Yesterday, after about 4 months with Drawing Basics, I finally finished the Curved Shapes section of the course.
The course provided a multi-page pdf with 12 shapes in total to draw. That might not sound like a lot but on average I’d say each took at least 3 hours to complete and often much longer still. The first attempts took a good two days per working 2-3 hours each day. Towards the end it was 1-2 hours each day. I’d always take a break once the rough shape was ready before doing the final pass.
Over the summer I had a few weeks where I didn’t do any work on this, and interestingly that actually seemed to help, as I came back to the drawing board feeling less afraid of using my eraser and more free with getting lines on the paper and using my eye to get me where I needed to go.
I’m very happy with the method taught in the course for building up the shapes, though it does take some practice for sure. After doing the 12 assigned sketches I feel that I’m just getting the idea of how to approach these.
The core of the method is in the block in, which is an extension of all the previous lessons with the addition of developing a feel for how to break the complex shape into simpler segments. This is the hardest bit for me, and I’m sure a skill I’ll be refining for the rest of my artistic career.
One thing is for sure, a course like this really builds an excellent foundation. Though the projects are simple on the surface, it’s clear that they are very transferable. If I was given one of these shapes to draw 4 months ago, I’d never have been able to get them as close as I can now. So I can confidently say, at about 1/3 of the way through the course, that it’s already been well worth the price of admission.
Disclaimer: I’m just a guy taking the course, no one asked me to do these reviews and I receive no compensation for them.
When I was in my late 20’s I started doing a lot of art, most weird abstract stuff. Over time, I stopped as I became more involved with yoga, I just didn’t really feel the need to do art anymore as yoga became an outlet for my creative urges.
Some 20 years on I’ve suddenly wanted to do art again. However taking some of the lessons learned in the interim. For one, at that time of youthful angst, most of my art was pretty dark, and thankfully I don’t feel the need to tap that spirt again. Also technically, I had some skills, but doing something like drawing a recognisable face was impossible for me, even as a caricature.
So a month ago, I decided if I want to draw, I want to learn how to draw from the ground up. I don’t see learning the skill of drawing as different than learning any of the multitude of skills I’ve learned over the last 20 years.
With that in mind, I started researching how to draw, and found books, online courses and so on. But most of them started from drawing objects or figures. I wanted to drill all the way to the bottom as a start. Thankfully after much searching, I came across the Vitruvian Fine Arts Studio, an art studio in Chicago, that also offers online classes taught by mater teacher David Jamieson.
David Jamieson at work
Their Drawing Basics course was exactly wahat I was looking for. A true bottom up approach to learning basic drawing skill. And by basic I mean BASIC. The course starts with just working on drawing lines, lots and lots of lines.
From there you learn to simply assess angles and draw more lines, on those angles. Pretty basic, right? And also pretty fundamental and critical if want to draw actual things, since drawings can be broken down to a combination of these two things.
It took 2-3 weeks to work through this part of the course at around 1-2 hours a day.
From there, you start to slowly add to the two most basic skills, first by drawing triangles of various sizes and shapes and then to oddly shaped polygons.
Working on the polygons exercise.
Here is where it gets interesting, because errors in judging angles, or slightly curved lines will punish you, hard. I didn’t have too much trouble with the exercises to this point, but this section, and I’m still working on this section, really slowed me down. Slowed me down in a good way, now it really matters if you get those angles just right or not, you really have to start to use your eye and see in a way I’ve never been able to before.
My first efforts were pretty far off target, see the drill isn’t to draw any old random polygon, no the drill is to as precisely as possible recreate the dozen or so examples provided in the exercise’s accompanying pdf file.
With these shapes one wrong angle or line length will distort the entire sketch and make it look like a 3rd graders replication. Putting it together really took some time, I think I spent an entire Saturday afternoon on one of the first polygons. But it gets better and you can see your eye start to slowly develop, which of course is the whole reason for starting this course, so it’s really time well spent for anyone wanting to learn to draw life like sketches or drawings.
I haven’t got there yet, but the next steps are to draw curved shapes and then learn to work on shading via a large number of value and progression drills.
The final sections deal with drawing actual, physical objects, namely, classic geometric objects, cubes, cylinders, and spheres.
The course culminates with taking the single objects you drawn and making a still life from them.
A few final comments on the course, each exercise is fully video documented, so you can watch David actually do each and every exercise himself, with his commentary. These videos range from 30 minutes to over an hour. Some sections are sped to double speed, which actually helps as well.
Also David can be PM’d or you can leave comments for him under each exercise.
I do wish there were more features for interacting with other students, perhaps a forum for example, but overall this course is well worth the money spent, assuming you are willing to put the time in. This isn’t the kind of course you can just watch the videos and skip to the end and expect results. I can see it easily taking 3 months and I’m anticipating up to 6 months at the rate I work.
From there, Vitruvian currently has two other online course offerings, a cast model drowning course and a portrait drawing course. If you take a look at David’s and his students work, you’ll see why this seems like such a good investment and the three courses together provide a path to learning to draw realistically and beautifully.