Observational Drawing

Sketching at live drawing sessions or drawing from photos are great resources for practice.  These practices are significant because you will learn: form, value, tone, proportion, volume, perspective, and lighting.  To be a great artist, these skills are fundamental and hugely imperative.  The three (3) reasons to draw from life and/or photos are:

1. Observational study of 3D objects

Pretend you are a martian from another planet visiting earth.  Your assignment is to study human life and bring your newly found intel back to your home planet.  Equipped with your intergalactic sketching supplies, you are set to explore.  You stumble upon an apple.  Since you've never seen it before, you'll probably pick it up and rotate it.  You must observe every small detail, transferring it on a 2D surface, and bring it back to your planet. 

2. Lighting

Whether it's artificial or natural, lighting will dictate form, tone, value and shadows.  To depict lighting in a drawing, you need highlights, core shadows, reflective lights, and cast shadows.  Observing the object will help you determine the placement for these lights and shadows.  Mostly importantly, it will enhance the naturalism in your drawings.

3. Perspective

Perspective creates the illusion of depth.  When observing objects, notice how they are situated on a ground plane. Think of perspective in three (3) components: foreground, middle ground, and background.  It also helps with creating focal points in your illustrations.  

Here's my process of sketching Buster Keaton.

I begin sketching very loose and gestural.  I'm not really thinking about proportions, just yet.  

When I feel that I need to make corrections, I flip my paper upside down.  With this technique, I begin to fix uneven eyes, off centered contour lines, and other proportional issues.

After I've made my corrections, I begin to describe the form with cross contour lines.  Drawing Buster's tea cup can be tricky.  Without using perspective, the illusion of him sipping tea will be unsuccessful.  To depict this illusion, I tilt the cup using a slight 3 point perspective.

Now, I clean up areas and defining the contours of Buster's wrinkly face.

Next, I define Buster's clothing, tea cup and plate, and features (hands, ears, eyes, etc.).

For the train lever, I begin loosely sketching the shapes. Afterwards, I begin defining the planes and adding details.

Next, I add values and tones to describe the lighting on Buster, the tea cup and plate.  

Lastly, I add tones and small details to the lever and background elements using atmospheric perspective.

This is how it turns out!

By learning the fundamentals of drawing through this process, you will strengthen your concept art and environmental drawings.  


Stay tuned for my next blog post!