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 https://avian.art.blog/2019/07/16/the-struggle-to-improve/


Who i am and why I’m here

A little bit about me

I’ve been drawing consistently for the last two years with a few breaks here and there and I thought it would be a good idea to start sharing my art progress through a blog format. I am by no means a professional so any insights/advice taken from my blog should not be taken too seriously.

I do not have any education in art or training, i am a self taught artist. My main area of interest is creature design but will be branching out into figure drawing (my area of weakness is figure/gestural drawing).

Purpose of my blog

To showcase the developmental process of getting better at drawing from my earliest works to my most up to date sketchbook.

I plan on doing this by analysing the mistakes i made when i was first starting out so the reader (hopefully beginner artists) can relate with my errors and to see that the process of getting better at art is gradual and not based on talent.

I would like to also develop some sort of “art community” were i can connect with other artists through social media and perhaps in person.

That’s the gist of my blog. I might turn it into something else later but right now that’s the general purpose. Thank you reading this far and welcome to my art journey.

The struggle to improve

When starting out with art (or any skill) you might find that you’re not seeing any visual improvement with your technique. Most of this fear of not improving is psychological because in reality you’re improving just incrementally.

One of the best ways to see your art improving is to set a standard to where your current skill level is. This can be done by picking an area that you want to get better at e.g. portraits, animals, figure drawing etc and drawing it at the best of your ability. The point of this is to set a baseline, you’ll need to keep this away from your eyesight once its completed. Come back to it a month later and you’ll see that it “looks” different than you remember (you should be practising drawing during this period. I will be posting what exactly you should be practising in a later post).

The reason why it may look worse/different is that your perception has improved.

There are two skills being developed with drawing: technical skill and your “ability to see”. These two skills develop at different paces as stated by Sycra Yasin. (Here is the Youtube video i am referencing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb0g_gWrNf8). He brings up a visual chart that shows a realistic growth curve when improving your drawing ability. Below is a diagram (figure 1) from the video (p.s all credit is given to Sycra Yasin for the graph below, he makes amazing tutorial videos on Youtube and has a website Sycra.net where you can get lots of useful resources regarding drawing/digital art).

Figure 1, Sycra’s creative block graph

The main take away from this graph is that you can see that over time both vision and drawing skill develop along side each other (as long as you stay consistent with drawing you will improve). This is a very simplistic view of the actual process but it should give you a basic understanding of how drawing works.

The “eye” is how well you can see your mistakes and the “hand” is how well you can draw.

When you have been drawing for some time you’ll notice that your art looks the same as if you stopped improving. This is simply because your perception hasn’t caught up with your actual skill level. You’re experiencing a “plateau” which is a good sign, pushing through this phase will guarantee a little boost in your drawing ability.

The duration of a plateau can vary drastically and can be discouraging when learning to draw so it is important to find a balance between practice and drawing for fun.

Getting through “bad art days”

I sometimes go through phases of not wanting to produce any artwork and at times it can be healthy to take a break once in a while but when these breaks go on for weeks and sometimes months, then you might want to consider the reasons for taking the break in the first place.

Personally, when i don’t feel like drawing i just stop and then after a few days of not creating i pick up from where i left off in my sketchbook. Though in the past I’ve put off drawing for years at a time and this stunted my artistic skill development. The purpose of this blog was intended to keep me on track so i wouldn’t take such long breaks like i have in the past.

If you are a fellow artist and are going through a bad art day then i suggest just doing a single sketch of something in your “comfort zone”. Drawing things that you are already good at will keep you motivated and remind you that you don’t suck as much as you tell yourself. Almost all of “bad art days” are created when we self deprecate (you know exactly what i’m talking about).

Not to say that life circumstances can’t get in the way too, life happens so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not as artistically productive as you’d like to be.

This blog post was a little short but i’m slowly getting back into blogging after my break. Also here’s my latest illustration:

Drawing: the two Practices

When deciding to practice drawing you will need to know the two types of practices. This post will try to explain the two types with a few examples from my sketchbooks. These methods are not my own, i have researched these with the intent to reinforce my own learning and to share my thoughts on them.

Mindless practice

The first type i’ll be discussing is the “mindless” practice.

In this slideshow i drew a lot of cubes and geometric shapes. This form of practice is very repetitive and can drain your motivation to draw after a short while. I focused on cubes here to gain a better understanding of how cubes operated in 3D shape as well as in perspective.

The repetitive nature of mindless drawing helps builds muscle memory. Drawing anything 1000+ times will make it easier to remember when working on complex illustrations. An analogy to better explain this: when you first learn how to tie your shoelaces it can be difficult and you make a lot of mistakes. After your hundredth time, you just tie your laces without consciously thinking about it (same with brushing your teeth). The act of tying your shoelaces becomes intuitive (doing without thought).

I noticed that my lines became sharper and straighter the more shapes i drew. I was able to burn through sketches and improve my line quality. Mindless practice can be useful for a warm up before illustrating. You can also quickly practice the fundamentals as you’ll need to keep reinforcing them throughout your art journey.

Drawing 100’s of shapes almost sounds counter-intuitive and in some ways it is. This way of practising can hinder your skill growth if not used in conjunction with Deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice

Before you decide to mindlessly sketch you first need to add a framework to work from. In my previous post i talked about the basics of drawing and why they’re important, deliberate practice is taking the fundamentals and applying more structure to them.

Unlike mindless practice, deliberate practice is more purposeful and systematic. This is also slower and more time consuming.

You will need to dedicate a block of time where you will focus on a specific area of drawing you would like to improve. For example, before you can draw birds in interesting poses you first need to know how the conjure up an image of a bird in your head and this can be done by observational drawing.

Drawing from observation can be slower but also much more useful for understanding complex structures (animals, buildings etc). You can use references from online to aid you with observational drawing or attend a life drawing class. You will need to focus on some drawings more than others.

You will need to do a lot of repetitive drawing here too but it’s necessary, don’t forget to draw for fun as well (this also helps improve your skill). Deliberate practice makes your mindless sketches look better since you will gain a better visual of what you’re trying to draw.

First learn how a certain object looks in real life through observational drawing then you can start to speed things up when you think you have enough visual information stored in your head.

Now that you know the two types of practices you can implement them whenever you want depending on your individual needs. In conclusion, draw a lot.

Thank you for reading this far. If you enjoyed reading my blog post please share, comment and if you want to give me feedback on how i can improve future posts feel free to provide any.

Thoughts on my old sketches

2017 Sketches

“Every artist was first an amateur”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson. .

I am going to be posting a lot of sketches on my blog and not many “finished pieces” and i’ll explain why in a later post. For now here’s some sketches from 2017.

I lacked a certain structure to my face drawings and the proportions were all incorrect. This is a common problem when you first start drawing, the drawings resemble what you think a face looks like but don’t have the foundations to keep it all together.

A common mistake beginner artists make is focusing too much on the details of the face and forgetting to make sure if the facial features are placed correctly. These sketches were done by using real face references but without any of the details. The main focus was on the placement of facial features.

I also experimented with “style” a lot in my previous sketchbooks and rarely created realistic drawings. I struggled a lot with realism so i deviated from the traditional path of drawing and stuck to a more simplified style. In retrospect, i do not recommend doing this because drawing from life is crucial for developing proper foundations in which you can later add onto with your “style”.