Category Archives: Tips/Tutorials

The Art of Studying

Showing off our finished drawings to family and friends can be gratifying. Enthusiastic viewers appreciate your techniques and may even understand that you spend many hours practicing to improve your skills. But hidden to their eyes is your dedication to doing studies—a most misunderstood aspect of learning to draw from observation.

In the tradition of the Renaissance artists, Naomi (shown above) learns the importance of studying as she practices using the system of perspective drawing.

Rachel maps out the contours and tonal values of a still life for her charcoal study.

Early Egyptian, Greek, and Italian Renaissance artists and artisans used drawing to study their subjects. They made countless study sketches to solve problems, prepare artwork, and map out elaborate architecture.

By doing study sketches, students at the Scribbles Institute learn to block in dominant shapes of their subject, sketch accurate contours, and confidently work their way toward drawing final compositions.

But as we learn the art of studying, there can also be a lot of “unlearning” during the process. Continue reading The Art of Studying

The Small Drawing Habit

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In the opening scene of the classic comedy What About Bob, we see a perplexed Bob Wiley, played by Bill Murray, contemplating his fate of stepping outside the door of his apartment and onto the streets of New York. He quickly becomes overwhelmed by his fears of just about everything and everyone in the world.

As Bob finally meets with Dr. Leo Marvin, played by Richard Dreyfuss, he sits in awe of the prominent psychiatrist’s suggestion to start with reasonable goals. “Don’t think of everything you have to do to get out of the building, Bob. Think about what you have to do to get out of this room,” says Dr. Marvin as he hands Bob a copy of his book Baby Steps. Comedic escapades ensue as Bob applies life-transforming small habits to the bigger complexities of life.

If it’s difficult for you to set—and maintain—your goal to draw regularly, try the advice given to Bob and take baby steps toward an easy and satisfying drawing habit.

Here are simple steps for starting your small drawing habit: Continue reading The Small Drawing Habit

2B or Not 2B?

Which pencil should you use for drawing? That is the question.

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During the early 17th century, as Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet first gazed upon a skull and questioned what to be in life, the country of England was busy mining a valuable carbon material. This dark, powdery material eventually became known as graphite (derived from the Greek word ‘graphein’ meaning ‘to write’). Artists soon discovered graphite to be extremely useful for the process of drawing.

However, the big technological breakthrough for drawing came in 1795, when a French scientist named Nicholas-Jacques Conte invented the pencil. By mixing clay with graphite, Conte found ways to alter the hardness of pencil leads which produced darker and lighter shades of black. Modern-day pencils are available in a wide range of black shades—such as 2B, 2H, HB—enabling artists to achieve endless combinations of drawing techniques and styles.

How to choose the right pencil for the job at hand? Here are recommendations on basic drawing pencils I make to students that can help you get started: Continue reading 2B or Not 2B?

Emphasis In Your Drawing

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Micron pen sketch along the Emma McCrary trail, Santa Cruz, California.

On urban streets or nature trails, where I enjoy sketching swiftly, I often find myself struggling with how to show realistic depth in my drawing. I’ve come up with a few strategies that use emphasis of lines and tones to create the illusion of depth and I’d like to share them with you. Continue reading Emphasis In Your Drawing

How a Road Trip Can Ignite Your Desire to Draw

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A drawing road trip is great for trying new tools and exploring techniques

Several decades ago, as an avid surfer, nothing excited me more than packing my surfboards and heading up the coast to discover new places to ride waves. Recently, I decided to conjure up my youthful fervor for exploration and set out on a sketching safari to the Pacific Northwest. What happened on the journey was totally unexpected; I rediscovered the thrill of drawing for pure enjoyment.

And along the way I came up with some essential tips that I’d like to share with you. Here’s what I learned about the art of sketching while on the road. Continue reading How a Road Trip Can Ignite Your Desire to Draw

The Great Lions of Drawing

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Learning to control your line work is crucial in learning to draw well. One way to tame the lines in your drawings is to take time to read the line work done by great masters. In studying the confident strokes by legendary virtuosos—from ancient cave artists, to Albrecht Durer (shown above), to Eugene Delacroix—you’ll become a skilled observer of life and dramatically improve your drawing.

Following is the shortlist of my heroes who have laid down some of the greatest lines ever drawn in history. I encourage you to be diligent in studying these Great Lions of Drawing. Let’s dive in! Continue reading The Great Lions of Drawing