Artist Tips and Advice: How to Draw from Life

Monday, February 21, 2011

I have received a few e-mails from amateur artists asking me for tips and advice on how to improve their drawing skills. Being a self-taught artist without academic art education I might be not that good in giving tips and explanations as I would like to be. However, I managed to acquire rich experience throughout years of practicing in creating custom illustrations and portraits of various complexities. I have read quite a few books written by extremely talented artists; I tried to imitate styles of world famous masters of the art of drawing and I faced all those difficulties each aspiring artist faces daily. My experience allowed me to develop my own drawing tactics, methods to overcome difficulties and meet challenges as well as to adapt some classic drawing principles brought to us by most respected artists in the world. It would not be right to keep the information I can offer to young artists seeking for help unrevealed. Therefore I’ve made a decision to share my experience here on my blog to help those who just begin learning to draw. I’ll try to give you the most practical information and explain, as best as I can, what to you can do in order to draw better.

Drawing from Life Tips

In order to create continuous-tone drawings from life I follow three main principles in my work as an artist:

  1. The Relativity Principle:
    • Do not try to convey real tone intensity, but rather the ratio between different tones intensity, i.e. follow the tones scale;
    • Draw separate parts of a model evaluating their size and shape in relation with other parts, i.e. draw in proportion;
    • Follow basic perspective principles.
  2. The Sequence Principle:
    • Draw "from general to particular", i.e. begin with general outlines and then proceed to smaller elements of the drawing;
    • Begin shading in the most dark places of your drawing, gradually make shadings more intensive while adding tone to less shaded areas;
  3. The Selectivity Principle:
    • When drawing a model, focus on the most compositionally important details while omitting and/or smoothing out some minor details;
    • Do not try to convey the whole tone palette on paper. It's better to select a few shape-generating tones and interpret shapes of the model by means of this chosen set of values (shades which, in relation with each other, create shade and highlight effect in an artwork).


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