Lessons & tips

Self-taught artists face many challenges. What do you study next if you don't know what you don't know? How do you ensure you aren't practicing bad technique? What is the normal rate of progression? Use these resources to find the knowledge, inspiration, and ideas for homework you can assign yourself to keep improving.

First time here? We recommend starting with our interactive drawing tutorial.

Improving technique: Gesture basics #3: Joints

The most mobile bones of the body attach to one another in a series of "ball and socket" joints, around which they can pivot and rotate. These joints are often deep inside the body, and not visible to the naked eye. For example, consider the thigh connecting to the hip. A small protrusion of bone known as the "Femoral head" joins the femur to the hip socket. This socket is so ensconsed in muscle... Continue reading

Improving technique: Gesture basics #2: Head, ribcage and pelvis

Once you have established the line of action (See Gesture basics #1) you are ready to place the three major ovals of the body: The head, ribcage and pelvis. Noting their locations should take you 5 to 10 seconds. When viewed from the outside, it's harder to see the underlying skeletal structure, and beginners are often tricked into thinking of the human trunk as being one shape like so: But... Continue reading

Improving technique: Gesture basics #1: Line of action

Whether from life or from imagination, the first mark made in most figure drawings is the line of action. You can think of the line of action as an imaginary line that runs down the spine. The more curve you put into that line, the more attitude, force and/or movement the image will communicate to your viewers. When drawing from life, begin by finding the line of action and noting it down. If you wish,... Continue reading

Other resources: Anatomy For the Artist

Anatomy For the Artist by Sarah Simblet is not an exhaustive encyclopedia of anatomy. You can certainly get more complete books. It chooses instead to explore a few foundational areas of anatomy, and does an excellent job of it. It gives just enough depth to help obtain a more intuitive understanding of underlying anatomical structures and how they are useful for artists without overwhelming. Continue reading

Improving technique: Focused practice: an exercise for real improvement in 33 days

Simply sitting down and banging out a few gesture drawings every day is a great way to stay in drawing shape, but it will rarely propel you to a new level of artistic achievement. If your goal is to simply "get better," your progress is likely to be slow and demoralizing. Studies show that people who get to be top in their field, from artists to computer programmers to Olympians, nearly all... Continue reading