After reading through the discussions and comments, I would like to make some suggestions.

1.  Even with my own beginning students, I see them trying several different media.;  Stop.  Learn to use a pencil.,  In the top European Art Schools the students, regardless of level, are not allowed to touch anything but a pencil for the first year.  Drawing is the basis of all art.  That's where you learn proportions, perspective shading and all the basics.  I've even heard som say that they couldn't draw so that started painting.  That's absurd.  But learning to draw will takes time.

2.  Too many beginners want to take on too much.  Don't do that.  It many cases it will only lead to frustration and possibly quitting.  If you want to try drawing people, don't begin by attempting to draw the full figure. Find some very good photos of the particular features... the eye for example.  Keep practicing drawing  that eye until you have it within your control.  Then move on to the next feature.  If you want to draw landscapes don't attempt the whole plant...draw the flower or the  leaf.  Don't attempt the whole tree.  First learn to draw the trunk and bark.  You can be sure that there are very few accomplished painters who who can't draw well and the major portion started the way I am describing. 

after 20 years of drawing, if I encounter an unusual face with something unusual about it I stop and draw it.  That only adds to my arsenal.

3.  Don't let your ego buy art materials.  For a number of years I had to have the best (most expensive) sketch books until I realized that a clip board and copy paper worked just fine.  Where  a 50 page sketch book will cost around $10.00 you can get a package (500 sheets) of copy paper at Walmart for about $5.00.  It accepts graphite very well, erases easily and is surprisingly durable.  It's also much easier  to file.  I have done any number of drawings on copy paper that could be dry mounted on illustration board and sold as finished art.

I am sure you have all seen the "Art Bin" plastic boxes for carrying your art supplies.  They tell you that they are specifically designed to be unaffected by art materials.  But you can get the same thing in any store that carries fishing tackle boxes in a greater variety at about half the price.

4.  When you start doing finished drawings don't skimp of drawing materials for drawing surfaces.  And there is no specific combination that works best.  Drawing pencils come in a range of leads from 9B to 9H  9B being the softest or darkest lead and 9H being the hardest and lightest..  It's best to experiment and find out which one you are most comfortable.  The same goes for drawing surfaces.  If want to do highly detailed work, it's best to use a smooth surface.  But again, try several before you settle on the one that works best for you.  My primary drawing tools consist of a mechanical pencil with 2B lead and 2H, 3H and 4H drawing pencils for shading..  I use a bic click eraser ( Nylon eraser in a plastic tube), a kneaded eraser.  I prefer doing my finished drawings on hot press medium weight Crescent illustration board.  But again, experiment,  If you are not that familiar with the materials, visit a good store and they will be happy to make recommendations.  If you know a professional artist, take them with you.

You know the old saying "There is no such thing as a dumb questions"  There's a lot to learn about this business of art.  On the other hand, there are a number of extremely accomplished on this site who would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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Replies to This Discussion

i agree with you I take classes just to learn  new techniques, also help my creativity and I see a lot of students who are painting and can't draw and you can tell it from their work.

Richard. Makes so much sense.   I posted my charcoals, my "first" drawings, because when I signed up for lessons at our art league, the instructor had us work with charcoals right away and right away creating value scales and drawing 3D shapes and a still life. Then we went right to pen and ink and in final lesson of the 5 (we lost 3 people along the way), we used white pencil on black paper. It was SOOO hard.  So now, with those done, and with my pen and ink Santa done, I , personally decided to stick with pencil sketches...I use H and B, in 2s and 4s..just 4 pencils, eraser and that's it. I plan to do only this for a long time!  I'm glad I gave it a go since I paid for the lessons and the money was non-refundable and I did learn things and did stick with it.

Terri,  Believe it or not, the same things happens in college art departments.  For the most part the instructors don't know how ti draw so they spend all of their time exposing you to every medium they can.  I've been offered teaching positions in two universities because the dean had seen the work my students were doing in my classes at Hobby Lobby.  I turned them both down because they wanted to know how  I would  feel about teaching their curriculum which was very much like what you experienced.  I told them my students were doing what they were doing because of my curriculum, not theirs.  You are very smart to do what your doing.  Let me know if I can help. 

