How to Draw


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Category: For Intermediate

If you are getting bored of introductory drawing lessons, try these techniques. They will make use of your grasp of the basics and show you new ways to see things.

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.

Overcoming perfectionism in drawing

I was talking to some other people who draw last week (none of us really likes the term “artist”) and we uncovered a funny secret stigma about erasers. A few of these folks thought that just having an eraser around when you were sketching meant you weren’t very good at it – because if you needed an eraser around then you must be making a lot of mistakes.

Guys – gals – we gotta talk.

There are two issues here. The first is the perfectionism. The second is that actually the eraser is an excellent drawing tool. For this post I’ll just stick with the perfectionism issue.

Perfectionism kills creativity. Unfortunately, even after wearing my special magic imperfection ring for over a year (to remind me to deliberately mess up sometimes, just to push against the yearning to be perfect), I still struggle with perfectionism. If you have major issues with procrastination, look to see how much perfectionism is interlaced with it. You may find that the secret to actually getting down to work is to decide that you are now going to draw a rotten drawing, or paint a rotten painting. You have to do this seriously, with gusto – it is most fun if you are determined to make something truly awful. Then, ten seconds later, you are actually working. Just don’t stop long enough to realize it.

Perfectionism and drawing are especially odd, because one of the most classic and used techniques for drawing – sketching – is pretty much about making a mess. No sketch is ever supposed to come out perfect. And, oddly enough, it is exactly this imperfection that makes most sketches so appealing.

So why, then, with all this evidence that imperfection is good, do I still have that cranky woman in the back of my head that tells me my drawings have to be perfect?

I don’t know. I guess its a love of excellence gone awry.

I wish I could banish this demand for perfection from myself and from everyone else who wants to draw. It really hurts us. It is the essence of “you’re not good enough” and that evil little thought makes too many of us much less likely to even try to draw.

But here’s another truth about imperfection. Most professional artists (though they may love perfection) are not afraid of making a mess. Of screwing up. Of doing an AWFUL drawing that deserves to be peed on by the cat. They just slog through. Have you ever studied Monet closely? He did dozens and dozens of paintings of the same subject. How many of us amateur artists has done a dozen drawings of the same subject? If we did summon the focus and will to do those dozen drawings, the odds are very, very high that we’d get our precious perfect drawing.

So we can have our perfect drawings. We just need to do the first eleven rotten drawings to get to our prize. Maybe this is the difference between the “good” and “bad” artists – good artists just plow through the awful drawings. They just keep sketching or painting or sculpting until the materials finally give in and – voila – perfection.

I’m not sure if this is patience, or focus, or determination. Its probably a mix of all three.

As you start pushing back against your perfectionism (and drawing those ugly, awful drawings that you are going to give to the cat to pee on), remember writers. Writers, even Shakespeare, do drafts of their work. Most of them do A LOT of drafts of their writing pieces, kind of like Monet’s dozen paintings. Maybe we should just see each awful drawing as a draft.

Also, by the way, even the awful drawings often have one little line that is very good. Find that one little line, celebrate, and then move on.

Line Drawing Exercises

Lines in drawing are made in several ways. The smallest lines are made by means of the medium (pencil, crayon, pen, or brush), held so as to be controlled principally by the fingers, wrist, elbow, or even by the arm at the shoulder socket. In a sitting position, the two former are most used; the latter two movements are more frequently used while standing, as at the blackboard. Small details are usually executed by the control of the thumb and first and second fingers.

Broad Effects – More freedom and broader effects are produced by the movement of the fingers and the motion of the hand radiating from the wrist. Still more sweeping effects are’ secured byholcling the hand nearly rigid and obtaining actions by means of the forearm swung from the elbow. A still greater radius may be had, though infrequently required, by swinging the full length of the arm, as, for instance, in describing a circle on the blackboard several feet in circumference.

Scratchy and Unevenly Spaced Lines, with few exceptions, such as when drawing grasses, etc., are to be avoided. The upper lines in Fig. 3 are of the scratchy and uneven kind, while those below are more deliberately and carefully placed. In Fig. 4 the difference between the correct lines and the reverse is made apparent.

Fig. 5 shows practice lines that should be repeated over and over again until the pupil becomes quite expert in their use. To avoid tiresomeness, they are introduced with frequency into other examples in which interest is obtained by enclosing the practice lines in various forms. In A, the lines arc about as evenly placed as could be expected from a pupil after several months of training. In B, the lines are such as would be made by the absolutely untrained hand and eye.

C shows lines enclosed in order to train the pupil to stop the lines within prescribed limits.

In Fig. 6, at D, the lines are drawn backward and forward quickly without removing the pencil.

E consists of lines drawn quickly, but by lifting the pencil at the end of each stroke.

At F the lines are broken, but firmly and evenly placed.

Use Even Pressure – Teach the student that it is most desirable to learn to make a line with an even pressure, from the moment the pencil or crayon touches the paper until it leaves it; that is, the making of a line that neither presses into the paper at the beginning nor drops off at the end.

Fig. 7 gives practice lines that are used in nearly all drawings, from the parallel lines at the top, the graduated lines in the second row, the cross-hatch lines near the bottom and, lastly, the solid shading in which the lines are placed so closely together as to nearly or quite lose their identity.

Repeated Practice – Fig. 6 shows practice lines that should be repeated over and over again until the student becomes quite expert in their use. To avoid becoming tiresome they should be introduced in small doses over a period of time, though the student should study each kind of line thoroughly.