Drawing: Just a Little Better Than Stick Figures
August 21, 2017 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I can’t draw. I don’t really like to hand-address envelopes for fear the mailman won’t be able to read my lousy handwriting. Please help me draw just a little bit -- but not very much -- better.

My kid’s just recently started going to daycare for the first time, and we bought a pack of 3x5 index cards and throw a quick dashed-off drawing in with his lunch. When my wife does it, the kid gets bunnies or birds or whatever, and when it’s my turn he gets stick figures.

Please point me to a resource to teach me how to draw a few little very simple characters that are half a click up from stick figures.
posted by thursdaystoo to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I did the $29 US online course called How to Draw Without Talent through Sketchbook School. You go at your own pace and I found it made a marked difference in terms of how I started constructing drawings. I am still very much an amateur, but things I draw mostly look like what they are now.
posted by notorious medium at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ed Emberly!
He has a wonderfully fun, simple style of drawing and his books will teach you how to do it in a step by step basis designed for young kids (think age 6-9) to follow along.
posted by metahawk at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ed Emberley's books sound like just what you're looking for.
posted by Lexica at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks! The Ed Emberly books are exactly what I was looking for. I'd never heard of him before.
posted by thursdaystoo at 11:30 AM on August 21, 2017

There's a Ted Talk on that:
Why people believe they can’t draw - and how to prove they can | Graham Shaw | TEDxHull
posted by BoscosMom at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Ed Emberly books are great! Two other tips:

Color can imbue loads of meaning without requiring precision. Get a pack of colored pencils (go for the smaller color selection so you aren't overwhelmed by choice) and use them to loosely fill in, detail, or outline your drawings. A few circles turn into red roses on green stems, ovals and triangles turn into fish under the sea with a blue background and some green dots for eyes, another circle becomes Daniel Tiger's face with orange and some black stripes.

Second tip is to doodle patterns. Rather than doing the step by step Emberly guidelines, doodle cards full of simple shapes. Hearts, stars, loops, arches, geometric shapes, daisy flowers, even little stick figures over and over again. The idea behind this is that as you do the repetitive motions you will gain competency over your drawing tools, and be better able to make your hand do what your brain is imagining. Then, when you try one of those cute animals from the book, your motor skills will be able to actually follow along with less stumbling. Also, cards full of pretty patterns and swirls (use different colors!) are just as lovely as a bird or a bunny. Try dividing the card into a large grid and then filling in each square with a different color of hearts, and go from there.
posted by Mizu at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

If your handwriting is lousy too, try getting pens and pencils with really thick barrels or buying pencil grips to slid over your writing implements to make them thicker. Often people with handwriting that is hard to read have fine motor coordination issues like focal dystonia. Remember to slow down. That can also help. You may be racing to capture an image or an idea and trying to write or draw as fast as you can type or think and this is just not going to happen.

This is one of the reasons why we get children to colour - it gets them to spend time on the page. Slow down to enjoy the process, rather than going fast for the result. So for example if you want to draw a sheep on your child's index card, get a sheet of blank paper and draw fifteen sheep on the blank paper first, for practice. If you haven't drawn sheep yet, of course the one you dash off on the card is going to look terrible. If you draw fifteen practice sheep first you will notice details about some of them that you like and details about some of them that you don't like so when it comes time to draw one on the index card you will know what to aim for - that cute curl just above it's nose - and what to avoid - a too long body, for example.

If you look at Michaelangelo's works they still have collections of his studies, the rough drawings he did on paper before he did the preliminary sketches on the canvases, before he added the paint on top of his great paintings. There are studies like these extant from many great artists. So keep that in mind.

If you do anything on paper at all - even take notes while on the phone, for example, encourage yourself to doodle while you listen, or while you are waiting during dead times. Many excellent artists have honed their skills this way, bored in class, defacing the margins of their note books, or at the office, until their friends and art teachers recognized that their lugubrious elephants, or salacious finger biting femme fatales or whatever they liked to doodle deserve a wider audience.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:19 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

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