How to Draw


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Category: For Advanced

These tips might confuse newbies, but if used properly they can deliver effects that will take your drawings and paintings to the next level.

Eraser Drawing Techniques

Many people think of the pencil as the one and only drawing tool. The poor eraser gets pushed aside as something that only gets used after you’ve made a mistake. But that’s a wrong approach to take – your eraser can do a lot more than just cover up the bad lines of your drawing. In special conditions, it can actually become even more useful than your pencil.

So take that eraser out of your pocket and start using it. Here are the three best eraser drawing techniques.

1) For highlighting

If you plan your drawings very, very carefully, you can leave small sections of the paper blank in order to show highlights. This is nearly impossible to do without doing several practice drawings of your subject beforehand, but as you gain more confidence in your drawing skills, you will begin to be able to leave blank sections. Until then, your eraser is an excellent tool for creating highlights.

2) For blending

This works best if your eraser has a dull edge, but even an eraser with a sharp edge can be a great blending tool. Ever noticed that erasers don’t typically create a hard line when they take away pencil lead? Used judiciously, that smudging can work in your favor.

Depending on what kind of eraser you have, the pencil lead you’ve been drawing in and the kind of paper you have, you eraser’s blending ability will change. You can control it by how hard you press down when you make the dabbing motion used to erase.

You can also get interesting effects by the movements you make as you erase – I once got a beautiful texture for a bird’s wing by making light, feather shaped strokes with my eraser. It was the perfect way to create a feeling of motion, while still preserving a lot of the details of the feathers themselves that I had drawn (too bad I lost the drawing!). So try out using erasers to blend shadows, and to blend textures as well.

You can also use your eraser like it was a brush. Rub your pencil on some scrap paper to “load” the paper with lead (kind of like you would load a brush before you paint), and then rub your eraser into the lead “pool”. You now have an interesting tool for blending and making marks that your pencil could never make.

You can also use this “lead pool” trick by rubbing your finger in the lead. This will give you wide, soft strokes. An eraser will typically give you thinner, more accurate strokes than your finger will. Just be careful to keep loading the eraser with lead, or you’ll go from blending to erasing when you don’t want to.

3) For negative space drawings (aka eraser drawings)

If you make a large square and lightly fill it with an even shade (or an uneven shade, if you want to get more complex), you will have a black background. This is when it becomes possible to draw with an eraser. These sorts of drawings are also called “negative space” drawings, and they are typically what people are talking about when they refer to an “eraser drawing”.

Silhouettes are nice as negative space drawings. So are nudes – you can create an almost draping quality to the light and the shadows that is very reminiscent of the draping cloth used to cover certain parts of human models.

What you do for the background can be interesting, too. The classic thing to do is to have it be a flat black background, but nobody will stop you if you decide to try out a background of crosshatches or any other pattern.

How to sharpen an eraser

One of the biggest problems of working with an eraser is how soft they are. It is a very different feel than working with a pencil. If you press down too hard with an eraser, or if you make your stroke in the wrong direction, it is quite easy to break the eraser in half.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way around this. You just cut the eraser so it has a good edge to work with. You can do this with a knife, but even a sharp pair of scissors will work. Just make sure the eraser is flat on a surface before you start cutting, otherwise you might get to add some red to your black and white drawing.

All this cutting is going to mean that you go through your erasers faster than before, but you did buy the erasers to use them, right? If you really like the technique and find yourself doing a lot of eraser work, just look into buying a whole box of erasers at a time. They are much cheaper when you buy them in packs.

There is one other way to use an eraser, and it might give you a bit more control. You basically stencil with your eraser. In other words, find a thin, sturdy edge that you can put on your drawing paper (like a stiff business card, or anything laminated). You can use that edge to create a nice sharp edge between what’s been erased and what has not been erased.

Creating abstractions

Nobody can create anything visual like a picture without prior visual experience. You cannot get something from nothing. Something visual must start you off. And it follows that it must come from nature. However imaginative our ideas are, they must have visual expression if we wish to paint them and so it is to nature that we must apply for the colors and forms we shall need.

It still boils down to the fact that we have to rely on nature for either our inspiration or for the means of expressing our ideas. All we need to remember is that as we cannot dominate nature and as nature does not wish to dominate us, we are free to use her as and when we wish. We are not her slaves and neither is she ours. There is so much more to art than a wish merely to record nature. You cannot do it so why try, and if this is remembered when you look at pictures, you will gain more pleasure and understanding.

What are the qualities we can use in the study of nature and how can we use them? This is the crux of the whole problem.

Nature consists, visually, of movement, weight, mass, solidity, light, color, texture, pattern and space. We have a rectangular canvas, a few brushes and some colors. The first thing is to consider our canvas: the rectangle.

A painter’s world consists of a rectangle. Everything he does must conform and relate to it. Nature, on the other hand, has no such restrictions placed upon her. Consequently she can be more free, less restricted and much more able to do things a painter cannot do. A painter, therefore, is forced to select those shapes and those tones that will best express his idea or vision. It would seem that because he has so great a choice that this selection might be difficult. It need not be once you have accepted the problem in its entirety. You will then see that to express an idea to the best advantage a simple approach will be more successful than a complicated one.

