Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition
This is probably the best book I have come across and it took me from stick figures to what my family considers awesome in about a year.
[Edit]. Also, drawing people is a really good test. If you draw a house or a tree, say, you can get the shapes / proportions wrong but the thing might still look plausible. Draw a head out of proportion, though, and it will immediately look wrong.
First is the exercise of drawing the "column / two-faces" drawing. You can REALLY feel your two brain sides fighting while drawing that.
The second is the "upside down" drawing. After I finished that I was amazed that I actually had drawn that (I cannot draw a cup or a house or whatever).
The premise is that a lot of people who have the "left" side of the brain developed draw the "concepts" of what they see and they don't really draw what they see. So if someone tells me to "draw that house", I will be drawing "a roof", "a door" , "the walls" etc. Instead someone using the "right" side of the brain will actually see the house and draw what they see.
For constructing energetic characters, I like the Marvel/stick figure approach of "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way," by Stan Lee and John Buscema (also John Romita's book "Draw the Marvel Comics Super Heroes", which is sadly out of print but not hard to track down.)
Note that these books concentrate mainly on line drawing. Shading (or inking and coloring on the comic side) is of primary importance for turning line art into three dimensional art, and I don't have a great reference off the top of my head.
I think drawing programs with perspective grids can help as well. And lots of people use 3D software as a composition aid or to actually draw on top of. Some consider it "cheating" but remember that the old masters used optical devices like the camera obscura and wire grids (known in antiquity) as well as Renaissance optics like lenses and mirrors. I believe David Hockney tried to replicate some of these techniques with much success.
It is easy to lose focus when drawing. Hang in there. Look more closely. Focus on the details. Try to copy as much details as you can.
The quote "Good artist copy great artist steal" is true in the sense that the more we focus our attention on the details of the drawing the closer we get to copy/literally steal the feel of object we're drawing.
I can't open that link.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition
Incredible results for only six days.
Get this book, go through it, then look into drawabox if you are looking to draw from life.
For constructivist illustrations or styles like manga, I'm still learning.
Try this project:
Take a sheet of paper and divide the space into 2 equal halves. In one half make a collage of black and white images. No color - this is important. Try to fill the space if you can.
Once done, get a pencil, eraser and ruler. Your job is to copy the collage into the other half as accurately as possible.
To do this, measure where every point is on the collage - any place where 2 edges come to a point, then plot that point in your working space. With or without the ruler, copy the edges. Then focus on how dark or light the part of the collage you’re copying is and replicate that.
After awhile you will find you’ll want throw away the ruler and do it by eye. Try it. You will find yourself drawing much better.
Some tips: you have to use pencil and paper. A screen is going to throw you off. You can always try it on a second or third attempt of this project.
This one project literally took my art mark from a failing grade to 85%, and everyone after swore I had a gift. It’s not a gift. It’s just a skill that develops with hours of practice.
Was this a university course? Unless you're a fine arts major I can't imagine any teacher being such an asshole that they grade an art class based on artistic ability. Usually its just a matter of participation and putting effort into the assignments.
The litmus test for someone who knows truly how to draw is to ask them to redraw whatever object they drew but from a different angle or perspective. Most people to learned by measuring and training their eye won't be able to do it.
In order to draw, you need to internalize the 3d shape. Start from basic shapes and learn to draw them in different angles and perspective distortions - surprisingly difficult.
Then increase the complexity. As you draw, you need to not think in 2d, but in 3d and it needs to be more intrinsic than just "translation". You are so into it, you forget that you're drawing on a 2d plane.
When you learn it this way, it gets easier to do follow up tasks such as shading and coloring.
Syrcra is a great resource on YT and expands on what I just summarized: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpHAxHY8zvaMOCO6zeYxq...
I’m a bit surprised at the perceived hostility here. When it comes to making things, since when was there only one way to do anything?
an example - https://www.pinterest.ru/pin/442760207118409728/ Generally such result is achieved through very specific rigorous steps to which that downvoted comment referred.
The training that you suggest is also nice but I understand why someone classically trained would object to it.
The problem is that your method is an easy way to get great results and probably good enough for hobbyists. But if you really want to seriously learn how to draw, I implore you to explore the formal way of learning how to draw. It's hard and long haul task, takes years but it is damn satisfying.
