THE BASICS OF DRAWING - LEARNING HOW TO THINK IN LINE

LET’S LEARN SOME LINES.

No, this isn’t your acting class, we’re talking about art here!

Yes, the vital line. Nowhere to be found in nature, yet absolutely indispensable for drawing, painting, drafting, designing, inventing, engineering, architecture, and…you get the point. 

If you’re more of a visual learner, you can always watch my Beginner Drawing Course lesson 01 video for free below. Otherwise, let’s dig into some concepts and applications of the humble line, and how you can generate a lot of drawing potency by learning them in and out.. 


DRAWING A FINE LINE

Well, the simple fact is, lines are a natural way for us to think. From the first cave paintings to the present day masters of drawing— we’ve always had a profound and deep relationship with them. One might even say hard-wired. 

Yet, most people default to arranging their lines (as far as drawing is concerned) into stick figures, or only utilizing them in very inefficient ways, such as drawing every hair on a character’s head.

You see, lines aren’t like hammers which can only perform a pretty limited number of functions. 

They’re far more conceptual, meaning their uses are practically infinite. 

However, we’ll leave infinity to the mathematicians for now, and focus in on several ways that you can begin to hone your understanding of lines, and how to apply them to your artwork and thinking.

HOW TO THINK IN “LINE”


So, like every other creative conversion process, lines are a way for us to translate our feelings, ideas, perceptions, and observations into a drawing. 

Now, a drawing can be a few simple lines, or it can be made up of many thousands— it all depends on the style and deployment of the lines. 

Kind of like how you could express an idea in English, but it would look vastly different in Cantonese or Russian. 

Yes, they’re all languages, but each of them has their own “rules” for formatting, as well as a different visual look.
As noted above, different types of lines have different feelings, uses, and purposes— like learning the alphabet, or each tool in a toolkit. 

One might even make a comparison between learning the notes on a musical instrument, or more broadly, the musical scale. 

The thing about those two comparisons, however— is that they’re a lot more rigid…very defined, whereas lines offer more freedom, but also less structure and certainty. 

It’s why there aren’t nearly as many child drawing prodigies as there are chess, music, spelling, and other more rule-laden disciplines.
In my opinion, that’s what makes learning to draw so fun and open-ended, but also what makes it rather scary and intimidating or frustrating at points.

Here’s a bit more info about lines:



So, like how we have to form cohesive letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs, lines function similarly. 

Especially when it comes to making shapes. Shapes are also of immense usefulness to us as humans, and we should treat them with just as much curiosity and devotion in the artistic sense.

Heck, if you smash enough lines together, you get shading.

This is an example of that— it’s an exercise I designed to help warm up the hand to create various types of lines that can later be converted into shading or values. 

Don’t worry about those things for now, as we’re going to focus back in on line. The main point I wanted to make is that lines, being as conceptual and transformable as they are, are positively laden with power, potential, and possibilities. 

It’s just one more reason why learning how to wield them effectively allows us greater creative expression and artistic prowess. 

LINING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Alright, so now that we’ve laid out many ideas in regards to lines and creating artwork, I want to leave you with  a way to apply some of this knowledge as you move forward on your artistic ascent. 

These tips will allow you to start endowing your thinking and your work with more alignment.

  1. Begin to “draw” objects you physically see with your mind using only lines.  Trace them, their details, and simplify when necessary.

  2. At night (or when you’re lying in bed in the morning) visualize yourself sketching and paying particular attention to lines. How do they feel flowing out? Are you establishing them rapidly or slowly? Can you draw characters? Faces? Animals? What about simple objects? 

  3. When you’re drawing from life (an exercise I go over in more detail in my beginner Drawing Course) Try to draw using the fewest amount of lines possible, and keep them as clean as you can. Like working with ink, and only have ONE shot to do it each mark. 

  4. When working from imagination or sketching from reference, start with very light lines, and gradually work your way to more confident and assured lines once the bigger stuff has already been laid in. 



FINAL THOUGHTS

Those exercises will ensure that internally and externally lines become more familiar to you. You will begin to conceptualize them consciously and subconsciously be devoting the rays of your attention not only to their concepts, but their actual execution. 

It’s a multi-faceted approach that yields powerful results over time if you stay consistent. 

If you want more demonstration, techniques, and other ways of applying lines, you can always feel free to acquire the Beginner Drawing Course. Or watch other artist videos on youtube to see how they do it.

All in all, don’t get frustrated if it takes a while to absorb or utilize all of this information. In fact, only take in what’s useful to you at this time, and then revisit this post later once you feel stuck or are inspired to do so.

Until next time— happy drawing.

