Help for Young artists: Drawing with Shapes.

Time for my first in the tip section of drawing for young/inexperienced artists.

  • Have you ever noticed your drawings looking flat?
  • Are you a little unsure of where to put body parts?
  • Is drawing anything in perspective an exercise in frustration?

You may want to pay attention to this lesson.

Here is a picture I drew a long time ago.  I’m not sure exactly HOW long ago since it isn’t dated, but it was scanned eight years ago.

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There are many things wrong with this picture, but for now, we’ll focus on the face.

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Notice how flat and lifeless this is?  This is partially because I was drawing in lines, and not in shapes.

I’ve said it before, but what does it mean?

Well, it means drawing your character in solid forms.  Your character is meant to be a 3-dimensional being REPRESENTED with lines, not made of them.

One way to make sure you are drawing a character in solid shapes is by USING solid shapes to “build” whatever you are drawing.

Anything you draw with a solid form (including humans and other characters) can be broken down and simplified into easy to understand shapes.

For example, a hand is something a lot of people find difficult to draw.

However, by using shapes to build the hand (and using my own hand as a reference, the process is easier.

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A hand drawn mostly with ball and cylinder shapes.

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The same hand with rough lines drawn over it with the opacity of the pink layer lowered.

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The line art by itself.

While simplified and not the most realistic, it at least looks fairly solid.

Back to the face

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I decided to redraw this face using shapes and guide lines.

Here is the shape layer:

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While I left out a lot of detail, I did maintain a solid head shape and guide lines for eyes and the center of the head.

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This is the shape+lines.  You may notice I adjusted a few things as necessary, including his ear and his jaw.

TIP: Reverse your image to more easily see where things look wonky.

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The same head with lines only.

Compare the two and you can really see the difference in terms of solidness.

One of the best things about this technique is that it makes drawing things in perspective a lot easier.

Perspective is one of those things an artist needs to know, but seems to be one of the most difficult to grasp and master.  I will readily admit my knowledge and skill of perspective is weak, but even a little knowledge is beneficial.

The gist of perspective is that things that are close look bigger, while things that are farther away look smaller.

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Using this basic principle, we can begin to understand how to make a body look like it’s existing in three dimensional space.

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Connect the circles with lines, and suddenly it’s a cylinder.  Add another circle/ball for a shoulder joint, a square-ish shape for a palm…

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And suddenly it kind of looks like an arm, doesn’t it?

While my method certainly isn’t perfect, hopefully this will help you all understand the basic concept of drawing with shape and perspective.

Further study from teachers and professionals (which I am not) is DEFINITELY recommended.


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