That exercise I outlined was the first project that gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a fine art education up to an undergraduate level. I didn’t get to that point without learning anything more, but I honestly don’t feel I made a critical error here.
And with respect to the OP, it kind of does look like he aims to only be hobbyist levels of good.
I commend your passion for the subject. I just can’t support the idea that there is a right and wrong way to learn how to draw.
If someone puts forth a view, and you say what he consciously chose as his recommendation is the worst option to choose, literally any other choice would have been better, you are basically implying that the criteria of that person is actively harmful to the world and he would have best shut up. That he is an idiot, basically.
 Yes it is clearly an exaggeration but it is what you wrote. Kind of drawing what you see instead of what you think there is there :)
> The litmus test for someone who knows truly how to draw is to ask them to redraw whatever object they drew but from a different angle or perspective. Most people to learned by measuring and training their eye won't be able to do it.
How many of us, when we encounter a piece of artwork we appreciate, really care if the artist is able to redraw the object from another angle?
There are some limited circumstances where I can see this skill being relevant: for example, if you want to publish a series (a visually elaborate webcomic or such), or you want to be hired to work to spec doing e.g. animation or storyboarding. That aside, just being able to draw something others appreciate—even if that involves shortcuts and working around own limitations—sounds like an important stepping stone and a source of dopamine that can motivate further learning, which could eventually get you to mentally seeing things in three dimensions and being able to draw an object from any angle.
A parallel I can draw from personal experience is with music. We don’t make students learn notation and music theory first; we start with actually playing, practicing the motions, stretching fingers, learning to hit the right keys/buttons/strings, etc. If you get to being able to just play cool tunes, that’s good. If you don’t advance past that, some would consider that unfortunate and I won’t argue with that, but invalidating this stage outright sounds like unnecessary gatekeeping.
> ask them to redraw whatever object they drew but from a different angle or perspective.
since the context presented in the original article is the question of how to learn to draw.
It is asking too much to expect a student to redraw an object from a different perspective before they have even learned how to render anything.
Learning takes place in steps. Roberthahn was being far more constructive with his comment that offered the exercise of copying a black and white drawing in order to learn how to see light vs shade. That's the first two steps in learning how to draw - learning how to see light vs shade, and translating that perception into your fingers.
In my view, the only valid critique of the copy method (or any other way of learning) could be if it doesn’t work, otherwise I see no reason to declare that method of learning as unequivocally “bad” except to heighten the barrier to entry.
It is so powerful! You can draw comic strips to serious fine art almost effortlessly after understanding the construction of the form.
I just think that it is the only way to learn how to draw because it is a superset of everything else.
On the other hand, presuming I had some basic ability going (which is what the copy method appears to promise), having proven to myself I can draw at all, I can see myself advancing to this skill eventually.
Parent advice is spot on: the initial exercises need to focus on arranging lines and spaces maintaining arbitrary proportions, and copying existing things is great for that. The other foundational stkill is shading, but that's easy enough to learn by doing.
Then you move into figure study, and maybe begin to develop your own style, but it's not really needed at this phase. You know shapes by now, so drawing cats, animals, persons outlines works great in putting harmony into shapes.
Once one can reliably put down shapes and proportions and shading, it's time to move up to scenes. Object interactions, shadows, relative positioning are the skill to master here, perspective lines can help at the beginning, copying architecture and placing figures on it a great exercise.
Once this skillset is built then you've the tools to test yourself, and the litmus test is not drawing figures, that is foundational. The litmus test is to draw a figure out a scene in various styles so that it's clear in each different production both that the character and which style does it fit.
But I do agree. The best thing I did to improve my drawing skills (which are still shit) was to move from thinking in 2D to think in 3D. This small (but mentally big) change improved my drawing skills 10 fold.
This is my pet peeve.
There are similar things in learning instruments. Bad habits stick.
When I observe people who quickly paint portraits, they usually first fill the paper with big dark areas (where the major shadows will be), and only afterwards add shapes and details. So it's a bit like iteratively loading JPEG: first the entire picture in low resolution, then gradually increasing resolution.
Would you call both these approaches "learning bad habits"?
Some resources worth checking out:
1. draw, the more the better. 2. practice fundamentals. 3. have fun.
Consider joining Crimson daggers forum (http://crimsondaggers.com/). Good luck!
