25 Days to Better Drawings: Drawing with Forms

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Lesson Discussion

  1. Is this like creating a grid of say, a square and a triangle, to slot the pieces in? (I can’t “see” the cube, but I can see the square).

  2. Golly, that’s great. I wish you would demo a skull defining the shapes … personally I think it might be an easier approach on a skull than the three forms imagined?

  3. Hi Matt,

    I’m loving this course and am struggling with something so I’m thought I’d ask you to see if you have any suggestions. I feel I need to practice – not necessarily move onto the next lesson, but take all these new skills and draw everything over & over & over.

    But – the same old problem happens when I try to take these new skills and draw something on my own – I can’t. I just plumb can’t. I seem to get to the same point and stop. Somehow I’m not yet able to take what you’re teaching and apply it on my own.

    So I just re-watch you drawing these same few items and draw them over & over. Which is great, but I feel that at some point, I should be able to transfer these skills to drawing something on my own. Maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation?

    I am mystified as how when I follow along with you drawing the jack, a jack actually appears on my page!!!! a 3-d jack!!! I swear it’s a miracle. I watch you, I hear you, I copy you, and yet – I swear it’s magic. I want to try that on my own!! And when I try – fail. over & over & over. I just can’t seem to:

    1. find anything to draw (Houston, we have a problem)
    2. see what I need to do to make this (whatever I’m drawing) look more like what I’m trying to draw – meaning If I try to draw a lamp it’s always going to be drawn the same crappy way – I can’t see what I can’t see – what tweaks do I need to make in order for this thing to look more like what I’m drawing
    3. reach an ah-ha

    I want to be able to turn you off and draw something in my environment, yet every time I do that I get so stuck I just stop trying and go onto a different activity thinking that tomorrow for sure things will be different – and they’re not.

    It’s like I just need to check what I’m doing against what you’re doing and make corrections as I go otherwise I just end up with some really “bad” drawing – the same kinds of drawings I did before I started with VI. There are no ah-ha moments when I draw without watching you, yet. I’m expecting them – maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation. I’m defining a “bad” drawing as a drawing drawn the same way I’ve always done it – bad = no development, no insights, no ah-ha.

    I’ve wanted to type this message every day for 2 weeks, and keep telling myself Kathy, just draw & you’ll get better. But I’m not drawing and I’m not getting better so I’m asking – do you have any suggestions for how I can get over this hump?

    Should I keep moving on in the lessons when I’m unable to replicate a jack-like item on my own?

    I suspect I’m way too up in my head, but here I am! 🙂 Can you help get me out?

    Do I just draw crappy drawings until one day I’ll “get” it? Is that how one learns how to draw?

    Thanks so much,

    • Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your honest question/comment. This is not unusual and you’re not alone. I wish I could tell you how many “crappy” drawings I’ve made – they’re too many to count. Unfortunately there isn’t a light switch that we can flick that will make us great at drawing. It does take time.

      It is the concepts that are most important to learn. Once you have them in your head, then they guide the decisions that you make. Unfortunately, they don’t always stick the first time so repetition helps.

      Too many beginning artists believe that there is a simple step by step approach to drawing things. There isn’t. An artist or teacher can show you the steps they take and you see them and replicate them with success. But you must get all of those concepts in your head before you can do the same thing. So, the more that you practice with your own subjects, while remembering and applying the concepts, the more that they’ll stick. But this takes time for most people. Every bad drawing that you make is another step towards a great one. The steps are slow, but you’ll get there.

      This course presents these concepts in baby steps, each day presenting a new one – but all of the concepts together lead to great drawings – not on their own. You will eventually learn to put all of the concepts together and soon it will become almost “mindless”. But you have to give it time and practice, practice, practice.

      And when you practice, remember that you’re not practicing drawing a specific subject, but instead practicing a specific concept. The subject is really irrelevant. For example, this lesson is about piecing forms together (like piecing shapes together) to create more complex forms. I could have chosen any subject, but the concept would still be the same.

      As for the other issues that you’re having…

      1. Draw anything. It doesn’t matter what you draw, just draw something – from observation. You need to find objects that you can look at of course. They can be anything. Look on a desk, a stapler, a pen, a sketchbook, a phone, whatever. Look outside your window – a tree, a car, bushes, people, etc. Anything can be a subject. Remember, you are practicing concepts – not actually drawing the subjects. (I have drawn 1000s of small drawings in sketchbooks over the years.)

      It’s a little like how we learn math – the teacher tells us (or told us years ago) how multiplication works. But we don’t know how to really do it until we do all of those problems they assign for homework. One problem isn’t usually enough, so they gives us 50, 100, or more. The repetition makes us understand and soon, multiplication becomes “mindless”.

      Here’s another analogy – let’s take basketball for example. Someone may show you how to dribble a ball. But it’s not until you actually practice dribbling the ball that you’re able to do it. Dribbling is just one small part of a game of basketball. It is an important concept, but you can’t expect to play in the game if all you can do is dribble.

