How I learnt to draw (again)

Words and images by Ian Macbeth.

In late 2014 I was stuck for something to do and in need of a creative activity after the end of my last job (working as a sound designer.) As luck would have it I chanced upon a sketch book and pencils that Shaun had given me a couple of years ago and I had forgotten about. I had drawn a few pictures in there at that time and then got caught up with work and moving to France, so had left it.

So when I started to draw again the first thing I did was to draw a picture of my hand. I did this because I wanted to draw something without worrying about the proportions. So I outlined my hand on the page, then began to draw the details. The end results led me to realise that I could do it and that I need have no fear in continuing.

I borrowed a book about how to draw manga from the library (in French so it was an extra challenge!) I figured that manga would be a more forgiving style as the proportions are often intentionally exaggerated. I was right in my assumption and I had a lot of fun drawing some of the pictures from this book. But where to go from there? While visiting Shaun in Prague (to decide if I wanted to move there) he set me a simple challenge to add the shading to two portraits he had started drawing. I did so and the results can be seen here below.

After emailing these to my mother I got an unexpected set of commissions, starting with a cat, then three dog pictures for her family. You can see some of these pictures on this blog.

I didn’t have much of an idea how to draw dogs so I turned to my favourite learning resource for help: youtube. There are several videos there that give good advice on how to draw dogs and especially their fur (it’s really not as complicated as it looks!) A pain in my arm (possibly as a result of spending too much time drawing) led me to make more intelligent use of my time as I had to limit how long I would take over each image. This approach of drawing for 25 minutes at a time then taking a break is one I try to continue to use today. It stops me and the image from becoming stale. The technique even has a name (pomodoro,) which surprised me as I thought I had invented it!

I continued to experiment and use youtube as a learning tool to help me continue with my progress. I can recommend this approach to any artist, at whatever level they are at. You can watch an artist give a demonstration, either in real time or sped up, ideally with commentary as they explain what they are doing.

I have carried in watching youtube videos to learn new techniques as I tried out colour, pastels, painting etc. But I’ll explain more about that in a future post.

For now, I will just say that if you are interested in learning or re-learning to draw, you might find that taking a similar approach works great for you. So grab a pencil and pad and get on with it!

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