As a Beginner, How Should I Practice Drawing?

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  08 August 2013
Question As a Beginner, How Should I Practice Drawing?

Hello. I've been lurking on these forums on and off for several years, but this is my first time posting, so please bare with me.

Since I don't like long posts, I'll get right to the point...

I'm a beginner with a drive to learn how to draw, but I lack direction. Most of my practice sessions consist of me pretty much just doodling random things in my sketchbook, and honestly, I don't think I'm getting anywhere. Recently, I've been focusing on gesture drawing/sketching, since I think it would be a great way to build up an understanding of form, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. As a beginner, should I attempt to draw gestures from my imagination, or a reference? What would be a better way to learn?

Also, roughly how much time should I dedicate to practice each day, and what exercises - apart from gesture drawing - would you recommend?

Thanks in advance for any feedback.
  08 August 2013
Purposeless doodling out of your head will get you nowhere. You must have an effective strategy for learning the critical foundations of visual art.

Have you read the sticky threads at the top of this forum yet? If not, you need to do that, because I have given detailed answers to similar questions, explaining how one should learn/practice effectively. This thread is especially helpful for your situation: (In post #9 I give an examples of what one can do to learn/practice effectively, while working smart instead of just working hard but dumb and wasting time doing things the wrong way.)
  08 August 2013
Thank you for your response.

I have read the thread, and also did some research of my own. I decided to compose a simple practice routine for myself. I think that, since as a beginner I have difficulties imagining complex objects in 3D space, I should focus primary on drawing from still life, to gain some understanding of form and shape. Once I'm able to replicate what I see on paper to a competent level, I'll move on to drawing from imagination, but for now, I'll do that on the side. The routine I came up with goes something like this:

Everyday, at least
-8 practice drawings of still life
-6 two minute gesture drawings from reference photos (I have no access to a model and I can't attend a life drawing class at the moment)
-6 gesture drawings from imagination
-3 exercises of inspecting a photo/object, and attempting to replicate it from memory
-perspective study?
-basic anatomy study?

Does this seem reasonable, or should I make some adjustments?
  08 August 2013
There are a lot of problems with your plan. Don't feel bad though--as a beginner, you're not supposed to know how to learn/practice efficiently instead of wasting your time doing things the wrong way. If everybody knew how to do it, I wouldn't be teaching a workshop on it.

Don't set goals based on how many of xxx you'll do a day. That's useless to you because as a beginner, you'll be very slow and you'll mess up often, and you won't be able to do nearly as many things in a day as you think you could. Just one still life might take you a few days to do at an acceptable level, let alone doing 8 in one day plus all the other stuff you listed.

Instead, you base your goals on the amount of time you'll dedicate to your study. So instead of saying you'll do 8 still life drawings in a day, you would say you'll do x number of hours still life drawing in a day. It doesn't matter how many drawings you do--quality over quantity.

Don't bother trying to do any kind of figure/anatomy/gestures from imagination. That is not for beginners. In fact, don't do anything from imagination or even replicating from memory. That is useless for beginners. You have much more important tasks to tackle as a beginner.

Also, don't bother with any kind of timed drawing. Speed is not your concern, and it should never be your concern as an artist. The only time it matters is in commercial art where you have tight deadlines, but you worry about that when you have gotten good enough to do professional quality work and need to compete in the marketplace. You are far from that right now, so don't even think about speed.

(See, this is why I teach a workshop on this. There is so much misinformation, misguided mentalities, and confusion, due to the overwhelming amount of bad information on the web.)

What you need to focus on, are the critical foundations like anatomy/figure studies, perspective, composition, values, colors, etc. You need to first gain the basic technical skill of reproducing what you see convincingly. If you can't even take a picture and reproduce it faithfully and accurately (as if your version is a replica that looks like the original), then that's the first thing you need to master, because everything else you learn later will depend on this basic ability of eye-to-hand coordination and observation/analysis.
  08 August 2013
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