- Lessons on drawabox.com for basics - Digital painting lessons on ctrlpaint.com - How to draw by S. Robertson and T. Bertling - Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter - Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain - Picture this by Molly Bang
Well structured, exercise-based, it takes you all the way from the absolute fundamentals.
Tldw: Do an extreme version of agile for getting better. E.g, do 1 minute sketches of a cup 12 times, trying different variations, and understand WHY some variations worked and some didn't. After experimenting, see how other people did it. And do it again.
I used to hate drawing, but after trying this approach for months I think I love it. I do not regret the time I spent learning to draw, and after putting in the hours it changed the way I see the world.
Also: don't take it seriously. At all :) Just do a bunch of drawing and it's all good :)
It didn't change their worldview; it changed the way they see the world.
She taught drawing classes and discovered that one reason why people is bad at drawing is that they symbolize what they see before drawing it. For example, when we see a face, we tend to focus about the eyes and mouth and ignore other features like the front. That contributes to a distorted representation that is reflected in the drawing.
She devised a series of exercises to avoid that problem. For example, try to draw a picture upside down, or try to draw an object shape using negative space (you focus on the shapes outside the object).
PS: I found that book in The Last Psychiatrist blog: https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2011/10/how_to_draw_not_abou...
1. Drawing as a skill does not live in the muscle memory(although it is possible to encode symbolic elements in muscle memory) but in the conversion of eyesight to concrete measurements, followed by a reproduction of those measurements on the page. If you really "get" it, the medium will not matter.
2. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain does get you the starting point of this - by giving you simple techniques to decode what your eye sees - but it does have a gap when you aim for cartoon construction and drawing from imagination - at that point, maintaining proportion as you transform the object in your head becomes the challenge.
3. A simple way of getting past the gap is to focus on graphic design and typography. Simple ratios of 1:2, 1:3, 1:5, over and over, subdividing a space or being translated to an extrusion. If your eye can see simple ratios, construction of the form proceeds by referencing the ratios and mapping them to primitive shapes with the intended relationships. Sometimes you need a lot of construction lines, other times you can see it immediately. The way in which you structure things directly affects the results.
4. Perspective is sweaty work - while you can estimate how a form looks with some rotation, it gets very hard to compute what's going to happen as you make more extreme changes with foreshortening. Professional artists are always looking for ways to cheat around attempting this computation directly, and many fall into a trope of stock scenes and poses adjusted or interpolated into each other, since those are the ones they know well. Making the scene really lively and distinctive always comes back to good use of reference.
there is a core skill of spatial relations modeling required for drawing in general and this needs to be developed.
blueprints or architectural plans attempt to convey; where and how objects exist in space relative to reference. such as with a frontside rightside top drawing or a cavalier [2.5 dimension] orthographic drawing.
visual artist like sketch artists are attempting to create extradimensional information to evoke 3D associations with a 2D object, so abstracting spatial relations across different dimensions along with the physical technique and media is required.
1. Start with simple forms. Straight lines. Cross lines. Circle. Square. Triangle. - sketch on paper with pencil (preferably HB) - One/Two weeks period 30 - 50 sketches a day. Don't try to be perfect at all. The goal here is to create muscle memory and to get a level of comfort while drawing. Try to do circles - ovals in one movement. Avoid shading, the goal here is to draw with lines only. Try to draw by locking your wrist in fixed position and direct the movement from your shoulder. Listen to music if this is helpful to be calm and relaxed. Make it fun in some way. Enjoy the repetitiveness of the process.
2. Remove the big ideas, avoid digital tools, don't watch "how others are good".
3. After you get decent results of circles, squares and triangles - repeat the procedure with more complex objects - try to draw combinations of those elements.
This is the most simple and most important part. When you develop a muscle memory of drawing freely simplest forms, you can take the next steps. - drawing from nature cubes, spheres and cones from paper models. - fundamentals of perspective, shadow and light - fundamentals of composition
And practice, practice, practice. :)
Post credentials: I am professional designer with almost 20 years career and have a degree for art teacher.
Try holding the pencil less like a writing pen, and a little further back from the tip. Loosen up a little.
Exercise your ability to look at your subject and not the paper. Try not looking at the paper at all, and doing continuous contours where you don’t pick up the charcoal / pencil at all. These will look silly, but that’s ok!
