Just typing out the words ‘draw what you see’ give me terrible flash blacks of the art teacher that nearly failed me in high school. “Do you see a line there??” he would scoff “You aren’t drawing what you see!” He didn’t explain what he meant he just kept repeating himself, becoming more frustrated each time.
It’s actually great advice now that I do understand what he means. I was drawing strong lines to represent the nose the cheekbones but that is not how a face is formed. When we look at a face the nose is not a distinct line in the middle of the face; we see the nose through light and shadow.
Secondly, I used to guess where features were, how big the head should be and then try to imagine where light would hit them to create highlights and shadows. I would create a person in my head and use my imagination as my only reference point which is really difficult and also not very effective, especially when you are just starting out.
Drawing like this is a much more technical task and I decided a long time ago realistic drawings were out of my league and instead I stuck to cartoons and doodles because they were quick, satisfying and something I could do pretty well with little effort.
So I challenged myself to a little experiment. I drew the very best, most realistic head I could without any instruction or reference. Then I spent a few days learning about the Loomis method and practising head structure. After ten days I picked a reference photo and tried again to draw a realistic human head.
Here are my two sketches:
Aside from the benefits of drawing what I see and paying attention to structure this reintroduction has taught me three main lessons:
- I really enjoy drawing regardless of the final outcome
- Good pictures take A LOT longer to draw then not so great ones
- Your drawing will go through ugly or wonky phases a long the way
I have a lot to learn and many more hours of practice to put in (my nose still has a pretty distinct line) but this experience has reminded me how rewarding drawing can feel and the improvement we can make when actively seeking to advance a skill. I am going to continue to seek out material on drawing realistically and focus on my progress from one sketch to the next.
If you have any book or video suggestions that helped you learn to draw better I’d love to hear about them!