Getting to the Finish Line

After your first session or two with me it becomes clear—while spending hours practicing my block-sketch-draw method, we often find ourselves in a tortoise and hare race.

As you jump ahead to attempt drawing perfectly finished lines, I slow you down to keep your line work light and open. As you slow down to finish a specific area of your drawing, I come along and have you bounce around the entire composition, comparing the size of one shape to another, correcting the distance between an angled line and a curved one, and so on.

This constant process of comparative and relational measuring can prompt students’ inward screams, “When will I ever get to finish a drawing?”

After blocking shapes of the foreshortened skull and sketching angles for placement of the horns, Nicole moves toward finishing by carefully drawing contour lines.

When is a drawing finished? As I work with Level 3 youth student, Nicole to develop her portfolio, we both agree that her watercolor of the ram skull (shown above) is a definite contender for being a finished piece.

Down the home stretch, Nicole applies layers of watercolor that depict realistic textures, tonal values, and shadows.

On occasion, Drawing Lab students find their way to that glorious moment of holding a finished drawing in their hands. We may spend several coaching sessions to finish a watercolor of a ram skull, or an hour to complete studies of negative space and contour edges that form an egret.

Jessica with her finished egret.

Making it to the finish line may entail an evening spent doing exhaustive charcoal studies of drapery, yet yielding only partially completed work—a small section of light and dark tonal values, or even just a few well-placed lines depicting folded cloth.

Thursday evening Drawing Lab students keeping pace in our usual tortoise and hare race of angles, curves, shapes, patterns, and values.

“Finished” is in the eye of the beholder. It might be a series of pencil sketches for an animation concept, or a quick sketch of garbage cans, or capturing the angles of a building that brings a smile of completion to your face.

Does it matter if the tortoise or the hare wins? In the end, what really matters are the experiences and insights we take home after finishing our drawing sessions together.

Becky takes a break from studying drapery as her son, Devin, lays out finished ideas for an animation showing a bird that morphs into a platypus that morphs into a lizard.
Fiona’s colorful sketch of garbage cans at her house displays her new-found passion for capturing the world in watercolors and ink. When is a drawing finished? When you close your sketchbook, smile, and move on to spotting the next fascinating subject.
In preparing for her high school summer art trip to Cuba, Fiona and I took our private sessions to the streets of Santa Cruz. Shown above is an afternoon of practicing perspective drawing at a funky little alley called Squid Row. Fiona is really excited about sketching in Cuba, and I’m really excited to see her sketchbook upon her return!
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Rob Court

Founder and drawing coach at the Scribbles Institute, Rob helps adults and kids learn basic drawing skills for work, school, and enjoyment. He is the author of a number of how-to-draw books.