Learn to draw what you see, and not what you already assume is there. Make a mark on your paper - let’s say the curve of someone’s eye. Then, squint one eye and hold out your pencil and use it as a measure. You can measure the length of that mark and compare it to the distance of another mark you see in real life. Use this technique to find how far things are really from each other, whether they’re level, and the proportion of one line or shape to another.
Use your eraser as much as your drawing implement, and keep a light touch. No need to sketch over and over and over the same lines. Let each line count.
Start out with just lines - don’t worry about shading right away. Once you’ve mastered lines — how they define areas, etc, — you’ll find that the shading comes natural.
Many universities and community colleges have adult education programs that offer multi-week courses like this for not too much money, or you can find a local artist community.
Inkscape has been huge for me. It's a wonderful tool and there are great tutorials out there. My GIMP skills actually improved just by learning Inkscape, but most importantly I can create basic art for my apps by myself now.
I also got a Wacom tablet that works with Linux and I use it with Krita. Since it can emulate a mouse there are tons of other applications I can use it with, even Miro.
Designing and drawing simple logos and icons has been most rewarding for me. I'll never be able to produce amazing art since I lack the skills and talent for it, but I can handle logos pretty well now!
I *HIGHLY* recommend it.
- Understand that a drawing is a low fidelity synthesis of an idea.
The first skill to get good at, is breaking down what you're trying to say into its 'essence'. The most important PARTS of it.
This comes with practice, but a good way to do it is by writing, and then editing that writing, strangely enough.
- Learn the fundamentals of design
Understanding the basics of design, such as color theory, typography and layout composition gives you a great advantage when it comes to your drawing technique. There is no secret here, you will just have to learn the basics and then practice.
- Use FAST tools
I use Figma for all of blog drawings . Why? because it's online, and most importantly, it's very FAST. And fast helps me speed up my iteration (and therefore 'learning') cycles. Fast is highly underestimated when learning. Fast is a superpower.
- Use templates
If you take a look at the drawings I have on my blog, you'll notice that I use similar templates for each one. In fact they all start from the same template.
Using a template gives you the confidence to get over the 'blank page' anxiety that often derails beginners. Allowing you to build up a momentum that will KEEP you drawing. And if you keep drawing, you WILL get better.
I plan to write more about this in the next few weeks, as a blog post. If you're interested in reading it, select one of the posts on the blog  and add your email address at the bottom! :)
Hope this helps!
Ultimately if you want to be good at drawing, I suspect you have to be prepared to invest a fair amount of time - if you enjoy it won't feel like that, but if you don't then there are probably diminishing returns.
0. I prepared myself emotionally for failure. Knowing I might not get where I wanted to be let me get comfortable with the winding path of progress, and less likely to give up when a piece or practice didn’t go the way I wanted.
1. I got somewhere comfortable that I could spend a lot of time. At the time this was a neighborhood bar, now (when the weather improves) I’d probably choose my porch.
2. I drew. A lot. A lot a lot. I drew stuff I didn’t want to draw until I felt comfortable with the act, even if I didn’t like the outcome. And I threw away a lot. I know it’s common advice not to, but for me it was freeing to not get too invested in any one piece.
3. I drew portraits of people I cared about, as a gift for them. Another comment mentioned the importance of learning to see. Knowing the recipients may be hurt or unflattered by a poor portrayal of their person helped me take the time to “correct” my vision and how it corresponds to what I draw, and helped me really see where I could improve.
4. I shared anything and everything without hesitation—work in progress, “finished” pieces, really finished pieces—and explicitly welcomed feedback. This helped me see what other people saw in my work.
5. I prepared myself for disappointment. I’m somewhat repeating the first point because it was important for me to know my friends (and portrait gift recipients) might not always see the work from my eyes.
6. I took a sober, critical look at my work, to identify where I could improve, and kept drawing.
a.) theory to simplify and organize the visual information in front of you
b.) immediate and rigorous feedback on your mistakes.
The realist ateliers make a point of doing both and are incredibly effective at teaching. Don't be put off by the classicist dogma. It really is the best art instruction you can get today.
IMO the independent study route is a poor use of time. It is indeed very important to "learn to see," but you probably won't achieve this by staring at an object and trying to reproduce it. You will definitely get better if you do the exercises in e.g. "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," but you'll still be pretty bad, and what's worse, you'll have no idea how to improve.
 https://grandcentralatelier.org (which I can personally vouch for)
1. Some people (me, for instance) completely lose their creativity when working with a tablet. If that's your case, start with pen and paper and use the computer only for inking and cleaning up.
