How do You Learn to Draw From Life?

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Answered by: Chelsea, An Expert in the Drawing 101 - The Basics Category
Learning to draw from life can be a daunting undertaking, with a seemingly endless number of things to master. Even though your initial goals may be lofty, breaking the process down into smaller goals can make it as simple as anything else you do already.

A large part of learning to draw involves seeing, which you definitely do already. Humans are incredibly visual, and spend so much time observing the world around them. The very basis of drawing it taking characteristics of what you observe and putting that knowledge toward whatever you wish to create. To really train your artistic eye, you've got to move past seeing and into analyzing. Really focus on what's happening around you, and acknowledge the contours, colors, and shadows of everything in your environment.

Find a simple object, and set it in front of you. Take time to observe the basic characteristics of it: what shape is it? If it's complicated, what simple shapes make up the larger form? Most every object is built up of a number of spheres, cubes, cones, and cylinders. Which of those do you see in the object you've chosen to study? Learning to see these shapes is the first step in learning to translate them onto a flat surface such as paper or canvas. As you trace outside edge of the object with your sight, note if it's made of more hard or soft shapes. Is it more angular like a cube? Perhaps it's something softer like a ball that's wholly spherical in shape.

Aside from the shape, look at the value of the object. The value is made up of how light or dark it is overall, without reference to its specific color. Examine whatever you've chosen and consider if it's closer to pure black or white. Sometimes, holding ambiguous colors near other objects can make the difference easier to discern. Also take notice of the shadows that fall on the object, if any are present. Move the object around and see how the light plays across its surface, if it does at all. Does the light in your current environment leave soft, fuzzy shadows on the item, or are they harsh lights that leave lines across the surface? Value is something you can recognize that gives your art graphic impact or delicate softness.

Another important aspect of an object is its color. For some things, it's the most notable part of them. Take time to categorize the color of the object you've chosen. Is it warm, and made up of reds, oranges, and yellow? Or does it lean more towards the cool side of blues, greens, and purples? Try moving the object to a dramatic change of light, such as in a dark shadow or under a lamp. The color can change temperature based on location, so observe what happens to warm colors in shadow, and cool colors in light. The subtleties of hue are the building blocks for interest in any image you'll create.

All of these characteristics surely seem meditative for creating something that sounds as straightforward as a drawing, but once you've gotten the hang of recognizing these facets, they will come to you more quickly with practice. Learning to observe with purpose is the first step in truly being able to expertly draw from life and replicate whatever you see.

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