Sunday, May 5, 2013

Keys to Drawing

I often check out art instruction books from my neighborhood library. But I never spend enough time with any one in particular before they are due back. Keys to Drawing, however, has me hooked from the start. I'm enjoying it so much I may just end up buying a copy to own.

Dodson emphasizes a fundamental principle: Drawing what we see, not what we know. Such simple advice, right? Yet it doesn't get old. Trust your eyes, he says, and spend more time looking at the subject than at the paper.

"Our goal in drawing from observation is to capture the richness and variety of the visual experience. We should draw, for the time being at least, as if we know nothing, and were obedient to only to what our eye tell us to draw."

In other words, forget that people's heads are positioned above their shoulders (what we know.) If the person we are drawing is bent foreward and looking down, that anatomical knowledge won't help. Just draw what you see.

Or forget that hands have five fingers. Try drawing your hand with your fingers pointing directly at you and think only about shapes, lines and angles. Below is my own result from doing that exercise suggested by Dodson. (In case you are curious, the unrelated sketch on the top left is my son looking at the iPad.)

Here's another excerpt of great advice to cope with the frustations that often arise in the process of drawing:

"At each point of frustration or confusion, ask yourself: What do I see?"


  1. Really interesting, makes me want to get my own copy too!

  2. Yes, an excellent book!

  3. By the way, every time I've sketched my foreshortened hand, my brain gets bent out of shape... It just looks so weird!

  4. One of my fave books. I use it as a text book when teaching sketch classes at the YMCA.

  5. I just found your blog on technorati and think it's really interesting! I always have to consciously remind myself to draw what I see. Sometimes I look down at the page after drawing for a while and think 'that's not what's actually in front of me!'

  6. Blog looks very interesting ... the sketching style suits me very well ..