The Importance of Careful Observation With Your Drawings

Drawing and the Importance of Careful Observation To Become a Master in Drawing.

Picasso Cubist Head Painting
Picasso Cubism. Getty

 Drawing and the Importance of Careful Observation For Fast Sketching Masterpieces!

To become a professional, skilled artist, you need to build your ability to see something once, retain the visual information you get from that quick glance, and translate the image to paper. This power of artistic perception will be invaluable to you if you hope to pursue art as a career.

There is a great deal of intuition involved in on-the-go artistry. You need to be able to factor in things like light, negative space, depth, and proportion after the fact rather than on-site if you want to be able to draw things fast and accurately.

Learning the properties of light is something you can study in a book and by gazing at a sunset. The other stuff, like the details of the things you’re looking at, is something you simply need to remember. To build in this artistic memory, you need to grow your observational skills.

To see where you’re at, why not put those skills to the test?

Draw a familiar object that you see every day. Now, it can’t be something you can see right now! That’s cheating. You have to do this from memory. It could be your car, bike, phone, computer or saucepan on the stove. Draw in all the fine details that you can remember. 

Now, let’s wander over to your subject and see how well you did. How many details have you left out? How many have you remembered? More than likely your drawing will be far from the real thing. It’s hard to remember small details like all of the knobs on your stove, the buttons on a coat, or the hooks on a hat rack.

You probably thought you were spot-on while you were drawing, but the instant you were looking at the real thing, well... You have some work to do.

That’s why growing your ability to look and retain visual information is vital to grow as an artist. It’s also why being able to put in shadows and highlights by feeling rather than from a live model is essential.

No one will know if you invented the light source in your drawing, but anyone familiar with the thing you draw will notice if you leave out a knob or button.

So, to improve this skill, start small. Pick something simple like an egg, vase, or piece of fruit. The essential part here it to pick something you’re really familiar with. Don’t go out and buy some exotic fruit that you’ve never seen before. It helps to start with some mental picture of the object rather than start from zero.

Now, get a feel for its volume, perspective, and the surrounding negative shapes. Next, examine it carefully. Study how light curves around it; how shadows sit on its surface; how it reflects light; where it touches the surface it’s sitting on. The third step is to do step one and step two from different angles and viewpoints. Basically, try your hardest to commit this one object to memory.

The more you do this with various things, the better you’ll be at quickly and subconsciously picking up all the necessary details any time you glace at something you want to draw. Just like you don’t have to really pay attention when you tie your shoes, soon you’ll have as much practice when it comes to remembering the important visual elements of an object.

The last and hardest step in building your powers of perception is being self-critical. While you can always go to someone else and have them tell you whether or not what you’ve drawn is “good,” that doesn’t actually improve this facet of art creation. You have to be able to spot your own mistakes and shortcomings in order to change and improve your work. Having someone else point them out is not as effective as recognizing them yourself unless your critique or tutor is a true master in the art of drawing and you can see he/she has definitely mastered this art form.

So, to help this process along, stick your drawing in a drawer for a few days, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll see it differently. How does the drawing look when you view it without the subject nearby for direct comparison?

And how does the drawing look when you can glance directly from it to the original? This is the most vital stage of your learning process.

This helps build your critical eye, and your critical eye is the element that helps you catalog all of the relevant information when you’re doing a quick study. Plus, it gives you insight into the details you’re prone to forgetting. Did you draw the same dresser five times and forget the key hole every time? Now you know you need to work when it comes to remembering tiny details. Did you draw the tree line behind your house, fitting in every leaf but forgetting an entire limb? Now you know that you need to work on capturing the big-picture shape before you get caught up in the little stuff. Details only go in after the “big picture” is in place!

Improving as an artist means always having your eyes open and your mind switched on. Your visual memory is something you can strengthen. Just as you can build your arm strength by doing push-ups, you can build your image recall ability by doing these activities. These skills are not developed overnight; it does take time and perseverance to become a master in the art of drawing.

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Your Citation
Mumford, Jon. "The Importance of Careful Observation With Your Drawings." ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2016, Mumford, Jon. (2016, May 8). The Importance of Careful Observation With Your Drawings. Retrieved from Mumford, Jon. "The Importance of Careful Observation With Your Drawings." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 22, 2017).