Terri Bivona said:

Richard. Makes so much sense.   I posted my charcoals, my "first" drawings, because when I signed up for lessons at our art league, the instructor had us work with charcoals right away and right away creating value scales and drawing 3D shapes and a still life. Then we went right to pen and ink and in final lesson of the 5 (we lost 3 people along the way), we used white pencil on black paper. It was SOOO hard.  So now, with those done, and with my pen and ink Santa done, I , personally decided to stick with pencil sketches...I use H and B, in 2s and 4s..just 4 pencils, eraser and that's it. I plan to do only this for a long time!  I'm glad I gave it a go since I paid for the lessons and the money was non-refundable and I did learn things and did stick with it.

Thank you, Richard. I totally agree with you!  I was at the mercy of the instructor AND I had paid for the 5 classes. She had us "grey out" the whole page first...so my middle register was towards the dark end to start with. I realize that now. I had so little white value, because of how I started, with a dark "middle" of the value scale.  I appreciate your input and will keep that in mind.  I won't be working with charcoals anyhow.  Just pencils for now...wish I could get outside to draw, but winter is here!  Live and learn.  Thank you so much again!

Richard Harvey said:

Terri,  Believe it or not, the same things happens in college art departments.  For the most part the instructors don't know how ti draw so they spend all of their time exposing you to every medium they can.  I've been offered teaching positions in two universities because the dean had seen the work my students were doing in my classes at Hobby Lobby.  I turned them both down because they wanted to know how  I would  feel about teaching their curriculum which was very much like what you experienced.  I told them my students were doing what they were doing because of my curriculum, not theirs.  You are very smart to do what your doing.  Let me know if I can help. 

Terri Bivona said:

Richard. Makes so much sense.   I posted my charcoals, my "first" drawings, because when I signed up for lessons at our art league, the instructor had us work with charcoals right away and right away creating value scales and drawing 3D shapes and a still life. Then we went right to pen and ink and in final lesson of the 5 (we lost 3 people along the way), we used white pencil on black paper. It was SOOO hard.  So now, with those done, and with my pen and ink Santa done, I , personally decided to stick with pencil sketches...I use H and B, in 2s and 4s..just 4 pencils, eraser and that's it. I plan to do only this for a long time!  I'm glad I gave it a go since I paid for the lessons and the money was non-refundable and I did learn things and did stick with it.

Terri,

Drawing is exactly opposite from painting.  When you paint you paint the background before the primary subject..  With a drawing you do the subject first..  But I understand very well what you were up against.  I've seen it too often.


Terri Bivona said:

Thank you, Richard. I totally agree with you!  I was at the mercy of the instructor AND I had paid for the 5 classes. She had us "grey out" the whole page first...so my middle register was towards the dark end to start with. I realize that now. I had so little white value, because of how I started, with a dark "middle" of the value scale.  I appreciate your input and will keep that in mind.  I won't be working with charcoals anyhow.  Just pencils for now...wish I could get outside to draw, but winter is here!  Live and learn.  Thank you so much again!

Richard Harvey said:

Terri,  Believe it or not, the same things happens in college art departments.  For the most part the instructors don't know how ti draw so they spend all of their time exposing you to every medium they can.  I've been offered teaching positions in two universities because the dean had seen the work my students were doing in my classes at Hobby Lobby.  I turned them both down because they wanted to know how  I would  feel about teaching their curriculum which was very much like what you experienced.  I told them my students were doing what they were doing because of my curriculum, not theirs.  You are very smart to do what your doing.  Let me know if I can help. 