WHY "WHAT" IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN "HOW" - A DRAWING GUIDE.

WHAT DO YOU DRAW IN ORDER TO SEE IMPROVEMENT?

This is the the key question. The net is littered with “how to draw” tutorials - many of which are my own. Only after many students came to me with issues that “How” won’t solve did I finally realize the issue.

The quirk with that type of content is that it’s only 5-10% of the answer for any given drawing problem. The real stuff is the “What” and the “Why” of drawing. Without those crucial “Q’s” You’ll end up about as frustrated as you did before consuming that content. My aim with this post is to hand you the “What” and “Why” so you’ll have a much better time playing with the “How.”

THE BEST “WHAT” STEPS TO GET BETTER AT DRAWING ARE…

  1. Using Powerful Resources

  2. habit-driven consistency

  3. Self-Critique + Community Critique

  4. Deliberate Practice. 

We’ll be taking a look at how each of these factors will allow you to improve your drawing abilities enormously over time, but first we have to establish something:

DRAWING IS A SKILL.

And like Any Skill - It can be learned.

THIS IS A NON-NEGOTIABLE IF YOU’RE GOING TO DRAW BETTER. 

Talent is a pursued interest, as Bob Ross stated.  If you’re truly interested in drawing, drop all ideas of “talent” at the door. It’s far too flighty of  a notion, and assuming you have it or not will ultimately harm your learning process either way. 

Now, let’s move onto one last thing before we get into the best steps.

WHAT IS YOUR “WHY?”

As in, why do you want to draw better? 

Is it  because you want the envy of your peers? 

Do you find that you “suck” in comparison to other artists, and want to get better so you can feel better?

Are you longing for the praise of your friends and family? 

Or is it simply a feeling inside that is trying to find expression through the medium of drawing? 

Without a good “why” your “how” will fall apart. 

What drove me for so long was drawing inspiration from masters old and new, and wanting to count myself among them. Now I’m more driven to better express images and stories that enter my head, and mastery is only a secondary “why.

Here’s the thing, if you’re constantly seeking validation and approval, you’re linking your why to an external factor, and you’ll be at the mercy of that factor on your journey.

Internal factors can be harmful too—being beholden to feelings of inferiority for example. Yes, you may be driven to practice, but there will be sour notes all throughout that symphony. You’re robbing yourself of the joy of the process, and thus are more likely to quit again.

The theme that keeps coming up is to pick a why that doesn’t die. 

A chief aim that won’t permit you to quit, even when you feel like it. 

That is the key to the kingdom, the song for the soul. Even a simple “why” that don’t die is better than a grandiose vision that fades after a month or two. It’s the decisive factor between binge-gaming or picking up your sketchbook.

Now, onto the core of this guide. 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DRAWING - BEGINNER TO ADVANCED: 

PART 01 - USING POWERFUL RESOURCES.


When you’re going the self-taught route, the wells that you draw from will greatly dictate your growth. Deeply flawed material will stifle your ability to climb upward. 

For example, when I was on my come-up from the ages 14-20, I spent a LOT of time on newgrounds.com - wherein the bar for good art is pretty low. It’s more about humorous and raunchy flash animations. Some of the gilded content there is drawn rather poorly. Yes, there are a handful of phenomenal artists, but they aren’t as deified as the ones who can make you laugh.

And most importantly, the resources on that site were few and far between. Mostly animation or coding tutorials. 

So what makes a powerful resource?


A Plate by the great Charles Bargue.

 A powerful resource is one that calls out to you on a deep level. You’re almost learning just be observing it. Some of the most powerful resources I’ve ever chanced upon:

  • Andrew Loomis’s Books

  • George Bridgeman’s Books

  • Harold Speed - The Practice & Science of Drawing

  • The Massive Black Tutorials (no longer available)

  • Charles Bargue Drawing Course

I’ve learned more from those author/artists than any other. They took timeless principles, distilled them into practicable exercises, and gave clear examples. Everything I’ve done my best to translate into things like the Beginner Drawing Course.

Having the proper resource to draw from, like just ONE good course or book that you work through front-to-back, and then revisit in intervals, will do so much for you that words can scarcely describe it. It’s almost magical, really. 

Image each resource as a sacred artifact. One that takes discipline and devotion to draw power from. As you examine, decipher, apply, and elaborate upon. That knowledge will transfer itself into your mind and hand, allowing you to perform new drawing feats. Drawing becomes a video game— addictive and engaging.

That’s why I list a great resource as the most important item. Words to push the principles into your mind, and visual examples to allow you to transpose them into your own style. 

Hell, even the 6 free drawing lessons I offer are better than simply wallowing about in the mires of ignorance. 