2. If you are interested in figure drawing, plenty of artists have learned with Andrew Loomis books, which are available in the Internet Archive .
3. Draw a lot. Practice makes perfect. Sometimes it doesn't matter too much what you draw as long as you do it a lot. Plenty of artists I talked to started copying art they liked, which made their lines firmer and gave them the extra impulse to try their own stuff later.
And finally, a word of warning: there are plenty of bad tutorials out there, but you'll only realise they are bad once you get lost and frustrated. You will recognize them because they expect you to go from A to C without even mentioning B. Remember: it's not you, it's them.
Or if you feel otherwise, really, its more about understanding some basic fundamentals about spatial relationships, telling stories with visuals, etc. look for content around that rather than tool-specific guidance. Those skills can be abstracted to any tool (much like drum rudiments can be adapted to any configuration of drum kit you could play).
To be clear, I'm not doodling - I'm drawing a scene/object/etc each week. At the start, I decide what I'm going to do and then throughout the week I work on it.
Really satisfying and fun.
Echoing one of the other suggestions, I've started taking pictures of things that inspire me (a cool scene, a shape, etc), and then will take elements from those pictures to attempt in the weekly drawing.
At the end of the 30 days it was clear I progressed a lot. But it was also clear that I hated doing the challenge. So I gave up with drawing, but still recommend the book
The only right answer, unless you enjoy drawing for its own sake and don't mind learning for at least 6 months before you're any good, is to hire someone from fiverr or some other similar service.
Creative work has plummeted in price and gone up 10x in quality over the past 15 years. You can find someone to do illustrations for you for as low as 10-20$/piece. That's insane value. Good illustrators are like good pianists - it requires daily practice. Spend a little cash and focus on what you're already good at :)
People on Fiverr won't be able to express my ideas. I need to sketch them first.
Also, drawing is a good way to understand my own ideas better. Same for writing.
Other commenters already cover which topics to go for, so I am just going to say this: If you do daily deliberate practice for a year, and whenever you are motivated research something with more depth from time to time...well, you will be somewhat good after doing this 365 times.
A bit shameless plug; I recently coded a small website which presents you with two daily changing images as drawing inspiration, maybe it will help you too: https://www.inspirationbot.art/
learn to maximize what you can do with Powerpoint
take art classes at a local school
artists i know, and even some of the greatest anime artists in the world frequently start with paper and pencil, scan it in and clean it up with raster tools.
Once I got to college I took two drawing courses at two separate institutions. They both ended up being a total "class-version" rip-off of the book. We progressed through the exercises in the exact same order. It makes me incredibly unhappy that my college professors didn't credit Betty Edwards like my private art instructor did.
* Fun with a Pencil by Andrew Loomis (everything Loomis is great)
* Perspective made Easy by Norling
* Christopher Hart's books (friendly to beginners)
* Alphonso Dunn
* Draftsmen (Marshall Vandruff is an excellent source of guidance)
How do I go from knowing nothing about drawing, to being able to draw pixel arts (I'm mostly thinking about tiles, textures and characters for retro RPG, e.g. Ultima series, Golden box games)?
but, if you want to be able to draw as a skill, and be able to use that in both paper/canvas/board and digital media like a tablet
then draw every day, and if it's a diagram, ask someone if what you wanted to convey is understood or not, or if it's a picture (like a portrait or a landscape) draw it several times (can be once a day) until you (and optionally someone else) consider it "good enough" (as in, to improve upon it further, you'd really be gettin on the plateau on the curve of diminishing returns)
I think there was a Show HN where a guy learned to make realistic self-portraits in about a month or so, though maybe the skills needed to do that are not the same as the ones for making diagrams, it might interest you, depending on what you want
I want to learn a few styles of drawing. One of them is cartoonish like style. I see such a style pretty often when reading articles from HN.
site:news.ycombinator.com "How I learned to draw realistic portraits in 30 days"
The exercises start simple and lead you to a good level of drawing ability, step by step.
It’s weird to find something that can be so easily answered but there it is. Truly great books.
And it’s an amazing amount of work to give away for free.
