of everything. An outline, no shading no tone, just an outline.

I want you to look hard at the length of that edge. I want you to look at the gap between the edge of the box and the edge of the nearby rectangle. I want you to compare height and width. I want you to measure with your eyes. I will say that again, because it is important, I want you to measure with your eyes.

Having looked hard at your subject make your first tentative mark on your paper hold your arm out full-length with a pencil in your hand and move your arm from the shoulder, The pencil shouldn’t be quiet on the paper, yes you’re able to make a movement over the paper that is the kind of rehearsal, a practice, a dry run. I want my line about here. Keep your arm moving up and down. Then, Now, when you’re happy with the position lower the pencil onto the paper while your arm is still moving. You should be making a light vertical line. Now the question is is that line of the right length. We will measure, with our eyes.

Hold your pencil at arms length, position it in front of that nearest corner of your still life. You have seen artists doing this now you will learn what it’s all about. Put your pencil top on the top of other corner and run your finger up the pencil to mark the position of the bottom of the corner. Now move your arm across and compare what you’ve done on the drawing paper is your line too long or too short.

The essence of this is comparing lengths of different lines you would probably end up with a drawing that looks something like this, if you’re doing it right. What may happen is that you put down a whole load of lines that are not quite right. Be more analytical, use your eyes better, don’t be visually lazy. I would much rather you put out three lines that were absolutely right than 300 lines that were wrong. Take your time use your eyes. just use your eyes.

Do this every day for three days for about an hour, then have a rest.

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