Ultimate Drawing Guide: Outline of Contents

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-- Outline of Contents --

INTRODUCTION (see below)






Drawing, just like writing or speech, is a form of communication, and in the same way as these other forms of communication drawing can be multi-faceted, and very diverse as a means of expression of our observations, thoughts and feelings. Across the broad field of art and design, artists and designers will use drawing as a specific tool for visual communication, and at the same time use a wide spectrum of drawing techniques to express, develop, and present their ideas and work to the viewer for what ever reason.

Therefore, it is impossible to make a drawing unless the artist has a clear understanding of the type of drawing that is to be created, and the visual language that is to be used which will give form and expressive dynamics to the drawing. This is often forgotten or misunderstood by most teachers of drawing.


Usually our first encounter with drawing is to try to copy something from observation; this could take the form of a portrait, still life, or a landscape. When we're children we draw our observations from memory, and when we become more life experienced, we tend to draw direct from observation. This is normally when we encounter our first problems with the art of drawing, as we have fixed in our minds that to be successful with this skill our rendition of what we see must be nothing less than perfect. Usually these students of drawing that have this particular approach, those who seem to be chasing a visual truth through drawing, end up frustrated and feel a sense of failure. We cannot reproduce reality, we can only make a mark or a statement that acts for that reality, or a mark or a statement that best suits our purpose to describe that reality, and this is known as a metaphor. Instead of chasing the idea of truth, what we should be doing is embracing the medium of drawing and using it for a purpose that fulfils our needs as an artist or designer. Let me now explain how we can break down our understanding and use drawing to facilitate our needs. As we have said before there are many reasons for us to want to draw, and there are many techniques and attitudes for us to adopt that will serve our purpose with the medium of our choice.

What follows is a list of the reasons for us as students or beginners to make drawings.

When using this guide you should first identify the reason why you wish or need to do the type of drawing you are going to do, and then turn to the appropriate section in the guide. That will give you the technique for the medium, and the knowledge you need to make the drawing.


1) First Thoughts

One of the many approaches to drawing is to use it as a tool to record our first thoughts.

These usually take the form of sketches and drawings that have immediacy to them. They are usually spontaneous and inspirational as one is drawing one's thinking process as it happens. This process can initiate new ideas.

This procedure is usually done in sketchbooks or on scrap pieces of paper, and they are usually presented as sheets of ideas.

These types of drawings are then kept and developed into something more substantial as a statement in the future when our thoughts on the subject are collected and developed into a finished idea. Many artists from different disciplines have used this process of working and thinking through drawing as a way of developing their initial ideas. They range from Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Rembrandt, right up to the present day and the designers of the Disney films.

2) Research and Information gathering

Artist and designers use drawing research as a way of gathering information on a given task, or subject, that they have either been commissioned to do or one they have decided to perform for personal aesthetic reasons.

Research is usually done in sketchbooks, and in specific places that hold the necessary information. These places could be museums, libraries, galleries, in the studio, or out in the field. It all depends on the type of research that is needed for the project in hand. Research can contain all types of information for the artist from shape, form, texture, diagrammatic information, techniques, recording fact, and so on. This type of work is usually completed through drawing, and note taking. Information gathering is the same as research but is done constantly by the artist as a visual resource. It is a visual dictionary that can be used at any point for reference, and all artists should continuously be gathering this type of visual information and storing it for future use. Information gathering is broader in its subject area than research as it includes anything of visual interest to the artist. If you look at some of the drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, you will see the enquiring mind of the artist, gathering information continuously from nature and science. Information gathering exemplifies the enquiring mind that sustains an interest in the visual world.

3) Diagrammatic Drawings

These type of drawings are usually instructional, for example a map e.g. When someone needs directions we will draw them a very crude map that gives them an idea of where to go. Diagrammatic drawings have also been used in different cultures to enable us to read and understand religious or philosophical meanings, and aspects of that culture. Simple examples of diagrammatic drawings come with self assemble items such as furniture, models, and other forms of equipment!

4) Theoretical Drawings

Theoretical drawings are important in the history of art in that they give us a means of understanding proportion, and space through the use of analytical and theoretical devices. These drawings are usually referred to as projection systems such as perspective, planometric, isometric, trimetric, and proportion and measurement drawing systems. This theoretical drawing base is applied to human proportion, architectural plans, and drawings from nature.

5) Copies

Copying consists of absorbing the manner in which other artists have worked using the medium of drawing. In the following sections in the guide, copying is used extensively. It breaks down and assists our understanding of the drawing process. It is used to aid us in our learning, and to understand more fully the language of drawing.

6) Drawing from Nature

All artists draw from nature whether it be a direct transcription or a drawing that is from memory. Drawings from nature include drawings of still life, drawings of the human form, or drawings from the environment or landscape. What we must realize is that when drawing from nature we must have a clear idea what we want to achieve from this drawing, how we want to approach it, and the type of language or technique we are going to use to make the drawing. Students and beginners often forget this, and not to be equipped with this in mind is like starting out on a journey and not knowing your destination. When drawing from nature our aims should be to identify drawing techniques that are a visual parallel to the subject we have chosen to draw. In the following sections in this guide, we constantly refer to many approaches and techniques that will enable you to make drawings of nature. Historically artists have constantly drawn from nature especially as an information gathering exercise to fill their minds with visual knowledge that is stored for future use.

7) Presentation Drawings

This is usually referred to by its Italian name, the Modello. These drawings are usually for a patron or are a commissioned piece of work. They are also referred to as artist's impressions. Their aim is to give the patron an idea of what the finished work will look like. Both the artist and the patron can reach an agreement before the main piece of work is started. These serve the purpose of preventing mistakes being made, sometimes at great expense to the artist or patron.

8) Calligraphic Drawings

In calligraphic drawings, the artist has a repertoire of marks that act as signs or symbols for cultural meanings. As students or beginners of drawing we should develop an inventory of marks for the different mediums that enable us to express our ideas, observations, and feelings. We should experiment with making marks, lines, shapes, tones, textures, and so on. These type of experiments with the various different mediums are evident in the sections in the guide, and they are an extremely important part of our experience when starting to draw, so do not over look this element in the drawing process. Calligraphy has developed from strict cultural traditions and the earliest known examples are from Persian and Chinese cultural draftsmanship. In these cultures, strict traditions and practices had to be learned and followed in the execution of a drawing.

9) Drawing in its own right

Drawings in their own right are drawings that are made deliberately or solely for their own aesthetic reasons. However, illustrations can be put in this category, as they can act independently or support text. When connected with text, illustrations bring a visual quality to the experience that stands on its own merits.

This guide has been put together in a unique way, as it brings about for the beginner and the student of drawing not only the techniques, but also the analytical and emotive approaches and attitudes to drawing. These techniques and approaches are then linked to the appropriate mediums for execution. However, one should only be guided by the projects in the guide as starting points for your experience with drawing.

Whenever you feel bold enough to engage with your own ideas and developments then you should embrace them with endeavor and gusto. Breaking with traditions, techniques, and theories is the hallmark of the true artist.

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