There are other related books by the same author too. I especially enjoyed: Draw to Win
* * *
I worked through all the exercises in the book, and to be honest it was elevating: in a few (two?) weeks I was able to draw still life in a way I never thought I could, and the trick of looking at objects and imagining them flattened on paper burned into my mind so much that I was catching myself randomly doing it in the middle of my day (I still do it sometimes).
Then in a month or so I signed up for actual drawing classes. On the first meeting I told my teacher about the book and showed some of my drawings. Here's how I remember the conversation that followed.
- Does that book also teach composition?
- A bit I guess, but not particularly.
- For example if you draw a sphere, where should you place it in the picture, and how should you orient the frame?
- In the middle I guess? I don't know?
He sketched a few spheres, and it turned out that portrait frame placement combined with the sphere being slightly elevated from the center ("on a pedestal") looked the best. At this point I realized that the pictures I brought had their objects scattered randomly, as I paid no attention to their placement.
- Does it also teach the laws of perspective?
- It teaches to use your eyes, so perspective is achieved automatically.
So he placed a small cube onto a table and had me draw it. It came out a bit uneven, but I thought it was OK. Then he pointed out that I did not abide by the perspective laws, and actually inverted the perspective on the top face. He corrected a few lines, and the the cube magically became much more believable. I though I used my eyes well -- I did apply all my effort -- but apparently without knowing what to look for I missed an important relation, and my cube looked like it widened toward the far end of it.
- What about shading?
- The book says to use your eyes. Maybe squint a bit to help see the values.
So he had me fill in the cube. It was obvious to me that the darkest spot on the cube was its bottom part where the shadow fell, so I shaded that part extra dark. The teacher told me to walk away for a bit, and come back and look at my drawing. Sure enough the extra dark part was the first thing that popped into me eyes when I looked at it -- but looking at the actual object it was the front edge that attracted attention the most. There was a discrepancy. And yet, in my mind the values were correct: I copied them the way I thought I saw them. The teacher explained that the biggest contrast on paper attracts the most attention -- unlike the 3d space.
Then he had me half-erase the bottom part and outer edges until they almost faded into the background, and add contrast to the front edge -- darken the shadow and brighten the light just around the edge area -- much more than there was on the object, maybe even contrary to the physics itself. I then walked away, came back, looked at the drawing again: now my attention was dead on the front edge -- just like with the 3d object. Logically I thought the tones were all wrong, but it sure looked much better.
Although the teacher didn't explain it in these words, but I gathered that he never concentrated on reproducing the exact tones he saw, but rather on recreating the feeling of looking at the object -- the tones are then all made up to implement this feeling.
- Do you know how to sharpen a pencil?
- What do you mean? Who doesn't?
- Show me.
Folks, it turned out I didn't even know that. The actual technique for drawing is to sharpen a pencil to a needle and expose 5-10mm of its graphite: this makes it easier to shade, and (more importantly) forces you to grip it far away from the tip (as you would a fencing foil, rather than a pen), which makes it possible to stand further back when drawing, and keep the whole picture in the field of view instead of the particular detail you're working on, which is then needed to implement the intended whole-image feeling, and prevents from getting lost in the details.
* * *
My conclusion, if any, is this: there is so much more to drawing than just using your eyes. There are very basic techniques, used by painters daily, that improve the quality of their work beyond that of blind copying -- at a fraction of the effort. I am very grateful to "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" for persuading me that I can learn to draw (anyone can), but make no mistake: it did not teach me the techniques a novice should learn.
So here’s my very general advice for you:
- Start trying to make the drawings you WANT to make, before you think you have the skills. Illustrate your ideas and blog posts! Then, take a step back and evaluate that work - was it effective? What do, or don’t, you like about it? What skills do you think are missing, and what processes might you use to achieve it? A lovely illustration is much more than looking realistic - it may be completely unrealistic at all. It has mark making, color, design, composition...all separate skills you can work on.
- Identify people whose work you love. Find someone who you look at and think, “yes, I want my drawings to look like THAT.” Make copies of their work for practice (call it a “master copy” to feel smart about it.) Find out which artists inspired them or taught them, and copy their work, too. Find out what artists they like and stalk them on Instagram. Buy a print of their work and marvel at it, every day.
- Get a sketchbook on cheap, terrible paper, and fill it up. Doesn’t matter with what. Get comfortable experimenting and producing a lot, even if it’s junk. The time investment is important.