Terri Bivona said:

Richard. Makes so much sense.   I posted my charcoals, my "first" drawings, because when I signed up for lessons at our art league, the instructor had us work with charcoals right away and right away creating value scales and drawing 3D shapes and a still life. Then we went right to pen and ink and in final lesson of the 5 (we lost 3 people along the way), we used white pencil on black paper. It was SOOO hard.  So now, with those done, and with my pen and ink Santa done, I , personally decided to stick with pencil sketches...I use H and B, in 2s and 4s..just 4 pencils, eraser and that's it. I plan to do only this for a long time!  I'm glad I gave it a go since I paid for the lessons and the money was non-refundable and I did learn things and did stick with it.

That's why my first charcoals were so dark. My background was and I couldn't erase it all, but could have had more whites in the objects.  If I learn to sketch well or better, I will be a happy camper. Starting this as a new hobby at my age!  Also, if anything, I would progress to colored pencil work. Thanks again, Richard!

One other thing to keep in mind.  

Too many teachers encourage you to  create your shading by smearing.  That's the lazy way out if you don't know exactly when to do it.  And it will make your drawing muddy.  To shade use the point of the b\pencil.  It takes time but it works much better.

Just let me know if I can help.

Terri Bivona said:

Thank you, Richard. I totally agree with you!  I was at the mercy of the instructor AND I had paid for the 5 classes. She had us "grey out" the whole page first...so my middle register was towards the dark end to start with. I realize that now. I had so little white value, because of how I started, with a dark "middle" of the value scale.  I appreciate your input and will keep that in mind.  I won't be working with charcoals anyhow.  Just pencils for now...wish I could get outside to draw, but winter is here!  Live and learn.  Thank you so much again!

Richard Harvey said:

Terri,  Believe it or not, the same things happens in college art departments.  For the most part the instructors don't know how ti draw so they spend all of their time exposing you to every medium they can.  I've been offered teaching positions in two universities because the dean had seen the work my students were doing in my classes at Hobby Lobby.  I turned them both down because they wanted to know how  I would  feel about teaching their curriculum which was very much like what you experienced.  I told them my students were doing what they were doing because of my curriculum, not theirs.  You are very smart to do what your doing.  Let me know if I can help. 

Terri Bivona said:

Richard. Makes so much sense.   I posted my charcoals, my "first" drawings, because when I signed up for lessons at our art league, the instructor had us work with charcoals right away and right away creating value scales and drawing 3D shapes and a still life. Then we went right to pen and ink and in final lesson of the 5 (we lost 3 people along the way), we used white pencil on black paper. It was SOOO hard.  So now, with those done, and with my pen and ink Santa done, I , personally decided to stick with pencil sketches...I use H and B, in 2s and 4s..just 4 pencils, eraser and that's it. I plan to do only this for a long time!  I'm glad I gave it a go since I paid for the lessons and the money was non-refundable and I did learn things and did stick with it.

Awesome article, Richard! I took one class on drawing in college, only because I had to in order to fulfill requirements for what I wanted to major in at the time. The teacher started us with pencil and I'm so glad he did! I found out during that class that I had a gift for drawing and I am still learning. I have only ever had that one class and the rest I've taught myself. I have never tried painting (yet) and just recently tried colored pencil for the first time. I love detail in my drawings and the colored pencils worked well. I learned it by looking at a blog about drawing an apple with colored pencil. My first colored pencil effort was "first fruits". My second was "come unto me". Those are the only two I've done. I was away from drawing for many years after having discovered a gift for it and have just now gotten back to it. My series on suffering (holocaust, wwII, apartheid and vietnam) were done after my first class in art. I didn't pick up a pencil to draw from 1988 until 2010 when I retired from work. I suppose I didn't continue to draw during that time because I didn't feel I was good enough, truth be told. Now, I feel a burning desire to get back to it and I'm very thankful to have found this community and all of it's members. I've found great advice and feedback from the members here and continue to learn from many of them. I thank you, once again, for your pointers and I shall take them to heart.
All the best!

tj

You can't Tj.  The key to learning to draw is learning to see.  And that means not only seek the true shapes of your subjects but all of the minute details.  Some come by that much sooner than others.  Those are the ones the teachers call extremely talented and encourrage.  But there are other who pick it up a bit slower but end up being better artists simple because they worked harder.  That's why I tell my students that I don't believe in God given Talent.  I believe in God given desire..  Now that I look back, some of my original stuff was absolutely pathetic.  But I kept working at it.Now, quite often a stident will tell me that they wish that they could draw eyes like I do. My response is always the same, "Once you've drawn 5,00o or so like I have, I have no doubt that you can."  So just keep plugging away, Tj.  You're doing fine.