For instance, movement can be expressed by the use of
flowing lines and shapes across the canvas (Fig. 33), by how you direct the eyes across your shapes. Weight, solidity and mass can be stressed by simplifying the shapes and eliminating detail or by accentuating the planes round a form (Fig. 34).

Space can be expressed by perspective, by color and by relating large shapes to smaller ones (Fig. 35). Color can be controlled in such a way that with the use of few, carefully selected colors, they will give a more splendid effect than all the colors on your palette.

When is a drawing finished?

A drawing is complete when you have nothing more to add to it. It is finished when you feel you have done enough. It is as simple as that.

But one or two points occur to me that might help you arrive at that decision. Fill your page completely, from top to bottom and side to side. The reason for this is, that before you can confidently leave out, you must overdo what you put in. The same applies when you are concerned with studies of single objects, or details, that you are going to incorporate into a larger work. It is also easier to frame a completed drawing in your sketch book. But never tear out a picture if you can help it. Keep a sketch book intact.

If you want a particular scene framed do another version of it from the original sketch. Sometimes, however, it cannot be avoided. A sketch book picture has to come out. But do be careful when doing so. It is easy to tear your drawing and your sketch book as well. The binding will become loose and all the pages fall out.


I have suggested that using a viewfinder is helpful in settling the problem of what to draw. However you may want to do the view next to the one you have chosen. Add that view to the one you have already completed, either on the page opposite or by adding a further section. This can be attached with tape quite easily and will fold into your sketch book neatly. You can, if you want, continue adding as many
sections of views as you like, folding them into your sketch book and attaching them with masking tape Any change of tone, or even style, from section to section will not harm the total effect when you pull out the finished work. On the contrary, it adds something to it.

Remember, though, the view must continue from one section to another. The lines in a panoramic drawing must move easily from drawing to drawing, else it will look odd.


It is not always possible to devote hours to one work outdoors. This fact must be recognized. Rain, disturbances, limited time available, will tend to cut down the time you can devote to a picture or drawing. This need not deter you, however, from producing any finished work. If you are very short of time, go for quick lively sketches. Make lots of notes that mie:ht help you and finish them up at home. Also, with a more ambitious work, if you cannot complete it out-of-doors, finish it off at home.
It is best to do lots of rough studies of a scene, plus one or two careful details and a few written observations. Then, when you get home, assemble the material into a completely new picture.
Making up two or three half-finished sketches into a completely new work is one of the things I shall be discussing in the chapter on composition. For the moment, let me say
this. Outdoor drawing and painting is the best source of
ideas. It should be persevered with and will reward you in many ways. As you will have realized, there are few rules to bother about. The approach I have taken is purely practical.
If you have drawn inside, you will be able to draw outside.
There is no hard way and there is no easy way. There is only your way. And that is the only thing I want to encourage you to develop. If you are in doubt, or find your spirits flagging, go and look at the drawings and paintings of those great artists who have got their inspiration from working outdoors. Turner, Constable, Samuel Palmer, Cox, de Wint and, in our day, Carel Weight, Ruskin Spear, John Minton, Edward Bawden, etc. There are many of them and their works will help you. By relating your problems to these works you will find not only help, but appreciation as well.

Tone and Color

A point about tone and color in black and white drawing. If everything were whitewashed in nature we could draw the tone that light makes when it falls on objects quite easily. However, the things around us are not painted white.

They are multicolored. And colors, too, bear a degree of lightness or darkness that is independent of the light on them at any given time. Consequently we have to take care in assessing these two different factors. You will be more concerned with this when you are painting. When we are drawing we can eliminate the tone of the color if we want to or we can use it if we wish to. Dark brown hair, or dark clothes on a figure can be made dark even though they are in full light. The thing to remember is that colors have a lightness or darkness in their own right and there is nothing wrong in giving them their full value.


I don’t think it really matters if a drawing looks as finished as a painting, though some artists find this idea not at all to their liking. I, myself, take my drawings to a high degree of finish and detail. I have no firm reason for this. I just like doing them that way. I get so involved, sometimes, with a drawing that I am loath to put it aside. Samuel Palmer, a very fine British landscape artist of the last century, overworked his drawings. On the other hand an artist like Modigliani left in very little. Yet each in his way produced a fine drawing.

The bewildering variety of styles and approach is simplified by the act of drawing. When you have done some drawing and have appreciated the problems, the drawings of the masters and moderns don’t seem so remote. You have an affinity with them. They speak more to you than before. They speak in the language you are now using. Consequently through your own enjoyment of drawing and painting you are able to enjoy the drawing and painting of others.

Some of the drawings you will see will be just pages of studies, like those of Watteau that can be seen in the British Museum. They are drawn in red chalk and are beautifully sensitive. They are not large and one wonders how he managed to keep his chalk sharp enough to enable him to be so delicate.

