PA Clive Riggs shares some excellent tips to improve your drawing.

Part1 - Part2 - Part 3

Drawing to most of us, will mean expressing the form of something on a flat surface. To some, myself included, it is far more important than colour as the effective use of colour depends much more on an intuitive sense or reaction and is therefore more difficult to teach. Form therefore, ought to be the target for those wishing to improve their drawing skills and through this, their painting.

Stage 1- The use of line
When we think of line drawing, we are most likely going to think of drawing “outlines”. We know that in the real world outlines around things don’t exists so it might be helpful to think of a different definition to help with a clear understanding of what you are looking for when we instinctively draw outlines.

A much more helpful way of looking at an object and drawing it using line is to think of what as not having an outline but a boundary. This boundary is its fullest extent from side to side and top to bottom.  The boundary lines should also be used to show the boundary between two objects; where they meet. This raises a couple of difficult problems. Firstly, that where two objects meet in a field of vision, there will be only one boundary, even though often it will be because of overlapping. Our second difficulty is connected to this. You will have noticed that I have not mentioned back to front (representing depth).There is a very good reason for this as with line and at this stage, we should be looking at shapes and their boundaries and we need to perceive these as flat in order to draw them accurately in line. This is a major mental shift but it is vital to being able to see shapes (these are the critical to painting, especially in watercolour). If you think in terms of flat shapes, you will start to see how what you are looking at fits together in a series of shapes; all you have to do is spot them and draw them. Here’s a simple example:

On the left we have three individual diamond shapes, seen flat. On the right, they combine to create the illusion of a box in three dimensions.  Where two shapes meet, they share one boundary. This is the first principal that needs to be learned in order to draw successfully with line. Visually

deconstruct objects in order to identify the individual shapes, see them as flat and transfer them to your picture surface.

TIP - when seen flat, everything has a shape, even shadows and highlights and especially the spaces between objects that appear to be empty.

The first stage then in improving drawing using line is to practise identifying the flat shapes you see in front of you, drawing their boundaries and putting this together as a kind of jigsaw puzzle. This is the fundamental skill that transfers directly into painting. Don’t be tempted to use tone yet, stick to line and flat shapes until you are confident using line for boundaries of flat shapes.

About Clive
Clive is a professional artist, Educated at The King's School Ely, he served with 9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers before studying fine art (painting) at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee. He qualified as a lecturer in 2006 and taught art and design in an FE college before deciding to dedicate more time to painting and printmaking while still teaching adults both privately and in community education.

Find out more and visit Clive's website

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