- Expose yourself to as many different skill sets as possible. Take a community college life drawing class! Draw a comic! Design a chair in AutoCAD! Draw from life, and imagination, doodle and paint and play with infinite patterns in Illustrator. You may start to feel what ways of thinking work for you. Perhaps you enjoy academic drawing and not cartooning. Or maybe you’ve got a hidden fascination with the abstract expressionists. That’s one way to find out.
- Make friends who draw. Share your work with them, and let them share their work with you.
- There are many introductory drawing classes taught by adult education centers, artists communities, colleges, etc. These are likely to introduce you to the same basics as a book like Right Side of the Brain, but also a little bit more of the “artistic” side, like smooshing charcoal around and exercising your arm. If you’re lucky you’ll get a nude model. These are great fun and I recommend one regardless of what kind of drawing you’d like to do - it’s a great introduction to issues that are common to many kinds of drawing.
2. book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
> "... drawing complex real life objects using vector graphics..."
These two statements suggest to me you're aims are diverse. It would be difficult to help you to _start_ the process of "learn to draw" from these opposite aims. Yes, opposite.
"Drawing from life" and wireframes for a webpage or ERD diagrams are completely opposed. The extension of 'drawing from life' is towards the emotive dimension of interpretation. The extension of ERD is towards _executable_ BPMN. Woah.
This leaves me with only answering your question. To which I would advise you there is drawing and there is draftsmanship, or what artistic pedagogy might call 'craft'. I like the former for the high-level view. (I have an undergraduate in art and design and craft is still one of those things which you best know when you see it). To illustrate the point of drawing versus draftsmanship, you might consider Randall Munroe's XKCD comic versus Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes.
So what do you do? I would suggest finding your medium (another art school familiar term), or the material you like to work with. Is it paint? Is it pixels? Colored pencils, quill pens or 4-color BIC? Who know's! You're an engineer, test them all.
How will you know you have the right medium? First you'll enjoy _looking_ at your results. You'll revel in the process of making marks and expressing your thoughts. Fully in the moment of idea, execution, and result. IT IS PHYSICAL ACTION WITH YOUR HANDS. IT'S VISUAL. It's my belief when you find the right medium you will know it. It may work well for a time, and then you can try other things. The art store is full of toys.
How does that translate to your engineering career? Certainly not directly, but by the practice of looking and being comfortable with making visual decisions your ERD diagrams might improve. You may find your documentation has more appealing layouts with 'negative space' and not 'blank space'. The hierarchy of line weights may communicate more clearly. Stuff like that can be your reward if only you dedicate every weekend for the next 100 days to watercolors of your house and garden.
Pick up a pen and draw. After a couple thousand hours, you'll be pretty good at it.
A good exercise to practice "unfiltered seeing" is:
Select an image you want to draw. We'll call this "the original". It's recommended that the original has clear borders, and few or no color. A black and white cartoon or portrait.
Try your best to replicate the outlines (borders) it on your own on a blank piece of paper. Don't bother with color just yet. This drawing is your "first attempt". Let's try a second one.
Draw a square grid on top of the original, each square edge about 10 cm.
Draw the same grid on a blank piece of paper.
Then (and this is critical) turn the original upside down! You are going to draw it upside down now.
Keeping the original upside down the whole time, and starting on the top-left square, replicate the outlines you see on the same square on the original. Use the square edges as guides; if a line in the original crosses the middle of the top edge of the square, you should try to draw a line so that it crosses your grid the in about the same point.
Once you are certain that the square is "finished", and only then, move on to the next square. Keep filling up squares, until you have filled all of them. Then turn the drawing upside down. This is "second attempt". Compare with first attempt.
The combination of upside-down and division in grids is often enough to not trigger the "visual abstraction subroutine". You may try this again with more complex pictures. In my case once I "learned to see" I experienced a high bump in my drawing abilities.
You will find that a lot of the "drawing lessons" out there really consist on learning to see reality without the abstraction filter on.
Finally, there's of course manual dexterity exercises to make you used to your drawing equipment. They make you draw straight lines, curves, merge colors, etc. I think those are usually very easily found online.
Good luck in your journey!
- Do not fret over the details
- Then dive in shapes and make smaller shapes
- Try to get the details in
- Perfection should not be the aim
Do not draw by memory, draw by seeing. A circular orb when viewed is not a circle. In our heads it is.