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Author Topic: 4 main reasons why you can't draw something  (Read 262 times)

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Offline Ryan

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4 main reasons why you can't draw something
« on: December 31, 2019, 09:58:40 PM »
Why can't we draw something well? This is an important question to ask. If you know the answer, you will be able to devise a plan of action that's best suited to your circumstances.

If somebody can't draw something, there's four main possibilities (maybe there's more? For now, here's four important ones):

1) they don't understand what something should look like. They have misconceptions about the appearance of whatever it is they're trying to draw. They take a look at their drawing and they're at a loss for where things best ought to be.

They might gain as much abstract knowledge as they want. This muscle is called this, this muscle is called that, this is above that. However, information such as this is is useless on its own.

If they don't have a solid grasp of how things should look; e.g., this thing should be this much higher than that, this thing should be this big, this thing should have this kind of angle to it, their drawings will have problems that keep it from being the image it could be. They might get lucky in various places, but their drawings will overall have significant flaws. This knowledge is to a large degree non-verbal. The knowledge can be hinted at verbally, but its not the true form of the knowledge.

The thing is, what things should look like takes a lot of time to digest. What things should look like is not even apparent from looking at a single instance of it. Any thing has intricacies to how its surfaces curve or round...the geometry/structure/form...these are very important details. We must learn the 3D appearance of things.

In side profiles, we can see quite clearly the 3D appearance of things in terms of depth. We can see quite clearly the angle the neck is taking in depth, or how far away the tip of the nose is from the face.

However, we learn very little about a great deal, too; we gain, for example, almost nothing about how wide the nose is.

Anything that is difficult to draw is like this. One certain angle of it illuminates much, but for each angle much is also difficult and obscure. For such complex objects, it is highly beneficial to examine the object from all the main angles; front, side, 3/4 front, back, 3/4 back. One must internalize the various 3D characteristics of the object, not just do studies. It is visual information that you need to learn to rely on whenever you are drawing at all. Doing so grants an understanding of the thing that cannot be paralleled through any other approach.

2) they lack the ability to represent form in space. Problems occur around concepts such as perspective, depth, form, etc. There are many ways to express what is at the core the same concept.

Examples (non-extensive):
  • If they need a basic form to wrap around another, they are unable to draw it convincingly.
  • If they need two forms in different points of space to have the same length, they are unable to keep the lengths consistent. For example, they produce a flaw in their drawing, where one arm is noticeably longer than the other.
  • They are unable to maintain ~90 degree corners of architectural/non-organic objects when necessary
  • If the thing has equally spaced sections, they are unable to maintain the spacing of the sections. For example, they are unable to make the space between railroad tracks seem equal as the tracks move back in space
  • Inability to wrap patterns around basic forms. For example, eyes are (in some styles) drawn as flat symbols that wrap around the round surface of the face. Problems in wrapping that flat symbol on the face poses problems.
  • Inability to maintain a sense of things being level in their drawing. Eyes are naturally level with each-other (in relation to the level of the head). In a neutral expression, a closed mouth also is level with the eyes. These things, therefore, need to appear level in this type of scenario.
  • If two forms need to look like they are touching one another, they are unable to make it convincing.

3) Lack of mechanical ability

If you can't produce a straight line, then your drawing will be flawed whenever it ought to have straight lines. The same applies to drawing good ellipses/circles/curves. Accuracy is also an issue here. You may be able to draw the right line/ellipse, but you may lack the ability to place it where you want to place it.

Mechanical ability can be augmented with things such as rulers and stabilizers (traditional and digital). And yes, stabilizers exist in traditional as well. A mahl stick is a tool some painters use to rest their wrist on, thus stabilizing their hand.


4) Taking an ineffective approach

This one is subtle, but it is also where some people end up wasting a lot of time worrying. If you don't know what something should look like, any approach you take will not cover up for what you're missing.

But approach is still a possible good reason for why a good drawing can't be completed.

An example is drawing mecha or gundam. There's a lot of forms to keep track of. A good way to start would be drawing a base generic gundam/mech underneath, and then attaching the distinguishing elements on top. This way the core base of the mecha and the solidity of the pose are guaranteed from the beginning.

Conclusion:

Regardless of what it is you want to draw, there is the concept of "what it ought to look like." What something ought, or should, look like is to a degree up to you. That's stylistic choice. Realistic, semi-realistic, western, anime, super-deformed, chibi, etc.

However, every drawing has a direction where it wants to go most. For a good artist, the drawings they make exist in a direction relatively close to the direction they want it to go. For the frustrated artist, however, where they want to go is often out of sync with what their drawings are expressing.

