Drawing for the dumb dummies?
May 25, 2021 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I would like to learn to draw, but https://funnypng.blogspot.com/2004/12/how-to-draw-meme.html">this is my life's experience. This also seems to be the case for my (very old) copy of "Drawing for Dummies."

I never learned to draw, and I also think I don't have the instincts for "how a line can make something look three-dimensional" and such either. And I would like to learn some of it, mostly for work so that I can at least give people a rough sketch of something and say "this is what I'm talking about," but it would be also nice to learn anyway. (My sister got too much of the drawing gene, and I didn't get enough; she produces a lot of art, and understanding her work from a technical point of view would be cool too.)

ANYWAY, are there any drawings books that TOTALLY, COMPLETELY hold your hand through the entire process? Perhaps explain how (made up example; I don't know what I'm talking about) a curve shows more of a distant perspective when it's done in a certain way? I learn best when everything is just totally spelled out. I'm a little aspergery but not dumb, except for when it comes to drawing. Thanks all!

(On preview; this question was asked in 2016, but perhaps there are better books out there now?)
posted by Melismata to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used it myself but hear great things about Draw A Box. First lesson here.
posted by brook horse at 9:07 AM on May 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

My ultimate favorite is How to Draw Anything by Mark Linley.

I also have Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson and I love the way he explains how to see things before you try to draw them.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 9:08 AM on May 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Any time this question comes up I recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

this "kit" has the book and the "workbook", but I only used the book itself when I went through it.

the only drawback to this book is that it really only teaches how to draw things that you can see. If you are like me, and are not good at visualizing things that are not physically in front of you, it won't really help you with that.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2021 [11 favorites]

I think you might love the Etherington Brothers and their "How to Think When You Draw" series. They have a great Instagram that also shares tutorials from their books.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:16 AM on May 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

My son was fond of the Mark Crilley's books, particularly, The Two-Pencil Method.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:41 AM on May 25, 2021


Just look at Scout McClouds work and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Neither are handholdy, but they're light, fun, and inspiring: most importantly, they communicate complex ideas in a simple way, so you can get to the next level.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:56 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just chiming in to say that making things look 3D is not instinctive. Drawing is a learned skill of observation and technique. So don't feel like you're at a disadvantage! Anyone can learn to draw with enough training and practice :)
posted by ananci at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2021 [10 favorites]

a curve shows more of a distant perspective when it's done in a certain way?

I also think of drawing in these hyper-specific and logical instances. I will say that I've never found a book that will explain it in a satisfying way, though on-preview the link yellowcandy posted is exactly the kind of thing I would have loved when first starting out.
I find looking at complete drawings, and asking what information they convey, and how they convey that information to be really helpful. "I can tell this object is wider at the top, and below my eye level. What makes me know this?" kind of things. Pinterest is a good place for resources if you know how to look for them. Digital artists will create little tutorials that are popular to boost views on their own art.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, to be fair to you, that panda goes from No. 3 to No. 4 REALLY quickly!
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ha! Drawing is a pandemic skill I picked up. The Udemy course which has been recommended here is still good – there is unfortunately very little in terms of WHY things are drawn a certain way (the instructor’s favorite phrase is “draw it like so”, which… ugh. gets maddening after a while), but provides good building of skills and points to things you need to be aware of. Currently on sale for $14.

This book is great – truly step-by-step instructions on how to draw things. I’ve only just started, so am not able to speak to how well being able to draw a haybale well translates into being able to draw other things, but I appreciate knowing what what I'm drawing is supposed to look like (difficult with the Udemy course, where the you realize after 15 minutes of drawing that the blank space the guy left in the middle of the picture WAS important... and you've already drawn over it).

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain wasn’t for me for some reason. They have workshops online now, if you’re willing to spend time and money though. Some of the before/after pictures in the book do look impressive.

