Category Archives: Tips/Tutorials

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

Walking Into a Sketch

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Every time we open our urban and field sketchbooks to draw, we’re faced with the same challenge—to swiftly transform flat 2D pages into believable 3D environments the viewer can walk into.

For the ranch buildings, shown above, I lightly sketched dominant angles (indicated with red) before drawing anything else. Dominant angles are the essential framework for sketching accurate 3D representations of buildings in a composition.

Notice the angle of the table in the foreground compared to the buildings. Getting these foundational angles correct was crucial in giving a place for the viewer’s eye to travel into the depths of the sketch. Continue reading Walking Into a Sketch

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

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

3 Ways Drawing Can Help You In School

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Parents and teachers, please pass this on to your kids who enjoy drawing:

Decades ago, when I was in elementary and middle school, other kids sometimes said I was weird because I was really involved in my drawing. But they also thought of me as “the artist”, and that made me feel cool and gave me self-confidence in other school subjects besides just art class. In high school the label of artist became official when I started drawing cartoons for the school newspaper. Quite honestly, my drawing skills helped me get through school.

If you like to draw, your drawing skills can help you make friends, impress your teachers, and get better grades—even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist. Here’s how drawing can help you in school: Continue reading 3 Ways Drawing Can Help You In School