I emphasize this because there is the potential for naming rules and problems to come across as academic. You know for yourself when you think a drawing doesn't look like how it should.

Some people may disagree on what things ought to look like. One person may really like overly long limbs. That's fine, and they probably can make their artwork work if everything else in their images works together with that idea. They know what their drawings should look like and they're going to end up making successful drawings because of that.

In truth, these four concepts are there for you to be used with your artistic problems (not to judge others' problems). So whenever you are having problems or are frustrated, hopefully you will be better able to figure out your situation and make progress where you want to make it by considering these 4 reasons.

Offline Manimal

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Re: 4 main reasons why you can't draw something
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2020, 01:33:43 PM »
Great post! I have been discouraged the last few times I've drawn because things haven't looked right. These are all very good tips and it's a very helpful post. The general idea of having to know what your drawing is going to look like is very true.

Online suuper-san

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Re: 4 main reasons why you can't draw something
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2020, 04:29:09 PM »
super awesome tips.
I have said as much in my own comments over the years as I examined my own ability or lack, in some cases :P

Quote
If you can't produce a straight line, then your drawing will be flawed whenever it ought to have straight lines.
Quote
If you don't know what something should look like, any approach you take will not cover up for what you're missing.
These are painfully true and have both happened to me on many many occasions.

Quote
If they need a basic form to wrap around another, they are unable to draw it convincingly.
If they need two forms in different points of space to have the same length, they are unable to keep the lengths consistent. For example, they produce a flaw in their drawing, where one arm is noticeably longer than the other.
They are unable to maintain ~90 degree corners of architectural/non-organic objects when necessary
If the thing has equally spaced sections, they are unable to maintain the spacing of the sections. For example, they are unable to make the space between railroad tracks seem equal as the tracks move back in space
Inability to wrap patterns around basic forms. For example, eyes are (in some styles) drawn as flat symbols that wrap around the round surface of the face. Problems in wrapping that flat symbol on the face poses problems.
Inability to maintain a sense of things being level in their drawing. Eyes are naturally level with each-other (in relation to the level of the head). In a neutral expression, a closed mouth also is level with the eyes. These things, therefore, need to appear level in this type of scenario.
If two forms need to look like they are touching one another, they are unable to make it convincing.
These are also things that still happen to me, although a little less these days.
Angles and levels catch me out every now and again. slanting drawings and all that.

What's annoying about understanding form/shape etc, is often it's lots of little simple facts that are all simple on their own, but it's like trying to remember 100 phone numbers when you try and put it all together. I keep having Eureka moments but then I think "hey didn't I already know this, like ages ago?"
So memory is a serious pain.
Even someone telling you a piece of information e.g. in a how-to-draw book, you understand it, but then immediately forget it when trying to apply it. There's a strange bridge between understanding something and being able to apply it.

great reminders, I shall try and keep them in mind :)
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Offline Ryan

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Re: 4 main reasons why you can't draw something
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2020, 02:27:51 PM »
super awesome tips.
I have said as much in my own comments over the years as I examined my own ability or lack, in some cases :P

Quote
If you can't produce a straight line, then your drawing will be flawed whenever it ought to have straight lines.
Quote
If you don't know what something should look like, any approach you take will not cover up for what you're missing.
These are painfully true and have both happened to me on many many occasions.

Quote
If they need a basic form to wrap around another, they are unable to draw it convincingly.
If they need two forms in different points of space to have the same length, they are unable to keep the lengths consistent. For example, they produce a flaw in their drawing, where one arm is noticeably longer than the other.
They are unable to maintain ~90 degree corners of architectural/non-organic objects when necessary
If the thing has equally spaced sections, they are unable to maintain the spacing of the sections. For example, they are unable to make the space between railroad tracks seem equal as the tracks move back in space
Inability to wrap patterns around basic forms. For example, eyes are (in some styles) drawn as flat symbols that wrap around the round surface of the face. Problems in wrapping that flat symbol on the face poses problems.
Inability to maintain a sense of things being level in their drawing. Eyes are naturally level with each-other (in relation to the level of the head). In a neutral expression, a closed mouth also is level with the eyes. These things, therefore, need to appear level in this type of scenario.
If two forms need to look like they are touching one another, they are unable to make it convincing.
These are also things that still happen to me, although a little less these days.
Angles and levels catch me out every now and again. slanting drawings and all that.

