Demonstration Drawing by Harold Speed
There’s an often over used saying that states if you give a man a fish it feeds him for a day but if you teach a man to fish it feeds him for a lifetime, but it does makes a point about giving up a stop gap fix in favor of a difficult at first, but permanent solution.
Today we learn to fish.
We already talked about grades and types of graphite pencils in the last post, so we need to spend a little time on paper. For the practice that I suggest any type of paper will do. I use 24lb Xerox inkjet paper I can buy in mega reams of about 750 sheets. I like the smoothness since it is easy to erase, the thickness since it feels good in my hand, the size (8.5 inches by 11 inches) since it is easy to carry around, and that it is acid free, which is a bonus, but choose any bulk paper that suits you.
For more refined drawings, or any drawing that you might want to call a work of art instead of a sketch, get good paper.
So what is good paper?
Good paper is usually thicker than inkjet paper, about 60lb and up. It needs to be acid free, or Ph neutral and the texture needs to be something you are comfortable working on. Is is usually made by companies that specialize in artist paper. A few paper suggestions: Canson Mi-Teintes(I like the back texture better than the front), Canson Ingres (Thinner but still good), Fabriano Ingres, Strathmore 500, and Stonehenge.
If you get a 100% cotton paper then be aware that it will be a very soft paper and the it may scuff or be damaged when you erase, so be sure you plan out your drawing before you start on a soft paper.
Next we’ll get to some line drawing exercises. These are great to do when you can’t think of anything else to do or when you are warming up for a drawing session.
You’ve probably heard people say they can’t draw a straight line, and probably even some artists, but to really know your craft you should be able to draw a reasonably straight line in any direction of the length that you desire.
Start by placing two dots horizontally across from each other on your paper a comfortable distance apart, about an inch is good to start out.
Then draw a straight line, without using any straight edge, parallel to the dots starting at one dot and ending at the other. And repeat this four or five times. Then do the same thing, but with vertical dots. (See the examples below.)
This trains your mind and hand in several ways. It teaches you to how draw lines parallel to each other (which is more useful than it sounds), it trains your hand to move in unusual directions, it teaches you to be able to start and stop a line where you want it to, and it will reveal unknown biases of leaning to the right or left compared to an absolutely vertical or horizontal line. (Have you ever seen an ocean horizon that leaned to one side? I bet the artist doesn’t know about their biases.)
Don’t fret too much about this at first since not everything will come together at once, but within in a few days or weeks you should be getting decent results. Mastering these exercises can take years ( I still haven’t mastered them). Also, you will probably find out which movement is easier for you, vertical or horizontal, but make sure you do them equally so you don’t only train your strengths.
As you get better at it, start to place the dots further apart until you can draw a five or six inch line (or longer if you want).
These should be thought of like scales for a musician or lifting weights for an athlete, they aren’t going to be beautiful but they will help you create beauty.
Tomorrow we’ll get to line weight, or hand pressure.
But before I go, I wanted to give you a studio tip. If you do these exercises on a slanted drawing board it will be easier since you won’t have the diminishing perspective to mess you up, and if you draw with your wrist, elbow, or shoulder and not your fingers, you will be able to draw longer and longer lines.