Learning how to Sketch (Tips)

20 May 2007 - 10:29pm
7 years ago
1 reply
3489 reads
Forrest Maready
2006

Hi Alexander-
Here are a few tips I wish someone would have told me early on (keep in
mind I come from an animation background). DISCLAIMER- These are my
suggestions- they don't always work for everything.

1. One thing that can make a drawing more aesthetically pleasing is the
line quality.
2. Nice lines are not drawn slowly- they are drawn fast.
3. Learn to find the arcs in what you're drawing. Don't be afraid to
rotate the paper (even upside down) so you can draw that arc naturally
from about 70% elbow | 30% wrist.
4. If you need to draw a line, make a start dot and an end dot. Wave
your pencil (above the paper) back and forth between the two dots,
rotating the paper until you find a natural arc which falls between
those two points. Drop the pencil slowly as you continue to wave back
and forth across the arc.
5. To get more of a straight line, extend your wrist, then extend your
pencil- make the distance from your elbow to the pencil tip as long as
possible.
6. Resist the temptation to use a ruler or templates. Let the line
breathe a little- so what if it has some bend to it? Straight lines
aren't human, and juxtaposed against the rest of your now beautiful
sketching, they look out of place.
7. You have over 23,500 bad drawings stuck in your body. Get them and
out and in the trash as quickly as possible.

As a kid, I used to watch a guy on TV trying to teach cartooning, and it
drove me crazy that even his simple boxes looked better than mine- I
could never figure out why. I would draw the boxes very slowly, trying
to get a perfectly straight line, which ended up of course a very wavy
inconsistent line. I thought- if I can't even draw a box well, I'll
never be able to draw cartoons well.

It wasn't until in the last 5 years I finally discovered- it was the
line quality! He was drawing everything really fast. If you ever watch
behind the scenes footage of a Disney animation, you'll often see the
artists working furiously, waving their pencils back and forth like mad,
most of the time not even touching the paper- They're looking for the
arcs... They know what they want to draw, they just spin the paper
around, waving their arms back and forth until they find the sweet spot
that will allow them to draw a graceful line.

If you believe what I'm saying, you should invest in an animation disc.
Once you get used to sketching with one, you'll never go back.
Lightfoot Ltd are great for them:
*http://tinyurl.com/2tnvrc
or if you don't trust my tinyurl
http://www.lightfootltd.com/index.php/cPath/23?osCsid=471695d8d79dc4528c709c6183291f91

*Regards,
Forrest Maready
maready.squarespace.com

Alexander Baxevanis wrote:
> Dear all,
>
> I was wondering if anyone can offer some some suggestions on improving
> sketching skills.
>
> I'm mostly interested in using sketching for (1) illustrating physical
> concepts (e.g. the form factor of a device) and (2) drawing
> short-scenarios illustrating use of a product/service etc.
>
> I'm currently comfortable at sketching basic block
> diagrams/wireframes, i.e. mostly boxes & arrows.
>
> Would appreciate any suggestions for websites, books, or your
> experience with following any short courses in this area.
>
> Thanks in advance,
>
> Alex
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Comments

21 May 2007 - 3:26am
DanP
2006

. For me, the focus wasn't on speed as much as 'looseness' and
repetition. I have friends who sketch rather slowly, but they are
relaxed and flowing. ID instructors taught me that at the end of a
drawing session (a good one) our shoulder's should be tired. Line
quality is important, and comes with practice. Pick the arm off the
paper, draw bigger and looser. One thing that added to my learning
was using lots of overlays (with vellum): underneath, a loose sketch
- then tightening the sketch up or fixing errors by tracing again. It
removes the fear of mistakes.

Totally agree about rotating the paper, especially when dealing with
perspective.

Anyway, as the original thread was querying for drawing aids, I can
share two that helped me, and some tips:

Scott Robertson ID sketching (http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/dvds/
sro05.html) ... I learned that he draws his lines from the arm, and
his arcs from the wrist. Understand perspective, it's your friend.

American Artist Magazine has some great monthly stuff: http://
www.myamericanartist.com/drawing/

- Draw from the shoulder; get your arm off the paper.
- Draw big, at least 8/5 x 11, preferably 11x17
Start with big, chunky medium - not fine tipped pencil or pens. A
chunky medium (thick ad markers, charcoal etc..) will help to draw
big, and will focus in on loose form at first rather than tight line
accuracy.
- Practice perspective often by drawing cubes in one and two point,
varying horizon lines. Cheat at much as you want, because at first,
it's just about being able to visualize in your head. Later, worry
about throwing straight lines freehand. Perspective is hard; it's
scientific and somewhat painful (anyone remember the measuring point
system?), but the sooner you get through it, the sooner you can apply
it.
- Understand the minor/major axis of circles, practice it, and you'll
never draw a circle wrong again!
- Perspective drawing and artistic figure drawing work together to
get accurate proportion; but practice figure drawing by keying in on
the "line of action"; that is, study the human form and figure out
how to lay down the one line that defines the major movement (spine,
shoulders, etc), then build on that (musculature etc..)
- Overlays (buy some tracing vellum) are your friend. You can correct
mistakes and tighten sketches easily. I buy rolls of tracing paper,
it's cheaper.
- Study photographs; photography is your friend. I constantly
photograph things, and trace them by hand or in Illustrator to
understand their form. Don't rely on it, but do use it. I can
photograph and trace an image in illustrator (and even shade in
photoshop) way faster now than I can sketch and render by hand now.
- Computer are fast, but they are no substitute for hand sketching.
If nothing else, people love when you sketch your ideas coherently!
It's so powerful, and a pen is always nearby.

...and the most important of all: draw every day, even if it's just
for 10 minutes. The skill disappears quickly if not practiced, and
even the best sketchers around have to keep doing it.

Hope this helps a little! All this talk about sketching is making me
want to... sketch!

-Dan

-------------------------------------------------
Dan Peknik
NASA Ames Research Center
San Jose State University
-------------------------------------------------

On May 20, 2007, at 8:29 PM, Forrest Maready wrote:

> It wasn't until in the last 5 years I finally discovered- it was the
> line quality! He was drawing everything really fast. If you ever watch
> behind the scenes footage of a Disney animation, you'll often see the
> artists working furiously, waving their pencils back and forth like
> mad,
> most of the time not even touching the paper- They're looking for the
> arcs... They know what they want to draw, they just spin the paper
> around, waving their arms back and forth until they find the sweet
> spot
> that will allow them to draw a graceful line.

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