What's annoying about understanding form/shape etc, is often it's lots of little simple facts that are all simple on their own, but it's like trying to remember 100 phone numbers when you try and put it all together. I keep having Eureka moments but then I think "hey didn't I already know this, like ages ago?"
So memory is a serious pain.
Even someone telling you a piece of information e.g. in a how-to-draw book, you understand it, but then immediately forget it when trying to apply it. There's a strange bridge between understanding something and being able to apply it.

great reminders, I shall try and keep them in mind :)

When it comes to putting together all of the different aspects of a subject, it's definitely something that requires direct application. In the moment it's easy to recognize a fact for being factual, however, due to the way memory works it's highly likely to be forgotten when you actually need to make use of it. You need to be able to recognize when the fact is or is not accurately depicted in your work, without needing to conjure up the fact verbally.

For that reason, when I have learned something, I make a point to test my ability to apply the information correctly within the week of learning it. So the day after I learn it, I will make use of it again; 3 days after it, I will test my ability to use it again; and finally, after the week is over, I will test it again. Throughout that, if I am off the mark, I will look for examples of it being done correctly in other peoples' works. After this process, maintaining the drawing fact should be automatic as long as you are running into situations that trigger the usage of the fact.

For example, today you learned specifically the kind of angle the neck has in the side profile for a certain character archetype. At first, you need to make the conscious effort to reuse the fact, so tomorrow you explicitly make sure you do so at least once. So on and so on. After doing this sort of process for a week, you will naturally be able to recognize the fact whenever you are drawing the side profile of said character archetype.

As to why maintaining the fact eventually becomes automatic relates to the usage of the fact itself. When you make usage of something you consider a fact, you will inevitably have to evaluate your drawing to see that you've applied it correctly. At first we are likely to not apply the fact quite right. So you look for examples of it being done well, which provides the crucial feedback for the learning process. At this point, I recommend doing something such as red-lining the fix to your drawing while looking at the references you've found. Such a thing clearly illuminates for our monkey brains the difference between what we've been doing, and what we should have done.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to learning anything, learning what is the wrong thing is just about as good as learning what is the right thing. The science behind this is not quite understood, but it seems to work as if by carving away all the incorrect neural pathways, the proper and correct neural pathway is revealed and becomes emphasized. Basically, you sculpt out your end goal.

Now, finally, at the end of all this, we have inextricably linked the fact to the process of evaluating our drawing. Even without consciously thinking of the fact, we will be able to recognize whenever the drawing is betraying the fact, and when we go to fix it, we will be able to recognize when we have fixed it, because we have done an excellent job of tying the fact to the act of drawing itself.

For such reasons, it is my personal preference and thought that it is better to learn a little at a time, but learn the things well so that you won't have to learn it all over again. You make consistent progress in this way, and also are confident in that you have really learned something damn well, which is a highly motivating thing to have. It also allows you to better focus the goals you take to your drawings, and reduces the fatigue that comes from spending too much on active learning or studying of drawing.

At any time, there is bound to be many things you are not doing as well as you could if you are not a master of drawing said thing. However, we have no choice but to learn things one at a time. So it's almost inevitable that certain parts of a drawing will be recognizably flawed if you are not at the level of an experienced professional; because, well, everything else at the moment is drawn so much better at the current moment compared to the mistakes. Due to no other reason than that you've put the effort into learning to do what you can do, but have not yet put in the effort to do what you cannot do.




Online suuper-san

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Re: 4 main reasons why you can't draw something
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2020, 02:56:42 PM »
Yeah I've been forced to accept that the only true constraint on learning is time itself  - you literally can't learn more than X things per day because there's isnt enough time to cover it properly.

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For that reason, when I have learned something, I make a point to test my ability to apply the information correctly within the week of learning it. So the day after I learn it, I will make use of it again; 3 days after it, I will test my ability to use it again; and finally, after the week is over, I will test it again. Throughout that, if I am off the mark, I will look for examples of it being done correctly in other peoples' works. After this process, maintaining the drawing fact should be automatic as long as you are running into situations that trigger the usage of the fact.
I did attempt this a couple of times, trying to draw figures or faces from memory and it's a good idea, but a real pain to pull off. It's been years since I tried it now, I could probably do a better job, but lately I just spam everything in the hope that it will stick. It seems to work, and requires less management overall, so it has a low overhead.

Partly it's difficult because there are so many aspects to learn, and just organizing what you know and when you should study it next is a really difficult one. A lot of things sort of overlap or are miscellaneous category :P

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For such reasons, it is my personal preference and thought that it is better to learn a little at a time, but learn the things well so that you won't have to learn it all over again.
Yup I'm going to have to agree with that, but I can't say it's worked for me because of actually splitting things into actual lessons of information. I do have study sessions for all sorts of things, like folds of clothing as opposed to clothing designs, textures,material renders and so on. And I try and use what I have studied in the same day. But that's about it.
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