Monday, April 20, 2009

Elephant Week and Art Day: Art Tips – drawing what you can’t draw

Art Tips: I thought it might be useful to talk about ways to learn how to draw what you can’t draw or don’t think you’re good at drawing.

Everyone has something they can’t draw, or think they can’t draw. I have several things, but this post and this week is dedicated to one of the things that I don’t think I draw very well: elephants. Every once in a while, I’ll draw an elephant that I like, but more often than not I have to draw and redraw the elephant to make it look like a normal elephant and not a mutant creature.

Below is a list of some strategies that I use. What works for you? Or do you just avoid the subject (I do this sometimes, and Maurice Sendak famously did this with Where the Wild Horses Are – when he realized he couldn’t draw horses, they became Wild Things).

Break it Down: Break the subject down into simple basic shapes or pretend you are drawing a stick figure version of whatever it is. The drawings today are my elephant face made with a 3 part process, starting with basic shapes.

Back to Basics: Beginning drawing books and drawing books for kids are great for learning to draw things – if your art is very stylized, it can help to add a foundation to your drawings that give them even more appeal than they had before. BTW, don’t discount those drawing and art books that have unattractive covers. Sometimes they try to put so many things on the cover that it makes it seem like they couldn’t possibly know anything about art. Recently I found a book like that at Borders, in the discount section: The Complete Guide to Drawing and Illustration by Peter Gray. There’s a ton of good info the book, even if there aren’t any elephants.

Research: Find pictures, hire models, go to the zoo! If you don’t know what it looks like, find out.

Repetition: Take as many pictures as you can find of the subject and draw all of them, then look for more pictures or take some yourself and draw again. Repeat this step until you can draw the subject without looking at reference material. Then draw it in your style.

Elephant Week (a.k.a. accountability): This week I'll be drawing/painting elephants and posting them each day. Sometimes it helps to know that other people will see what you’re working on. It gives you incentive to learn how to draw it before you stylize it.