The basics of drawing

In my previous post “Thoughts on my old sketches” i briefly mentioned the foundations of drawing. Today i hope to explain what exactly these “foundations” are and why they’re so important for any artist. Here’s a list of the fundamentals:

  • Form
  • Proportion
  • Anatomy
  • Value/lighting


The three elementary shapes are: circles, squares and triangles. Every thing we see around us are made up of these basic shapes. These shapes in combination are not enough to make pleasing art. We need to add depth to these shapes for our drawings to have some resemblance to real life structures. (Figure 1 is not owned by me, i have posted the link for the original image in the caption).

Form essentially gives 2D shapes 3D depth. When practising form don’t worry too much on how well the shapes are drawn as this isn’t the primary focus right now. The purpose is to gain an understanding on how light effects shapes in the real world.

Set up cylindrical objects (e.g. bottle, glass jar, coffee cup) in front of you and observe how light interacts with the objects.

The first thing you should notice is that the closer you get to the edge of the object the darker the reflected light is. This is the point in which the object curves around itself.

Once you think you’ve gathered enough data on how form works in respect of the elementary shapes then start applying the understandings to your artwork. Don’t forget to apply your form practice to your own artwork.

Learn the mechanics of how something works then incorporate the understanding into personal projects.

In summary, Form is the overall 3-dimensional structure of a object. The goal is to make your drawing believable as if it were to exist in the real world.


Next up is Proportion. Simply put, proportion is how big/small an object is in relation to other objects. To draw a convincing portrait of a face you must be aware of the different sizes of the facial features and how far they are from one another.

When you gain an understanding of how proportion works you can start to play around with different sizes. You can see artists altering proportion to their advantage in cartoons, animations and anime. But before you decide to change the proportions of your drawings first learn the reason why certain proportions are the way they are. It’s all about making art believable and convincing so the viewer has a easier time relating with your artwork.

Perspective is another area in art that i struggle with so i can’t go into it in too much depth but ill write what i know. Perspective is how far an object is in relation to other objects. the further you look, the smaller the object and vice versa.


Learning anatomy is crucial for making believable drawings. Anatomy is the foundation underneath all figure drawings, before you can draw the human body first learn the skeletal structure. I’m not saying learn all the muscles and all the bones in intricate detail as we’re not medical students, we don’t need that information (unless you enjoy drawing detailed anatomy then by all means study the body in as much depth as you desire). Our primary goal as an artist is to gain an understanding of how muscles interact with one another visually. E.g. How far are the shoulders from the torso, or where exactly do i place the head on the body.

From my Instagram: Crow_in_a_coat

The human figure here is not realistic but has the understanding of what the body would look like. The muscles and bones don’t have too much detail but visually you know what they are.

From my Instagram: Crow_in_a_coat

Value and lighting

I won’t be going into too much detail here about value as that’s a whole topic of it’s own. Value is simply how dark or light an image is.

Through your observational drawings you’ll notice that depending on where the light source is positioned you can get different cast shadows.

Final thoughts

Practising your drawing fundamentals shouldn’t stop you from creating enjoyable art, they exist to give you a boost in skill level. It’s all up to you in how you approach your drawing studies, there is no right way of learning how to draw. Keep practising, it takes a very long time for your drawing ability to improve and don’t forget that your eye’s are also improving as you observe the world around you.

Check out my previous post here

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