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presents

DRAWING
BASICS

Learn How to Draw a Cylinder,
How to Draw a Sphere,
How to Draw a Cube &
More Free Beginner
Drawing Techniques

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DRAWING BASICS

This content has been abridged from an original article written by TK. © F+W Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
F+W Media grants permission for any or all pages in this premium to be copied for personal use.

The cube, the cylinder, and the sphere
are the fundamental shapes an artist
must absorb to achieve a deeper under-
standing of all forms. The cylinder—
a combination of the cube and the
sphere—exists in the middle of these
three. Many forms can be built out of
a cube, and the cylinder is the most
logical geometric form to tackle next.
Drawing cylinders well is important,
particularly in a still life—in which the
artist is continually confronted with
ellipses found in items such as a plate,
a bowl of fruit, a glass of wine, or any
cylindrical man-made form—and in fig-
ure drawing, which is nearly impossible
without the use of cylinders.

CIRCLES AND
ELLIPSES: THE
FOUNDATIONS
OF CYLINDERS
Before you can draw a cylinder well,
you must first learn how to draw an
ellipse, but let’s begin with drawing a
circle. A circle is a curved line in which
all points are the same distance from
the center. (See Illustration 1.) It is said
that Giotto could draw a perfect circle
without any mechanical aids. But we
don’t hear about his mistakes, so in the

Understanding how to correctly depict a cylinder will greatly
ease and enhance the rendering of most natural objects.
by Jon deMartin

The Cylinder

Illustration 1
by Jon deMartin, 2008, charcoal on
newsprint, 18 x 24. All artwork this
article collection the artist unless
otherwise indicated.

meantime we must practice. To begin,
draw a 4-inch square and add intersect-
ing lines from corner to corner to find
the midpoint, then draw lines through
the center at right angles to each other.
Then try drawing a freehand circle so it
touches the square’s middle extremities
at the top, bottom, left, and right. Once
you become proficient at drawing cir-
cles it’s time to try ellipses. For materi-
als I’d recommend a drawing board, a
bond or smooth sketch paper pad, and
charcoal or graphite pencils.

A circle, which exists on a flat plane,
becomes an ellipse when the plane is
tipped. When flat on a table, your 4-inch
circle forms an ellipse because it’s in
perspective, tilted away from you. (See
Illustration 2.) Notice that because of
perspective, the true horizontal middle—
called the “perspective center”—appears
farther back. To draw a successful ellipse
without distortion you must consider the
concept of the minor and major axes. The
minor axis is the shortest diameter of the
ellipse, and the major axis is the longest
diameter. Both are always centered and at
right angles (perpendicular) to each other.
In Illustration 3, when we move the major
axis in front of the perspective center (dot-
ted line) to the exact middle of the minor
axis and draw by relating to the new mid-
points, the ellipse appears correct.

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DRAWING BASICS

LEFT

Illustration from
Encyclopédie
edited by Denis Diderot,
1762–1777, engraving.

BELOW

Drawings After Sculpture
by Eliot Goldfinger
by Jon deMartin, 2008, charcoal on
newsprint, 24 x 18.

the lower right of the Holbein illustra-
tion.) The 19th-century French art-
ist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
noted, “The head and neck never link
together: They form two noncontinu-
ous lines.”

An 18th-century French engraving
from Diderot’s Encyclopédie depicts
the ideal head divided into four equal
parts. I find that making the distance
of the hairline to the top of the head
shorter makes the head appear more

natural. However, the more important
lesson to be learned from this engrav-
ing is what happens to the construc-
tion lines when the head is seen from
different perspectives. Notice that
when the head is tilted back the lines
bend upward and the distance between
the quarters decreases toward the top,
and when the head is tilted down, the
lines bend downward and the quarters
decrease toward the bottom.

Illustration 8 shows a figure from

several views and uses forms that appear
ovoid. Remember, Ingres also stated,
“Never do the exterior contours bend
inward. On the contrary, they bulge,
they curve outward like a wicker of a
basket.” When drawing the model, this
conception is helpful in seeing the large,
underlying roundness of each mass of
the figure. Keeping these principles in
mind will help increase your ability to
draw from both life and imagination. ■

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DRAWING BASICS

This content has been abridged from an original article written by TK. © F+W Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
F+W Media grants permission for any or all pages in this premium to be copied for personal use.

I remember one of my instructors saying, “What’s the
point of drawing the model if the student can’t draw
the model stand?”, meaning the model’s platform in its
proper perspective. For the beginner, geometric object
drawing is a vital first step to learning how to draw. In
drawing even simple shapes the beginner will need to
learn basic perspective.

The cube is the easiest object to draw in perspective.
The ability to draw a cube from any angle, from both life
and imagination, is essential for good draftsmanship. Once
skill is gained in drawing a cube, it’s not difficult to apply
that knowledge to more complex subjects. The cube looks
simple, but it’s actually complex and requires both keen
observation and knowledge of construction and perspec-
tive. If one can’t draw a cube in perspective, then a head
will be impossible.

It’s always best to learn how to draw from actual
objects—from life, not from photographs. The drawings
should not be about value, but rather shape and perspec-
tive, because values are of little importance if the construc-
tion is wrong. As a rule, it seems best for beginners to
confine their early attempts to outline, to getting the main
proportions as accurate as possible. It’s not necessary to
draw on good paper since these are just exercises, but I’d
recommend a fairly smooth sketchpad with graphite pencil
and eraser.

Angular perspective is when a cube is placed in such
a way that no surface is seen at a right angle; it doesn’t
appear in its true shape. When drawing the cube in this
perspective, set it up askew so it’s at unequal angles.

Learn to draw the cube and you have a good introduction
to basic perspective and to one of the geometric building
blocks of all objects—including the human figure.
by Jon deMartin

The Cube

The Three Graces
by Jon deMartin, 2002, burnt sienna and white Nupastel on toned paper,
25 x 22. Private collection.

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DRAWING BASICS

Illustration 9
by Jon deMartin, graphite, 18 x 12.

The back view of the Cube Man. Notice how
the ribcage is darker because it’s going

under, and the pelvis is lighter because it’s
a top plane—the reverse of the front view in

Illustration 7.

Up to this point we’ve been talking
about values that run top to bottom. In
the front view in Illustration 7, you can
also see plane changes running from
side to side. The front plane of the right
thigh is facing the viewer, and the left is
rotated outward, becoming a side-right
plane. Notice how planes that go to the

side darken. (See Illustration 6.)
Drawing simple objects enables an

artist to master the basics. By taking
baby steps toward what nature shows us,
we can build on a sure and solid founda-
tion that will help us become better art-
ists, allowing us to express our visions of
the visual world. ■

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