This sketch of a statue at the Met looks OK, right? Better than your dog could do? OK, I’ll give you that. Your dog’s a hack.
But compare it with a photo of the statue, taken from the same seated position from which I drew it.
OK, so a camera can add its own distortions, but not this much. I SUCK.
Don’t worry; I’m not actually beating myself up over this. There was a time in the past when I would have seen this as a sign to throw in the towel, but now it’s quite the opposite. It’s comforting to know that all the art books and teachers are right. If you want to get good, and stay good, at drawing what you see, you need to practice. All the time.
It’s timely that this fella Noah Bradley recently posted an article entitled “21 Days to Be a Better Artist.” It’s one of many such “challenges” on the Internet that makes a game out of something you should already be doing. I do like the fact that he restricts it to accurately recreating what you see.
Let me deconstruct art for you. Taking the 80/20 rule to art, the most important thing you can learn is being able to look at something and recreate it on paper. That’s the first and foremost skill you should learn in art.
Longtime readers (hi Mom) will remember I was pretty gung-ho about this for about a week in 2012, spending less time on cute sketches and more time learning how to see and measure.
The thing about measuring is, you can’t really half-ass it; it just ends up screwing you up more. As I set about drawing the statue above, I held up my pencil a few times and thought I made some accurate measurements. I made some marks on my paper and proceeded to shoehorn poor Dionysus here into those obviously wrong proportions.
I know better than to make these mistakes. A corollary to improving with practice is getting less shy about holding your pencil up in the air like some artist out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. You just gotta do it.
Anyway, consider this day 1 of the challenge. I probably won’t post everything, but feel free to ask me about it and hold me to it. And, if it’s your kind of thing, try it out yourself!