Many artists started drawing by copying cartoons as children. They drew images from their imaginations and later, when they wanted to make their work look more “real,” they graduated to working from photographs. Interestingly, few ever did what they really needed to do, which was draw from the real objects.
Drawing from observation is a critical philosophy for developing skills in drawing because it increases the kind and quality of images you can make. If you don’t push yourself to widen your boundaries, you stagnate.
When you draw from observation, you translate the three-dimensional image you see into a two-dimensional image on your paper. You look at the image, determine how to turn it into two-dimensions, and then rely on hand–eye coordination to draw the image the way you want. When you draw from photographs, however, you look at a two-dimensional image and then draw a two-dimensional image on paper. The translation has already been done for you. That may sound easier, but you don’t get the experience of critically thinking about how to recreate the dimensions, so in the long run, you’re making your drawing harder. The camera is also very selective and incomplete in the information it records. Your eyes are much more reliable and complete as a tool, so committing to using them as part of your training is an important prong in your philosophy for drawing.
Another important point in your drawing philosophy is making a habit of working from general to specific. When you work general to specific, you find the big, general shapes and go through a process of breaking the shapes down to the more specific forms. It also leaves you the flexibility to adjust your methods as problems arise in the early stages.
You can apply this process in many ways in your typical pastel drawing. You begin your initial drawing with big, general forms and then go through a process of refining and defining them. You block in your colors generally and then go through a process of refining and developing them. Every part and stage of the drawing goes through this process. Working on small areas at the expense of the rest of the drawing makes those areas too precious and limits your ability to make decisions about your work. Though you should be willing to sacrifice any part of the drawing for the good of the whole, the decisions you make while working the layering process helps keep those tough choices to a minimum.
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