How to learn to draw: Stage 2

You can draw, you know it. You can hold a pencil, you can draw lines, but for some reason they do not obey you. As long as you draw something that does not require precision, something chaotic, everything works out well. But every time you want to draw something, the proportions are so distorted that it scares.

Why does this happen? Is something wrong with you? It seems that everything is in order with your eyes, your hand is also … why can’t you draw what you see? It’s so easy!

A lot of things that we do everyday seem simple just because we do them automatically. But if you tried to explain them to someone who never made them, you would understand how complex they are. Just try to concentrate on the steps as you walk!

Automatism is good, it allows you to do some things without effort, almost like magic. However, to come to this state, you will have to make an effort to begin with. When you first learn to drive, it takes so much attention that it is simply overwhelming. But after you practice, you can talk and listen to the radio while driving, and you will be careful enough to notice that pedestrian.

Drawing from professional artists looks easy, but this is only because it was harder for them earlier. When you force yourself to draw complex things over and over, and they don’t work as intended, this is because you ignore one simple fact – you have to learn how to draw to draw.

This is the second part of a series of lessons about the basics of drawing. In the first part, we learned to control the instrument so that it would not hinder you in the subsequent exercises. If this is still problematic for you, do not start this part without completing the previous one! It is important to do everything in its rhythm. Return to this lesson when you are ready, otherwise it will be more difficult for you than it should be.

Also, if you first become familiar with this series and you are sure that you do not need to train mechanical skills, yet, read the first part. There you will find a very important introduction and basic learning tips.

What to study

There are things that you consciously teach that are fully explicable. “Exact” drawing is not one of them. This is one of the “subconscious abilities,” which means that it is your mind that learns more about it than you yourself consciously. For example, as a child you learned what a perspective is. Therefore, now you are not afraid of the constantly moving world and how the dimensions change when you move. But do you really know the rules of perspective?

These “subconscious abilities” are very easy to learn – and very difficult at the same time. They are difficult because you cannot learn them consciously. You cannot read a book about them, you cannot listen to a lecture, go back home, and just know them. You cannot learn them – only your consciousness can.

But your mind learns best through repetition. This is the easy part. You just need practice and practice again, until it becomes automatic. This will be a sign that your mind has learned this! Easy isn’t it?

Of course, if it were that easy, you would already be a master of copying. Have you not done this many times? Your mechanical skills definitely developed, but your problem with proportions remained unsolved. This is because you practiced several exercises at the same time. Even if you succeeded in one of them, it was not noticeable due to other errors.

This lesson is about that. I will show you simple exercises, each of which affects different aspects of the problem. In this way, you will see progress for sure, and although these drawings will not be something worthy of admiration, you will be able to apply the acquired skills to your “real” works – and this applies not only to the copying, but to the whole drawing!

Here is what you need to remember while practicing:

  • Never forget that you do it because you want to. Nobody forces you, and you have no obligation to draw well.
  • If something goes bad – this is absolutely normal. You study! If you expect that every time you will get great drawings every time, why should you study? It’s not the result, but your expectations about this.
  • Each exercise is based on the abilities gained in the previous exercise. Therefore, you may not be able to perform the last exercises until you have worked on the first ones thoroughly. Do not push yourself, take it easy. Excessive ambition can reduce your progress!
  • It will take some time. Exercises do not take much time every day (for details, see the previous section), but you need to practice regularly and continuously.
  • There may be times when you will feel uncomfortable. This sense of moral discomfort is a clear sign that you are working on a “muscle of consciousness” that you have not used for a long time. It can be painful, strangely painful, but it means that you are learning something new! Learn to enjoy this feeling, and do not use it as an excuse to do something more pleasant.
  • Take a break from drawing serious things for a while. So you will prevent your own disappointment (if you expect the drawings to become much better after the first series of exercises), and you will have a pleasant surprise when you are ready.
  • Always start the practice with warming up, also described in the previous section.
  • Use continuous lines only for small shapes. To draw on a larger scale, use the “soft lines” described in the previous section.

1. Measure the distance between the points

Let’s start slowly. Draw two points at any distance. Then draw the third point, trying to keep the same distance as between the first two. Repeat this several times in different directions, including diagonally. Doing this exercise, try a different distance each time. The greater the distance, the more difficult the exercise will be.

This exercise:

  • adjust your thoughts to work with proportions;
  • focused on seeing the distance, the basics of proportions;
  • very simple in nature – there can only be one type of error you can make!