Find a method for that madness, a place for that potency. Update your tactics, approaches, and strategies as often as possible. Don’t let your habits become chains that prevent exponential progress.

PART 02 - HABIT-DRIVEN CONSISTENCY
DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN.




Will power is weak. It’s a short-term strategy. Using your will to force yourself into drawing is a recipe for sporadic efforts, and scattered progress. 

Instead, you’ll want to build the drawing habit. The best way to do this, is to set an alarm for drawing 2-4 times per day.  Use your phone’s “clock” app to do so, and keep it simple. 

“At 9AM I will draw from X resource for Y Minutes.”

Then one at least one more in the PM.

“At 7PM I will practice from X Resources for Y Minutes.”

Want to make the habit even more tantalizing? Add a reward after each session. It could be something as simple as watching an episode of your favorite show, eating a healthy snack, or hanging out with your friends or pet for a bit. 

Once you’ve built the habit of drawing at least 2 times per day at regular intervals from a powerful source, you can begin to schedule “free time” in as well as a 3rd drawing slot. Even if it’s just 30 minutes playing free-form with what you’re learning, or spending 45 minutes pushing a personal project a couple yards closer to completion. 


PART 03 - SELF CRITIQUE + COMMUNITY CRITIQUE
STEEL YOURSELF. IT’S TIME TO SHARE.



This “What” frightens many artists, myself included. People can be cruel and foolish in their feedback, or downright trolls for no good reason. 

That said, there are a lot of helpful souls out there that can offer specific and moderate feedback to ensure you’re conscious of flaws and routes to improvement in your work. 

The artist ego is fragile. It will crumble like dry dirt, and ladle itself in self-pity— especially if the eyes of negative feedback so much as looks at it wrong. I get that. However, if you want to do this, you’ll have to build your sense of detachment, and your internal assurance. 

Some of the best places to receive feedback are listed below. Join a subreddit or a poignant FB group and hop into the fray. 

https://www.reddit.com/r/ArtFundamentals/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Beginner_Art/

Loish’s Digital art Group

The Art Mobs

One more thing— don’t just seek pats on the buttocks or validation. They don’t do much in the way of improving your art, only cement the need for further approval. To improve, you must kindly express gratitude for such compliments, but remain unfettered in your quest for ongoing growth and expression. 

SELF CRITIQUE




Self critique is among the most important skills to develop as an artist, or a creator of any sort. It’s the ability to see yourself and your work with greater objectivity, and the slider of that work toward greater brilliance.

Self critique isn’t tearing yourself up, beating yourself, or mistreating or denigrating the work. This happens from time to time because we’re humans, and when you first unleash the inner critic their methods can be cutthroat. If you’re feeling drained as a result of a persistent inner monologue that makes you want to devolve into a pile of tears, you’re doing it wrong. 

Instead, imagine that there is a kind master within you. You can create an avatar of them if you’d like in your mind. They can even be the future version of yourself as a highly-proficient creator. 

That person will be direct, but always constructive. They will use the depths of their knowledge to throw you a rope when you’ve painted yourself into a pit. 

And when your shoulders slump in a disappointed manner, they will pat your back, offer a few kind words of what you’re doing well or how far you’ve come. 

PART 04 - DELIBERATE PRACTICE

PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS. DELIBERATE PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.



Well, closer to perfect, anyway. 

We all know the person who seemingly spends ages of their time doing something, but barely improves. The issue in this case isn’t consistency, it’s consciousness. 

If you’re just “going through the motions” when your drawing alarm goes off - do you think you’ll be reaping the full benefits of the exercises? 

No. No you won’t. 

It’s about zoning in on what needs improvement. External and Internal Critique will point these things out.

After that, it’s up to you to deliberately apply that feedback. Drawing wonky noses? Better focus on whipping those babies into shape for the next few sessions. A mistake can carry through your work like a chronic condition - dragging down the vibe for ages if left unchecked. 

Create a light sense of urgency will help to ensure you’re not being too lax with mistakes—especially recurring ones. 

CONCLUSION


Clearing aside the weeds, we can now see the garden of improvement is a place with infinite potential. I invite you to tend to it daily, and seek to use each of these steps to great effect. Here they are once more:

  1. Using Powerful Resources

  2. habit-driven consistency

  3. Self-Critique + Community Critique

  4. Deliberate Practice. 

Armed with these veritable “Whats” the “How” Will be much more resounding. 

If you’re interested in more posts like this that help you master your drawing potential, and offer real guidance in a sea of confusion, I invite you to sign up for the free drawing lessons list. After It sends you all of them, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on future writings. Just toss in your email below and hit “Sign Up!”

Until next time, Happy drawing.

-T