Analytical or "go by your guts" - Newbie question


As a practice the other day I put a small bag (that I have dice in, I’m a roleplayer) on a table and decided to try to draw it.

My first strategy was to be very analytical about it. So, I tried to find “important” points on the bag, isolate shapes, measure to get the proportions right etc. To put in the left side-right side of the brain nomenclature I was very “leftish”.

The result was a disaster.

Then, I gave up, and just drew it. I loosely (and without much conscious measuring) drew the major shapes, and then tried to fill in the details (bigger first, smaller last). While I did some conscious measuring at the later stages (to make things fit), it wasn’t as much as my previous attempts.

This time, the result was …ok, not heaps better, but better. Most of all, it had more the feeling of a bag than the previous attempts.

Being the reflective person that I am, I started to think about this.

It could be that I, when loosening up, actually had an easier time judging proportions and how the object felt.


It could be that when drawing it a number of times first, I started to learn what the object actually looked like, and when relaxing it was easier to tap into that knowledge


I was just lucky the last time.

Either way, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the “relax and go by your guts” vs. “intellectual analysis” dichotomy of drawing.

(And yes, I know, it’s not that clear cut, but you get what I mean)

Kind Regards


Hi McWolfe,

I’m a firm believe that careful observation and exhaustive analytics are tantamount in creating art. I believe your multiple approaches is what offered you the gains you experienced.

Long ago I had a awesome drawing teacher who would drill us with still-life - life drawing studies. Her approach was to have us start with 30 second gesture drawings and mix it up with blind-contour drawings - fill up a large sheet of newsprint - to get the gist of rhythm of line. Then on to 3 minute sketches paying more attention to structure. By the time we got to 15 minute each we were to have worked out proportion, volume lighting etc. The earlier sketched were for all intents and purposes - warm up. One hour drawings would then commence using scrap paper to work out additional problems. By this time everybody had a really good grasp of all the analytics that went into our work.

We would do crit at that point; I guess long story short is there was no gut instinct involved by the end of a drawing session, it was either correct of not.

Maybe continue to test your theory and set up the subject again in a different configuration and light and tackle it again.




You have to back and forth between the modes of though. Start with a rough, loose sketch, but then go back in with some careful measuring the see what’s right and what’s not. Then loosely re-sketch, re-measure, and repeat, gradually growing closer to the correct form.


Thanks for the replies guys.

Basically you hint at what I suspected as well. It’s a combination of studying the object in different ways, and switching mindset.

Also, you confirm something else that I’ve suspected… or rather, I have known on an intellectual level, but it has kinda failed to sink in. While I had a good understanding that you need to plan a drawing when drawing from your mind, it hadn’t sunk in that you need to do multiple studies of the subject when drawing from reference/life as well. I still had some kind of “draw once”-habit built in.



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