Ten's Sketchbook Thread - Pushing through the wall

TenTen Registered User regular
edited September 2012 in Artist's Corner
Hello ACers! I've recently decided to try to learn to draw again, and I was hoping to get some guidance from some of the talented folks in this forum. I'm getting to the point where I can see how wrong some of the things I'm doing are, but I just don't have the knowledge or skills to fix it, and when the frustration sets in I have a tendency to just give up so I'm hoping some community support might push me through that.

I started with some of the resources from the tutorials thread, in particular Riven Phoenix's video series which started off being quite useful, but I got to the point where I didn't feel like he was explaining things in a way I could understand so I'm hoping I can find something else that suits my learning style a bit better. I certainly learn best from a structured progression but I know it's not necessarily that simple when it comes to art.

I've put all the pages of my sketchbook so far in the thread as a reference, but I guess I'm just hoping somebody can point me in the right direction of how and what I should be practising to ensure I don't get ahead of myself and start getting frustrated by the knowledge of what I don't know yet. My thinking is that I need to develop some better shading technique so that I can be more confident laying down specific values, and obviously I need a lot of work in laying out proportions accurately.

@Kochikens told me to start doing self portraits - I was pretty happy with the first two

Here's where I kind of feel like I went off the rails, I think I started over-thinking things too much
Here I was trying to focus on getting the measurements correct, but then got frustrated when I couldn't get the form I wanted
This was me experimenting with drawing the facial planes from a contrast modified photo
I was getting annoyed with my beard and hair in the self portraits I was doing so I found a picture of a bald guy. I realised halfway through that I just wasn't getting the proportions right, but came back and tried to finish it anyway.

So that's where I'm at now, I'm a little lost as to how to continue - should I just keep doing self portraits or drawing from photos and just push through and finish them even if I can see where all the problems are?

Ten on


  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    I'm no expert in this field, but it looks like your moving in the right direction by using shade to define form. Try to push it further and not include lines of any sort when doing portraits. Breaking things down to simple shapes will also help you learn quicker.

  • m3nacem3nace Registered User regular
    Try doing some exercises where you draw in completely black and white, no middle tones or anything, using the same reference over and over but at different black/white thresholds. That way you can focus on defining form with only hard shadows and then move on so some softer stuff later. Right now a lot of your shading blends in really weird.

  • TenTen Registered User regular
    Thanks for the tips guys - m3nace, I tried your suggestion based on this photo: eid6Q.jpg

    This was my first attempt (with some shading stuff I was messing around with a few days ago at the top):

    Which wasn't the greatest, somehow I ended up making look like he was facing the camera and that screwed up some of the proportions. Next, I flipped the image upside down to try to just see the shapes of the shadows, and it came out a bit better (this has been rotated):


    I'm not sure how much this is teaching me about seeing form as much as just getting my measurements right and drawing what I see, but it's all valuable I guess!

  • HalenHalen Registered User regular
    I may be wrong, but it looks a little like you're trying to focus on getting every part right before moving on to the next. If proportions and overall form is what's escaping you, have you tried just sketching out the entire face in rough first, then erase and move bits around until the shape matches what you're trying to achieve and then get going with the detail?

    Draw an egg.
  • TenTen Registered User regular
    Yes, that's a good tip, I certainly didn't spend enough time just roughing the full proportions out beforehand on these ones - I was outlining areas and trying to line them up with what I'd already done, but I obviously still ended up off track because my imperfect lines and measurements started to add up. Thanks, I'll make sure to keep that in mind on my next one! :)

  • ChicoBlueChicoBlue Registered User regular
    I think you would benefit from working on your value scales.


    Get yourself a variety of hard and soft pencils ranging from maybe a 2h to an 8b and try to mimic this scale as best you can. Multiple times. Like you are practicing musical scales.

    You might also want to try using different materials for it, like charcoal or conte. Really try to nail these values down and then to make smooth gradients from light to dark. After a while you'll be able to pick out things like base values of objects, shadow values, bounce light influences and whatnot.

    As for learning how to measure things, draw from life as well as from photographs. Set up an easel, or rig up something that will hold your paper vertically and draw objects from around the house. This is a pretty alright tutorial demonstrating how to measure from life using the pencil and thumb method. It'll take a while to train your eye.

    Also, it looks like you were using some basic perspective on one of your figures, which is good, and I'd recommend that you learn more about perspective. Ernest Norling's book Perspective Made Easy is a pretty good place to start.

