10 Tips For Cool Drawing From Observation
When faced with a subject of cool drawing, our brain records 1000 pieces of information and tends to want to transcribe everything. We are then tempted to start with “one end” and directly tackle the details of “this end” without having had an overview of the subject. Then we get lost a bit and we have trouble bringing the different ends together in a coherent whole. If this echoes what you’ve been through, I invite you to read these few tips for cool drawing any subject from observation. These tips are not ordered in the form of steps but to be integrated throughout the process, although some follow a certain chronological logic.
Tip # 1: We start by representing the large masses by looking at the place they occupy.
We help each other by also looking at the voids between the large masses and the edges of the paper (in other words, the framing that we have chosen). This is easier when one line drawing tutorial from a photo or when using a viewfinder whose aperture is proportional to the cool drawing sheet. But in any case, the question to ask is: how much space do I want my subject to take upon the sheet?
The shape of the voids helps us to place our subject on the sheet and to draw the solid ones (the masses). We place a few first marks in the space of the sheet. These features are not all definitive and can be erased or readjusted. It is therefore advisable to have a light hand on these first lines. Some can be just imaginary landmarks that will be erased or covered (for example the axes of a body to capture movement).
The subject is placed by simplifying the shapes. We try to capture the overall shape of the subject and the space it occupies on the sheet.
Tip # 2: At the start, we simplify the shape of the large masses into geometric shapes
We try to get closer to the geometric shapes of objects or elements at first. For example, the pump on the left in the image above looks more like a triangle. Later, each time you are lost it may be useful to return to the simplified form of the element before specifying it. Once the large masses are installed on the entire sheet with the right proportions, we can start to specify the shapes.
The subject is gradually clarified on the whole. Observe the small cross (or point) in the ballerina which indicates the middle of the composition (the photo is not centered but the point is in the middle;)).
Tip # 3: We give ourselves benchmarks:
- Where is the middle of my subject? We draw an imaginary vertical and a horizontal which intersect the subject in its middle (we use the handle of a brush placed in front of the directing eye while closing the other). Once the middle is located, we will arrange it so that it corresponds approximately to the middle of the cool drawing ideas. In my example, the middle is at the level of the ballerina (see the cross in the image above).
- We can define a standard measure that will be used to evaluate the relationships between the different shapes. For example, if it is a portrait, we measure with the handle of the brush and the thumb the height of ahead and we see how this measurement cuts out the other parts of the body. In our still life of shoes, a stallion measurement may be the widest width of the ballerina that I compare to other shapes.
- We continue to observe the voids (even small) which give us an indication of the distances between the masses (see for example in the image below the void between the pump, the slipper, and the ballerina, or the “pointed void”” Between the ankle boot and the ballerina).
Tip # 4: Observe the links between the elements.
We do not only look at each element individually but also at the other elements that surround it. All the elements of a subject are linked, and their arrangement gives a coherent whole. This is what we are trying to achieve in the observation cool drawing. Observing the points of contact between the different elements (where they touch) also helps to place the design correctly. You can also connect the different elements with imaginary lines. For example, in a portrait, if I draw a vertical from the corner of the eye downwards, where is this vertical about the mouth (etc.)? In my example, if I draw a horizontal from the top right end of the ballerina, where does it cut the bootie (etc.)?
To spot what is wrong, two tips:
- Go back and forth quickly with the eyes between the model and the cool drawing, a bit like the 7 errors game. After a while, the errors appear.
- Look at his cool drawing in a mirror: errors are generally obvious to us.
Tip # 5: We avoid internally “naming” what we draw.
This is to avoid the interference of the brain which pushes us to no longer look at our subject (see on this subject the article “how to look well in cool drawing”). We speak rather in terms of lines that rise, which falls, we identify the shapes which do not refer to any identifiable symbol (voids, spots, lines, curves…).
Tip # 6: Take your time on the overall cool drawing.
Even if you want to start painting (for painters) or details. Unless you want to deviate from the model completely and embark on an intuitive painting, it is better to spend time on the composition of the forms. Even if the cool drawing continues with the painting, the time spent in establishing these benchmarks, in soaking up the subject, will greatly facilitate the work. And the more complex the subject, the more necessary it is. In our example of still life, there is no point in starting to draw the laces until you are sure of the shape of each shoe and their relationship to each other (where they intersect, touch each other, the voids that connect them).
Tip # 7: How much detail should you go to in the cool drawing?
I will say it depends on the topic and your intention behind it. If your main focus is light work, the design will not need to be precise in terms of the shapes. If it is about recognizing the face of a loved one, then the cool drawing of the face will be more precise. It’s up to you to place the cursor according to what you are looking for.
Tip # 8: Once the design is in place, we work on the entire design (shadows and light, coloring…) always from general to particular.
This means that you do not start the details of a part before having passed the first layer on the whole. Everything should gradually become clearer on the whole drawing/painting. As if you could stop it at any time and get a cohesive whole. Why? Because each part reacts to its environment. For example, a subject may appear very dark and contrasting before painting the background, and very bland afterward…
A tip for starting painting while maintaining overall consistency is to paint local colors first with a colored wash. The local color of a subject is its base color without highlights and shadows or textural effects. We have the impression of coloring but it can be reassuring at the beginning and the work of the following layers will be easier.
Tip # 9: Take the time to observe your subject
And yes, it’s trivial but it’s the key to observational cool drawing: before you grab your pencil and start cool drawing, ask yourself the questions in points 1 to 4 (what are the large masses? is it the middle of my cool drawing? What standard measure could I use to assess the proportions between the different elements? What is the shape of the main voids? Where the objects intersect…). This will greatly facilitate the drawing.
Tip # 10: As an athlete, consider each cool drawing as a workout
Allow yourself the possibility of making mistakes, of not always being in top form, of not being satisfied every time. It is through training that you will become a champion of observation cool drawing!