Ultimately – you have to start drawing. My goal was to be able to depict objects realistically, so I spend time just drawing objects around the house – mugs, chocolate bunnies, pens, forks, etc. Generally – it takes a few tries for the object to start looking like itself, so don’t get discouraged at first. Oh, it only takes about 20 hours (not 10000! (SLYT)) to become “pretty good” at something, so you'll be able to see progress quickly. YouTube "how to draw {object name here}" search also helps.
posted by Dotty at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Here's a drawing challenge that helped me improve greatly: find something shiny and reflective and draw it. Drawing the image of a mirror, for example, helps you out of the mindset of "drawing what you know" to "drawing what you see." Drawing what you "know" of a mirror produces a pane of glass in a frame. Drawing what you "see" explores reflections and how they inform the "color" of the mirror. Challenges like that can help promote the cognitive shift that allows drawing to happen. A "step-by-step" breakdown of the "process" is really going the wrong way about it.
posted by SPrintF at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2021

I really enjoyed working through Mark Kistler's 'You Can Draw in 30 Days'. It definitely talks about why you do each technique. It's gentle and starts with drawing simple shapes and gets progressively more challenging, building on what you've learned.

You might recognize the author as the host of "The Secret City" and "The Imagination Station" on PBS.
posted by burntflowers at 10:50 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I took a class based on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain - recommended above. It is a set of very straight-forward exercises that taught me to draw what I actually see and not what my brain thinks it sees. Every since then I have been able to do reasonable drawings of things that look like what they are supposed to be as long as I can look at a model or photo while I draw it. Huge improvement over drawing like a third grader in just like 8 lessons.
posted by metahawk at 10:59 AM on May 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

+1 to drawing on the right side of the brain.

At the very least, read the introduction. I find the way it talks about thinking about drawing to be incredibly helpful.
posted by itesser at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2021

++ to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
posted by anadem at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

People are talking a lot about drawing on the right side of the brain but not what it does. What does it show you that most of your brain is trying really hard to not draw, it wants to get across the idea, the symbol, the icon of a concept and gives you the smallest and shortest recipe to get there. Thus you draw cartoony shapes at best.

It gives you exercises (and there may be more out there) that tries to get your brain out of its own way. At it’s simplest, drawing is just reproducing what you see, but that’s exactly it: “what you see” not “what you understand that you see”.
posted by Brainy at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

This question was also asked five days ago!
posted by penguin pie at 11:42 AM on May 25, 2021

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

This was the textbook for my Drawing 101 class in art school.
posted by bradbane at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2021

+1 to You Can Draw in 30 Days. It helped that I have fond memories of trying to follow along to Mark Kistler's show as a kid, but whether or not that's the case, I think it's a great book for an adult learner, and I'm really happy with how much my drawing has improved. I have a much better sense for creating perspective and depth than I did before I did the book. It definitely speaks to your specific example, for instance.

Otherwise, I think the thing I've most learned (somewhat from that book, more from taking an adult education class scheduled through a community college and taught by local artists, which I also highly recommend) is that I had set my bar impossibly high - I wanted to be able to see (or imagine) something and reproduce it, on the spot, directly from first principles - I see a shadow there, I fill in shadow; I see a line here, I draw a line. Instead, I've found that as I learn/explore new techniques, or visual shorthands, I learn new ways to tell the viewer what I want them to see, even if at the level of individual marks not everything is precisely where I planned for it to be, and/or even if I'm following a pattern I've learned more closely than I am the actual thing in front of me. Any art you create (in any format) is a representation, not a reproduction.
posted by solotoro at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2021

Depending on what you want to show your coworkers, you might like a class in mechanical drawing or drafting. I don’t know what to recommend because I had two quarters of it in high school but it has been useful ever since. (First learn to draw rectangularish things face-on, then draw all the faces, then less rectangular things, then things that may be rectangular but are in any orientation. I don’t know what you do in a third quarter.)
posted by clew at 6:53 PM on May 25, 2021

Another +1 for You Can Draw in 30 Days. I like Right Side of the Brain, too, but 30 Days was super helpful in giving me the 9 principles (foreshortening, placement, size, overlapping, shading, shadow, contour lines, horizon line, density) that give a drawing a 3D look, and then building those skills step by step so they fit together in my brain.

I think the explanations are among the clearest and most helpful of all the many books I've read.

I highly recommend You Can Draw in 30 Days.
posted by kristi at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2021

Mod note: Edited the link in the post after reports of spammy actions and X-rated links on the original. I've now directed it toward the "know your meme" page that collects examples of what OP intended to link to.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:28 PM on May 28, 2021

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