    Don't blow of learning perspective if you are really interested in drawing. It can get really tricky and hard, but for goodness sake, stick with it. It's the key to creating any sort of consistent reality in your artwork.

  • TenTen Registered User regular
    Thanks Chico, I really value learning from the fundamentals so that's the sort of advice I was looking for. I only have pretty basic materials at the moment but I do have pencils from 2H to 6B so I'll start with those, and I'll pick up some different materials when I get a chance. I'm hoping to get to some life drawing soon as well, but in the meantime I'll try working on some inanimate objects just to get some experience with measurements, etc.

  • TenTen Registered User regular
    I haven't been drawing nearly enough this week. Here are a couple of attempts at the values scale Chico suggested - I had a bit of trouble getting the right value intervals at the darker end of the scale:


    (Also got super smudgy there, whoops)

    Here's another self portrait from a photo - I know it's still got a lot of problems but I feel like there's some good improvement in there:

    I haven't forgotten the suggestion to draw more from life rather than photos either, I just need to find some good items to draw. Everything I have seems to be shiny which will screw me up as a first try, I'm sure.

  • TenTen Registered User regular
    I got a few good days of practise in this week - the still life pieces proved difficult and served to put me off for a bit each time, I knew drawing things that were too reflective would fuck with me, and they were both too curvy as well, the structure of them eluded me.


    I've been doing some practise on just random geometric shapes, which I think has been helping despite some wonky perspective, and I'm quite happy with the Clap Trap I did here:


    I think I'll try to do another self portrait tomorrow, as well as try to find something more simple to draw from life.

  • FANTOMASFANTOMAS Flan ArgentavisRegistered User regular
    Hey there, Ive noticed most of your stuff leans to one side, upper/right or Bottom/left, (wich is the same), you might check that out, the early portrait stuff, the cup also seems to be heavier on the bottom left, even the game controller seems to be skewed. try flipping stuff horizontally to get a fresh view on what you have drawn, check your drawing posture, use guidelines (vertical ones) if you need.
    I noticed on the latest doodle studies that your stuff leans in a diferent direction, try drawing things straight for practice.

  • lyriumlyrium Registered User regular
    Keep it up buddy, these things may seem repetitive and frustrating but improvement only comes with practice all the exercises you're doing will help!

  • kevindeekevindee Registered User regular
    Your handling of perspective and form is still in its infancy. I think drawing a large number of geometric objects, grounded onto a plane, and then applying basic lighting to them would give you the most noticeable improvement at this very moment.

    I say this because that knowledge translates into you being able to render form appropriately, and shading properly. Plus, it would let you transition quite easily into some harder portrait things.

    I noticed you were learning from riven phoenix's dvd at the top. I spent weeks following his classes, and would advise you to skip it entirely. Not because they are bad in and of itself, but because you don't learn much about anatomy before being able to properly draw basic cubes, spheres, etc. Take it from me, I learned that the hard way; and am still paying for that to this day with poor handling of form and volume, and an inadequate grasp of anatomy at the same time!

    Maybe I can illustrate this more clearly.

    This is a doodle of a head, from 2010 - when I just picked up a pencil and dove into Phoenix's stuff:


    Notice how I don't really have any idea on how to shade, or how the planes of the head work out.

    This is a doodle of a head, from 2012:


    I doodled sporadically throughout 2010 and 2011, and apparently didn't really learn much of anything, despite doing about 100 Riven Phoenix drawings. Most of my stuff was just done from my head, with very little attention to any actual study.

    This is a 20 min doodle of a head I did just now, to illustrate:


    I started taking drawing a lot more serious this year, and made efforts to improve. I bought some charcoal and newsprint paper about 6 weeks ago, and worked with that for a while, working on lighting and form - it helped. Sure, the anatomy on this doodle is a bit sloppy, and some of the features aren't properly placed, but as a whole, it is much better than the previous ones, and it's largely due to ongoing efforts to work on construction and form specifically, trying to light things realistically.

    Here's a tip, there's a poster on these forums called Ikage. She has a tumbler that's filled with interesting stuff. I literally visit it almost every day, because it's a goddamn goldmine in terms of valuable tutorials and study material. Link's http://eyecager.tumblr.com/

    Oh, and have a look at ctrlpaint.com as well, Matt has some good pencil tutorials out.

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