Chapter 1 of “Keys to Drawing”

7 Dec

I really like Bert Dodson’s book Keys to Drawing, of which I recently wrote in this blog. Now before diving into the exercises, I generally like to get a quick overview of what’s ahead. Because I have a blog, why not post that overview there? (That is a rhetorical question.)

The Drawing Process

  • Being practicle is better than being critical while drawing. Instead of stating what was wrong, you should be thinking how to do something.
  • It’s better to look at your subject than at your drawing. You want to draw your subject, not stare at your own drawing. If you do the latter, you’ll get in that critical mindset, which isn’t particularly productive. Give yourself short instructions about how to draw your subject: “short” or “long”, “sharp” or “blunt”, etc.
  • Look, Hold, Draw
    Look at what you draw, hold it in memory, then draw on paper. Drawing blind compresses this process into one single step.
  • Restating
    Redraw without erasing. It’s faster and more alive. It is also the only sure way to improve your drawing skills.
  • Seeing versus Knowing
    Draw what you see, as if you’ve never seen it before. Drawing should be based on observation, not knowledge. Don’t expect something to look a certain way, just draw what your eye perceive in the moment. Try drawing familiar objects from unusual angles, to break the draw-what-you-know habit.
  • Individualization
    When you see things in pairs (e.g. eyes), see them as individual objects, not as a pair of objects.
  • Developing Shape Consciousness
    Lines are nothing else than the boundaries between shapes that are next to each other. Drawing shapes is easier than drawing things.
  • Four Rules of Shape
    1. Draw large shapes first, smaller shapes later (typically, start with a silhouette).
    2. Look for enrichment shapes, including highlights, shadows, reflections, patterns, and textures (typically, concentrate on dark and light tones).
    3. Tie shapes together (typically, merge similar shapes/patterns into a single shape).
    4. When you see a “trapped” shape, draw it (“trapped” shape is also called “negative space” or “background space”). Look for common boundaries and draw those.
  • Observation and Fatigue
    Once you notice the passage of time, you’re probably are getting tired, and should simply stop drawing. To prevent becoming tired, focus on interesting parts of your subject. It will keep you longer in the correct mindset for drawing, pushing the point where you get too tired to continue as far as possible into the future. Try to find similarities between your subject and previous observations (“Well, that looks exactly like…”). You can’t draw everything you see in one session, so don’t even try. Focus on the bits you think are fun to do, or interesting to look at. This is why drawing is so personal; it is your own view on the world, what you as an artist think is interesting to include in your drawings.
  • Self-Critique
    After you’ve finished your drawing, but preferably while the subject is still available, analyze what is good about your drawing and what is not so good, and should be improvement upon next time.

Projects that are included in chapter are:

  • 1A – Feet (look-hold-draw, drawing blind)
  • 1B – Hand (drawing blind, restatement, innocent view)
  • 1C – Pepper (seeing vs. knowing)
  • 1D – Eyes (individualization, restatement, drawing blind)
  • 1E – Tinted Glass (shape consciousness)
  • 1F – Mechanical Objects (focus, shape consciousness, restatement)

That looks like a big opportunity to improve my drawing skills. I’m glad I’ve overcome my initial skepticism about the validity of the text. It reminded me so of “Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain” by Betty Edwards. That book didn’t do much for me at the time I read it.

The book by Dodson, on the other hand, is much more practical and less philosophical, at least so far.

That is all.


One Response to “Chapter 1 of “Keys to Drawing””

  1. trish December 7, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    wow!! thanks for that post-such great tips there-I will have to buy the book after Christmas:)

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