Tj Voelker said:

Awesome article, Richard! I took one class on drawing in college, only because I had to in order to fulfill requirements for what I wanted to major in at the time. The teacher started us with pencil and I'm so glad he did! I found out during that class that I had a gift for drawing and I am still learning. I have only ever had that one class and the rest I've taught myself. I have never tried painting (yet) and just recently tried colored pencil for the first time. I love detail in my drawings and the colored pencils worked well. I learned it by looking at a blog about drawing an apple with colored pencil. My first colored pencil effort was "first fruits". My second was "come unto me". Those are the only two I've done. I was away from drawing for many years after having discovered a gift for it and have just now gotten back to it. My series on suffering (holocaust, wwII, apartheid and vietnam) were done after my first class in art. I didn't pick up a pencil to draw from 1988 until 2010 when I retired from work. I suppose I didn't continue to draw during that time because I didn't feel I was good enough, truth be told. Now, I feel a burning desire to get back to it and I'm very thankful to have found this community and all of it's members. I've found great advice and feedback from the members here and continue to learn from many of them. I thank you, once again, for your pointers and I shall take them to heart.
All the best!

tj

I can't what? I can't have God given talent, only God given desire? I think your advice is quite good and quite practical, however, I must disagree with you on the God given talent thing. I totally believe that each person has God given talents and I believe that I was given a God given proclivity towards art and drawing. Am I saying I never have to take a lesson or practice or study? Definitely not. I am saying, however, that there are some people who may have a desire to draw and they may practice and practice and study and study and just don't have the eye for it. Then there are some who just have a natural ability in that area, although it needs to be honed.
I agree with the practice and practice advice, however. I would never say that one could be a good artist without having practiced or without lessons, etc.
Sorry. Not trying to be argumentative. You are the teacher, after all. I do believe I must give credit and glory where credit and glory are due and that is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe He gifted me in this area. I also believe it is my duty to hone that gift.
Thanks for the discussion. I appreciate it.

tj

Richard, your suggestions are helpful for people who want to learn how to draw (or paint) realistically, and develop those skills.  For attaining realism in art, learning the basics of perspective, shading, etc are very important!

For people who want to make abstract art, or whimsical art, or expressive art where realism isn't the goal, then I think experimenting with different media would be a healthy way for them to find their footing, and might take them in a direction they never thought of. 

I've heard from quite a few people for whom the therapeutic aspects of art-making revolve around the use of color and the physical experience of applying paint to a canvas - for instance, coming up with pleasing color combos simply makes them happy. The fact that they made something with their own hands makes them happy... which is great!  We all start somewhere, and for some, starting out abstract, or expressively, is the spark they need to ignite their creative flame and gain confidence that they can create something that's nice to look at and makes them feel good.

I think what you're pointing out is that drawing or painting realistically is a real discipline.  It takes time, practice, and desire.  Lots of it!  Like learning to play the piano.  You need to learn the chords and scales before you can play a sonata!

I think that people who want to draw or paint realistically will gravitate in that direction, and take classes like the ones you teach at Hobby Lobby, or learn like TJ did from a blog.  For those who aren't sure what they want to draw or paint, they may experiment with this and that, learn their likes and dislikes, and if they discover they really want to learn to draw realistically, they will start focusing their energy in that direction. 

Btw, thank you for posting the art materials you use for your finished drawings - that's very helpful.

And you are so right, "There is no such thing as a dumb questions"!  We all start somewhere, and asking for help or advice is one of the best ways to learn, especially in our community where we have members with a variety of artistic interests and experiences.

Thanks, Thaneeya

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