I can see that they are wonderful drawings. I can feel the limbs underneath the clothes and the poses and gestures are alive with energy. As for how he did them I haven’t a clue, though sometimes when I am doing a drawing myself I can feel and understand just what he was getting at; then it seems clear to me. But when I stop drawing I cannot put it into words. I think that you will feel this too if you go on drawing long enough. It is a sense of understanding that cannot be explained but can only be felt.


To teach how to foreshorten, entirely as a separate proposition, is difficult. Definitions of the word itself are somewhat vague. “Foreshorten – to represent figures as they appear to the eye when seen obliquely”; “to represent objects in accordance with the laws of perspective” ; “the art of diminishing the entire length of an object when viewed obliquely.”

“Foreshortening is to draw what we don’t see,” explained an exasperated art student on being examined as to his knowledge of certain rules of drawing. One can sympathize with him if not agree with his definition.

Knowledge of the rudiments of perspective gives one a better conception of the proper manner to foreshorten an object, animate or otherwise, than any amount of special instruction on the subject. Foreshortening is one branch of the. study of the elementary laws of perspective.

Much of what we see in nature is foreshortened. With the exception of the lines at right angles with the line of vision, all dimensions appear foreshortened. Unless one were looking through a hole in the ceiling, the table and practically every article in a room would appear foreshortened.

Even the pictures on the wall, if above the level of the eye, are seen foreshortened. This will not be the case if they are tilted in such a way that their surfaces are at right angles to the line of vision.
The pupil may be able to draw in perspective, according to instruction, a hemisphere and a cylinder lying on their sides and yet not realize that the same instruction applied to any object offering a round plane surface, as its principal problem for the moment, is of equal value – a lemon for instance.

Having drawn a hemisphere, a cylinder and a lemon, the same pupil may ask, “How do you draw the two wheels of a cart?” The answer is: By the same rules as one draws the two planes of a cylinder lying on its side.

The pupil, having mastered these, comes back inquiring how to foreshorten a leaf.

Now, the best way to foreshorten a leaf is to get one, place it in the desired position and draw it from life. The experience tints gained will enable the pupil subsequently to draw the leaf from memory.

All these objects are foreshortened. Practice foreshortening of leaves or other familiar objects from the objects themselves. These examples are only suggestions.

Knowledge of how to draw any part of the human figure in a foreshortened position can be gained scarcely in any other way than from nature – or through the experience of others, by copying.

The head of a person bowed forward or back is seen ill a foreshortened position and should be considered as a circle drawn in perspective. The human arm even bears a resemblance to some geometrical figure, and when foreshortened must be considered as having some relative form geometrically.

Portions of the human hand and even the fingers when seen in foreshortened positions may be considered in the aspect of circles, ovals or cylinders drawn in perspective. The left hand as a model affords splendid exercise.

Take your left hand as a model. Draw the foreshortened views of it as suggested in Fig. 2. See how the rule shown in Fig. 3, regarding horizontal circles, is carried out in nature.

More Perspective Rules Illustrated

Perspective – We know now that lines receding from the eye appear to meet at the horizon, the lines above the point of sight going down to the horizon, those below rising to it. This appearance is in line with the rule of perspective which says: A level line below the eye when not parallel to it, must be drawn upward from its nearest point, .and, inversely, similar lines above the eye must be drawn downward.

To illustrate the matter practically, one has only to step into the middle of the street. Look along the lines of the curbstone, the lower lines of the houses, the windows and the lines of the roofs. Then, by holding a pencil parallel to one’s eyes, but about a foot away from them, it will be found that the lines which are above the eye run down to some point on a line level with the eye and that the lines below run up, but meet or tend to meet at the same point.

For further purposes of illustration, let us return to our beach by the sea. Let us suppose that there are three little huts there, a few feet apart and nearly on a line with each other.

Stand in front of one of them and you will see nothing of its sides. The sides of the others will be visible, but with the lines of the boards converging to a vanishing point, which is also the point of sight, in the center of the middle hut. Now walk away to the left of the huts and you may observe that all the lines of the sides that faced you before recede to a vanishing point within the picture. On the other hand, the sides that before receded from your line of. vision now are almost facing you. (Fig. 26.)

Let us suppose that the tide has come and gone and taken the little huts a few feet out to sea. The plane diagram (Fig. 27) shows where they were carried. Looking at them now they appear as in Fig. 28. They are no longer parallel, but they are on a common level; therefore, they have the same horizon line; the line of vision is the same for each, but each has its individual vanishing point. The two huts at the right and the left each have different vanishing points.

The drawings of the three huts clearly explain that, although each one has its own vanishing point, C having the point of sight as its only vanishing point, nevertheless, lines described from each pair of points to D, the point of station, form a right angle. The lines referred to are drawn in varying styles in order to show the angles more plainly. The hut on the left with single lines, the hut in the middle with dotted lines, and the hut on the right with double lines.