I’ve been doing quite a bit of drawing recently, and I’ve come to a beautiful realization. I love to draw. I love opening my little art box, taking out different pencils, gathering up my blending tools, finding my eraser, and settling down for a bit of drawing time.
Growing up, I always wished I could draw. Although I tried — and even bought more than a few “how to draw” books — I just couldn’t do it. I suppose back then I was far too impatient, had too many other things to do, and really didn’t believe it was possible to learn to draw.
Over the years, I made a few other half-hearted attempts at learning. I really had no idea, though, of how to go about teaching myself. I’d look at illustrations — usually birds — and try to copy what I saw, but all I ended up with were some really weird looking creatures. I just couldn’t draw. Why not accept that fact?
I did. I accepted it for a long, long time. But then, as blog followers here know, back in 2015 I decided to try again. Having the internet was a great thing, I think, because it gave me immediate access to online instruction. I could watch other artists at work. I could even ask specific questions about drawing techniques. I was amazed at how quickly I progressed.
Drawing skill is, however, only one part of art — a very important part, to be sure, but there’s a lot more to “being an artist” and “creating art” than picking up a pencil. As I learned more about art, I explored other media, other methods, and other techniques.
Sadly, my drawing ability suffered a bit because I wasn’t using it as often as before. When I tried to draw, I found myself bewildered all over again, wondering where to begin, how to get all the right shapes and forms. As I’d done at the beginning, I started practicing once more, drawing every day, improving old skills and gradually developing new ones.
But then, again, I moved on to other things — mostly oil painting — and once more my daily drawing practice was pushed aside. Until recently.
I’ve once again picked up my pencils, and once again, I’ve been going back to the essential elements of drawing. A recent page from my sketchbook shows how I’ve “doodled around” with pencils. It also shows a few key points about drawing.
Those key points are:
- Use a variety of different pencils. There are actually 22 different “grades” and while you might not need all of them, you do want a good range from hard “H” pencils to very soft “B” pencils.
- Make different types of lines. Lines can be straight or curved, and line quality itself can vary from thick to thin. Lines can even be broken up.
- Consider the pencil’s lead — which is actually graphite. You might want a “flat lead” for some drawing projects. Sometimes you’ll want a very sharp, pointed lead; at other times, a softer, rounded lead will work for what you need.
- Different pressure in applying graphite makes a difference in the results you’ll get.
And while I didn’t write it out in my sketchbook, there’s also blending “tortillons” to consider. After you’ve used one a bit, it can actually be used to “draw” on the paper. Those marks on the bottom left were made in that way.
Another trick is to use a kneaded eraser to “lift off” graphite in various areas of a drawing, or to lighten the lines of a drawing that will be used for a watercolor painting.
Although I’ll be the first to admit that my drawing abilities are still limited, I’m happy with all I’ve learned to this point. Yes, I’m still at a beginner’s level. I still need to learn proper shading techniques. I’m still wrestling with perspective and proportion. I know little about creating texture, and just getting my values right is always a challenge.
None of it matters, though. I’ll learn as I go. What I’m most delighted about now is that realization that I enjoy drawing — whether I’m good at it or not. Drawing gives me a chance to sit quietly, to go into that mystical, peaceful, zen-like state, to feel the gentle movement and hear the soft sounds of pencil going over paper.
I love drawing. I love to draw now simply for the sake of drawing. I love to draw because I can. I’ve achieved a childhood dream. It’s an awesome feeling, really. I’m not a great artist, my drawings are still a bit wonky, but for the most part, I can take what I see and re-create it with a pencil and paper.
I guess in many ways, drawing has become my favorite part of art. How about you? What do you most love doing?