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2018-08-09 01:40 - Pencil strokes

I’m learning how to draw: progress after 1 month

As you probably know if you have read the first articles of this blog, I like to create through words, images, code, etc. My dream is to be able to give life to stories and to my imagination through seizing interactive experiences.

But I’m quite limited by my lack of artistic skills, for having never really tried. So I decided to take some time to learn digital painting, and take a chance on a serious artistic approach on my free time. Well, the problem is that every learning process takes a lot of time, specially when I have to start from scratch. Time to take besides of all other time-consuming learning activities I undertake (technical as an engineering student, musical as I resumed my singing activity, and wanderings on the YouTube popularization scene and miscellaneous Wikipedia articles). Time is rarely better invested than in learning, right?

So I began with the beginning, by learning the basics of drawing, to get rid of all the constraints that make the step huge when working on one’s first paintings. Here is a small update on my progress during this first month.

My tools

I learn primarily digital drawing, but also do some drawing on paper as I’ll tell you later in this article.

For digital drawing and painting, I use the drawing tablet Huion 1060 PLUS, without integrated screen because that’s an investment one does when they already have a skill level that justifies it. I’m quite satisfied about this tablet (large screen, 12 customizable buttons, included art glove, rechargeable pen with changeable leads), and all this under one hundred euros. The only downside I see is that the proprietary drivers for this tablet don’t have Linux support.

I use the free and open source software Krita, which surprisingly is a very reliable alternative to Photoshop, even more intuitive in my opinion, with a good set of integrated brushes since version 4, and very useful tools like the perspective assistant.

On paper, I work with a hardcover notebook, and of course pencil, rubber, a criterium for thin lines.

The basics of drawing, because one must know how to draw a cup of tea before drawing a dragon

To learn digital drawing and painting, I mainly follow the online courses offered by Ctrl + Paint, that’s the best I found as an efficient artistic tutorial for digital painting: a huge library of free videos and paid advanced courses. Even in a pretty straightforward approach, it’s still 19 chapters, with each more than 10 videos on average, themselves being associated to exercises. All that just to learn the basics, I mean. Moreover I also learn from some other sources found on the Internet, often in the comments by other students of these online courses.

I really like to learn but patience is certainly not one of my personal qualities, and many exercises are quite boring. That’s why I try to that with some background music, or videos and podcasts when the drawing doesn’t require too much attention from my brain.

The exercises are often like: drawing cubes on a perspective grid, drawing objects that I see with different techniques (constructive, negative space, linear block-in), reproducing curves or angles, or draw the 3d shapes of insects.


Sketching sessions to improve my draftmanship

A method that I kinda like, and quite efficient because it offers a rhythm and helps practising with minor efforts, is themed sketching sessions. The idea is that a tool selects pictures withing a given theme and you have to sketch each picture within a very short amount of time.

E.g to learn human anatomy, I use a method which has been known for centuries by art schools: sketching sessions of a model taking different poses for increasingly longer time intervals, for example 15 seconds to 5 minutes, as shown with some of my drawings from these sessions below. I’ve used the YouTube channel Croquis Café which offers models with diverse body shapes, and the website Line of action which offers more different kinds of sessions (not only human anatomy).

Figure drawing sessions

This website offers not only human anatomy sketching sessions, but also animals, feet / hands, and facial expressions. Drawing animals (I usually set the limit to 1 minute) is very interesting because animals are very different so one cannot come up with one unique approach, but has to find a way to quickly convey the essence of these different shapes in a very short amount of time.

Animal session

Some drawings on paper

To avoid getting bored, and also being too specialized in digital painting, I sometimes do traditional drawing, often architectural, for example during a lunch break (buildings with original shapes are common here in Helsinki).

Among the things I like to work on paper with architectural drawings is perspective, whereas I care less about details, that are easier to work on when doing digital painting (I can zoom in, and work in isolated layers).

Helsinki drawings

Longer works

To put in application the scope of the skillset I’m learning, and identify my defects and progress roadmaps, I did a few longer works. I worked digitally but put some constraints like using only two brushes in Krita : one pencil and one rubber. This allowed me to focus on the drawing and not create a hybrid between drawing and digital painting (though I was tempted to use other brushes when it came to drawing shadows).

Below are 3 artworks that took me 2 or 3 evenings each, even working from references (I have to first make a gross sketch of the shapes, then draw the contour lines of the different parts, then add details and finally lighting, to avoid a flat-looking drawing). I worked from references because I don’t yet have the level to do that from my imagination:


The cover picture of this article has a different status because it’s been drawn on a mid-tone background, with brushes closer to ink drawing than pencils.

My general feeling after one month

I really want to improve my skills and be able to make paintings that would make you say “wooow”, but this learning process is very long and discouraging, because thousands of artworks are available on the Internet, painted by artists who have given all their time during years doing this. And unfortunately human appreciation is relative, not absolute. There is a huge step to take before being able to make works that satisfy me. Even pro artists say they are proud of their artworks foor only a few hours before they start to focus on their mistakes and imperfections only.

But at least, I can see progress, and I have so much to learn that I haven’t encountered any blocker, and I have the feeling that one can always make progress with more work. Which is the case in every learning process, will you reply.

Anyway, the future will tell what I can achieve. And why not focus my efforts at the Ludum Dare next week-end on the graphics?

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