Lesson 1 – Getting Started

Holding the Pencil

There are 2 ways to hold a pencil. Grip the pencil just as you do when signing your name.  Best if you grip the pencil a bit further back from the point, freer line.  Even further back – particularly if you’re making a larger drawing.

Another way many professionals hold the pencil as an orchestra conductor holds the baton.  This grip encourages you to work with bold, rhythmic, sweeping strokes.  It’s best to work with your drawing paper on a vertical or diagonal surface – rather flat on a table.  Try holding the pencil this way and move your entire arm as you draw.

Manage your Lighting

You need plenty of light – and pay special attention to the direction of that light.  If you are right handed, make sure that light comes over your left shoulder.  You don’t want your hand and your drawing tool cast a distracting shadow on the paper.  You want the pencil to cast no shadow.

Drawing is Logical

Drawing is often regarded as a special gift, and there are people who are able to draw quite effortlessly.  But I believe drawing is a skill – like writing – which can be acquired.  You need motivation and patience; most people can learn to draw accurately.  If you learn to draw a few geometric shapes – cubes, spheres, cones, and cylinders – you can learn to draw practically anything.  Work on cultivating the ability to draw what you actually see.

Develop Your Observation Skills

Learning to draw begins with learning to see. Learn the “alphabet” of drawing: learn to construct non-geometric forms as the basis for drawing erratic shapes such as mountains and foliage; learn how to measure height, width, and proportions in your mind’s eye.  Once you have mastered these basics of drawing, it becomes a satisfying means of self-expression.
To become an illustrator you must continue to improve your observational skills because you enjoy drawing or painting.  Drawing is a necessary foundation skill for painting, with accuracy as main goal.  For those who enjoy drawing for its own sake, it is rewarding to experiment with different media.

Drawing Things

The category of “things” is rather large.  As a graphic artist commercial artist,  I draw what the client wants.  Sometimes I use line art to create an image of someone’s imagination.  This is called representational design.
I have always been fascinated by animals. Animals are nature’s challenge to artists.  I have had many assignments drawing exotic animals.  For these, I work mainly from photographs, and the backgrounds and foreground for these pieces are sometimes imaginary.  In an animal drawing, as in a figure study, it is important to convey the living quality of the creature and the way it moves.  For instance, just the sweeping curve of the tail gives a strong sense of movement.
Sketching is a knack, and it really does become easier the more you do it.  You may find it difficult at first because it does require some practice to be able to grasp the essentials of a subject and then get those down on paper in a few minutes or maybe just a few seconds.  Doing many sketches of a subject will sharpen your observational skills.  It was not until the photography became widely available that the sequence of movement made by a galloping horse was fully understood.
Embarking on portrait art requires a degree of skill and confidence.  One of the difficulties with portrait art is finding someone who is willing to sit for you and who won’t be insulted by early and possible inept attempts.  You always have one model on hand, however – yourself.  I have done a self-portrait; most artists do this as a way of gaining practice in handling the medium, as well as acquiring confidence in the basic skills of portraiture.  Photographs are also a useful aid.  Achieving a likeness is important.  Building up colors thickly in a highly painterly technique achieves an almost sculptural feeling of weight and solidity.  This technique of portrait painting takes skill which you will learn here.  The building of paint and the use of color create satisfying results.  Figure painting and portrait painting are closely linked.