2. Copy the length of the lines

Draw a line of any length. Then try to paint it again under the original. After you draw a column out of line, repeat them from the side. These lines should not be perfect (mine are certainly not perfect!), But if it seems to you to draw them too complicated, it means that you have not completed the work on the first stage.

This exercise:

  • concerns not only the vision of a distance, but also its copying;
  • “Gathers” your hand, eyes and thoughts;
  • extends the exercises from the first stage concerning control.

3. Measure the distance between the lines of equal length.

Draw a line of any length, and then draw it again. Repeat the process using the same distance as the first two. The longer the lines and the distance between them, the more difficult the exercise will be.

This exercise:

  • the next level of the two previous exercises:
  • very intensively stretches your muscles of consciousness, as you process two distances; at the same time. Don’t let this discourage you!

4. Draw crosses: squares

Now we are picking up speed, so don’t worry if you are a little breathless. Getting started must be difficult!

Draw a line of any length, and then cross it in the middle with another line of the same length. “Close” the cross by adding lines. The more drawn looks like a square, the better. Repeat with rotated crosses (45 degrees)

This exercise:

  • contains an indicator of your progress (as square as your squares);
  • expands your mechanical skills by drawing squares;
  • introduces you to the vision of the corners.

5. Draw stars: circles

Draw a line of any length. Cross it with another same line, but at a 45 degree angle. Add another one, turning it another 45 degrees. Repeat until you have 4 intersecting lines. Cover your star with a circle – the more lines touching it, the better.

This exercise:

  • contains an indicator of your progress (whether all lines touch the circle);
  • very complex: it combines distance vision, distance copying, angle viewing, and angle copying;
  • Extends your mechanical skills with drawing circles.

6. Copy squares and circles

Draw a circle, then draw a square of the same size below it. Copy the circle and square, trying to achieve the same size. Remember: if it is too difficult, draw the figures “softly”, using repeated and overlapping lines.

This exercise:

  • expands your mechanical skills by drawing circles and squares;
  • introduces the concept of “total size” (a combination of different lengths to create a shape);
  • training your “complex accuracy” is the first step to copying more complex shapes.

7. Scale squares and circles

Draw a circle and then draw smaller copies of it. Do the same with the squares.

This exercise:

  • expands your mechanical skills by drawing circles and squares
  • This is the first step to scaling the source image.

8. Copy the combined shapes.

Time to combine all the skills that you learn in one difficult exercise, into some kind of imitation of what you will do when drawing.

Draw a combination of all shapes: squares, circles, rectangles, lines. Then copy the resulting shape as accurately as possible.

This exercise:

  • combines all the skills that you have previously trained;
  • This is an imitation of a draw from source 1 to 1.

9. Copy and scale the combined shapes.

Draw a combination of several shapes again. This time do not copy it one to one; instead, reduce all its components in proportion.

This exercise:

  • combines all the skills that you have previously trained;
  • This is an imitation of scaled rendering – the same case when it is easiest to lose proportions.

10. Copy and rotate the combined shapes.

Draw a combination of shapes. Copy all the components, this time turning them to the same angle. Be very, very careful!

This exercise:

  • combines all the skills that you have previously trained;
  • trains you to see proportions even in a distorted source.

11. Copy, scale and rotate the combined shapes.

Draw a combination of shapes. Copy all the components, transforming them all in two ways: reducing and rotating. Surprisingly, this exercise may seem easier than the previous one!

This exercise:

  • perfectly combines all types of muscles of consciousness.

12. Copy, scale and rotate smooth shapes.

Let’s end this session with a very strong accent. Draw a simple, smooth figure. Transform it in all ways: copy 1 to 1, reduce, rotate and combine transformations.

This exercise:

  • incredibly complicated!
  • perfectly combines all types of muscles of consciousness;
  • this is a good final exercise: when all the previous ones become boring, it will remain stimulating.

Good job!

It was the second stage. Be sure to linger on it – these exercises are not so simple, and the harder they are for you, the more important it is to work on them. Give yourself as much time as you need and more!

How to know when to stop? When these exercises will become boring, but boring not in the sense of uninteresting, but rather boring in the sense of I-can-do-it-with-closed eyes.

The next step after mastering them is copying from the source. However, please do not forget that for you it will not be completely trivial. It depends on how much effort you put into working on these exercises, and what it taught you.

So this was a copying lesson from a source. Next time we will consider drawing by imagination!

You can print this image as a reminder of all exercises.

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