Learning to Draw…

A tiny part of why I take ‘arty’ photographs is that I can’t do any other kind of art. I have always wanted to be able to draw like my sisters (e.g. Ellie), but was convinced that I absolutely could not.

Any attempts to draw led to complete rubbish – worse than your average 5 year-old’s efforts.

Then I came across a blog where the author claimed he had taught himself to draw as a bet, despite similar artistic inabilities. So I thought I’d have a go.

In the comments on his blog he recommends a book called ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain‘.

I don’t entirely know if the left-side/right-side theory that the book leans on is still 100% valid, but the techniques the book ‘draws’ on certainly are. After less than one week of practising about one hour a day, I’ve managed to do things like this, which, based on what I thought my abilities were, pretty much totally amazes and completely delights me!

Hand, Ben Curtis drawing Negative space drawing of a chair, Ben Curtis

Certainly not Picasso, obviously, and my only point is that if I can draw this much, anyone can! Plus, drawing is like a very special kind of meditation. Time, space, and the mind all melt away – the results almost don’t matter in comparison to the experience of an hour of concentrated drawing!

Before I got going on the book, another one of my super-talented sisters wrote this to me, which helped enormously:

“Straight away the first thing I want to talk about is the drawing as you’ve touched on one of the most fascinating aspects of drawing. You have to draw what you SEE, not what you THINK you see.

It sounds easy enough but you wouldn’t believe how dominant our mind is in over-riding our eyesight!!! Drawing is a constant war between what the eye sees and how the mind perceives it.

A nose for example. I draw a photo of someone and I draw the lines that outline the nose…. NO, STOP! Those lines probably AREN’T THERE!

What IS there is patches of light and patches of shadow in completely unexpected places. We imagine those classic nose-shaping or eye-shaping lines because we think they should be there. There may well be lines, but not in the same places our mind is telling us. Leave the mind behind! Just look for light and dark.

The mind is terribly strong and tries to makes us put lines where we think they should be! It’s a trick!”

This is what the ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain‘ book I am using is really saying, in a different way. You have to break our brain’s imposed symbol system that helps us make sense of the complex reality of the world on a day to day basis, and really see what lies underneath, ignoring the symbol systems that try to come in and impose themselves through the pencil, drawing the reality that we really see beneath.

This is proving to be a fascinating journey, only just begun! I may post further drawings here further down the line, depending on whether I can draw anything decent as time goes on! Otherwise I’ll stick with the photos 🙂

14 thoughts on “Learning to Draw…

  1. jon

    that hand looks like it’s missing a guitar…

    I had a friend who followed the method in that book. She was also able to draw well quite quickly. But she lost interest quickly, too. Maybe there is a difference between ‘wanting to be able to draw’ and being compelled to draw by some inner force.

    I took a drawing class once at a local college. We were supposed to draw an image of a few items that the instructor placed in front of us. I had trouble drawing what I saw, so I imagined I was very small and looking up at these things (books, an apple, etc) looming over me. I made a really cool drawing that I liked. The instructor told me I got the excercise all wrong, so I jacked it in… went home and played the guitar instead.

    1. spanishben Post author

      “The instructor told me I got the excercise all wrong, so I jacked it in…” – apparently this is all too common, and why people like me give up drawing in our teens and are always convinced we can’t draw!

  2. Crystal

    You sound like me, quite a few years ago.

    If only someone had wrote a book, “Progressing from body parts, to whole bodies” or some such title. It has since been a maddening frustration for me. But I too have taught myself everything I know, and focus on people. But, have not been able to take all the body parts, and features, and put it together into one.

    Good luck on your journey!

    1. spanishben Post author

      Thanks Crystal, and good luck to you too! I hope to try some life drawing classes at some point, at which point no doubt I’ll struggle with the whole body thing too!

      1. beingcrystal

        I used to haunt a website called wetcanvas, not sure if it’s even around. They had a big drawing section and at the time, it was very useful. I’ve strayed into other avenues (read distractions lol) since. But I did enjoy it and it was full of a lot of very useful information.

  3. luke

    nothing harder for me than drawing a hand. you’ve found a very good sense of volume from your linework. i feel you should try it without any highlighting or tonal range. not because it would be better but because it’s interesting to see how much the line can do without shading.
    as for negative space, if you’re interested in that and haven’t looked at Rachel Whiteread’s work you should.
    i feel like i’m teaching at art school again, sorry if i sound bossy!
    did you post the lecture from the woman who lost use of the right side of her brain (or the left)? it’s in the same lecture series that you often link to. check it out it’s very interesting.

    1. Ben Curtis Post author

      Thanks Luke, I will try without shading, definitely – the shading almost seems to make the volume come too easily! And you don’t sound teacherly at all, all advice appreciated at this stage! I’ll look for that video too.

  4. Pingback: Learning to Draw 2 – Self Portrait Before and After « Tree of Ben

  5. Pingback: Smart Dude, Never graduated art school... | P&R Creatives

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