      2. When we look at the objects around us, we may understand what they are. Our left brains take care of that. But what we actually see are abstract things. These abstract things are the elements of art – line, shape, form, value, texture, color, and space. And these are the things we should look for and then draw. So when you look at a lamp, forget that it’s a lamp – your left brain will get in the way. Instead look for the lines, the values, the textures, the shapes, etc. Draw these things and piece them together. This is the essence of drawing. When you train yourself to do this, then you will be able to draw anything that you like. That’s when you’ll have a major “a ha” moment. Everything will seem possible.

      3. “A ha moments” will come but they never hit me directly in the face. It was more gradual for me. As I learned and developed, I didn’t always notice it. Sometimes, it’s not until you look back at drawings that you created before that you see how far you’ve come.

      Perhaps you’ve heard me compare drawing and painting to a journey. This is no accident. It is a journey – one that continues on and on. My journey certainly isn’t complete.

      Imagine that on this journey, you’re walking on a path. Sometimes, you take small steps while sometimes the steps are more like leaps. Occasionally the path is downhill and walking is easy. Sometimes it’s uphill and it’s slow and tiring. Sometimes, you feel like you’re not moving at all or even moving backwards. This is all part of the journey. You must keep moving forward if the destination is important to you. The journey itself is rewarding – because it’s not easy – it is a challenge – a wonderful challenge. The best accomplishments in life only come after overcoming adversity and putting in the work that others avoid or make excuses to avoid.

      Continue on and try to absorb the concepts. Really try to discern the concept from the subject. Practice the concept with different objects until you fully understand it – not necessarily after you’ve created a perfect drawing. The concept is the most important thing, remember. Eventually, the quality in your drawings follows, but only after the concepts are understood.

      Here’s a little progression from a member, just posted the other day on the forum. It’s great because it shows the same subject as she practiced and studied. Notice how her understanding of the concepts increased as she progressed, even introducing color…https://community.thevirtualinstructor.com/t/portrait-progression/151

  4. Hello Matt,

    I hope you can feel this big virtual hug I’m giving you. Thank you. I feel like the universe has given me this (weird) deep desire to learn to draw, and then introduced me to the exact teacher (you!) to teach me.

    What you’ve written is oh so juicy and helpful, thank you. I will re-read it many times.

    Thank you for reminding me I’m on a journey.

    Thank you for reminding me that it is exactly this challenge, this journey from “I can’t do this” to “oh holy cow I just did that” that I love. I mean really love. I wonder if I could find a way to enjoy walking the path…

    I’m so willing to do the work, thank you for helping me out of my head and for pointing me in a helpful direction. I’m picking up my pencil (my Derwent H – hey, look at that! I’ve learned which pencil & brand to start with & why!), and I know exactly what I will practice – I’m going to ” practice the concepts with different subjects until you fully understand it”.

    I’m off for some happy practicing. Thank you so so so so much.

  5. I appreciate the discussion between Kathy and Matt. We are on a journey! I can see the cube and understand the concept that you are providing Matt.. but my brain does let me create a cube! I have practiced, practiced.. and will continue to do so. Matt, I stumbled upon you also and so grateful I did. I enjoy your easy teaching style.. happy I can go back and listen to your courses over again.. and have the references to review.

  6. Your hatching lines appear so fine. Mine look much bulkier. Any tips how how to get a narrower stroke? Also, what are you using to sharpen your pencil?

  7. Holy cow, I felt this was a huge jump in difficulty! Very intimidated when I started and really didn’t think I’d be able to do anything even remotely like it. That said, I did pull of a more “ape’ish” looking skull but at least you can hopefully tell it’s a skull. I keep pressing on though. Thank you for making me realize drawing is a skill I can obtain. I’ve been intimidated by my older siblings who all had the art instruction before me (I was fifth and for some reason didn’t get those art lessons). I have a long way to go but one day at a time.

  8. Hello, Matt. I really like your step by step art teaching method and your words of encouragement. I’ve learned so much thanks to you. By the way, my skull drawing came out pretty nice.

  9. Hi Matt, All is going well. Great lessons and videos. Many thanks!
    I must laugh when you say that you keep the lesson down to around an hour and I do appreciate it. It’s down for an hour for you but a couple of hours for me. LOL

  10. I am 71 and I have always been interested in art mostly painting with oil. I have drawn from sight and intuition although not great but it got me by. When I turn 70 I lost my art as I explained to those around me. I have been a member for a long time and just didn’t use your classes, My ah ha moment was when I saw this class and thought I haven’t taken the time to learn how to draw and because I my intuition is not what it was, so I thought I’d learn as if I have never spent 50 years muddling through. So far it is working great and I feel am on a more solid ground. I would never tackle drawing a skull, I did and will keep working your form method. Thank for being there and offering your art to help others. Oh yeah Its more than an hour for me also 🙂

  11. I have the H. HB, 2B, 4B pencils, and I also have some mechanical pencils. What relationship does the .03 and .05 and .07 have to the H, HB, etc.? Are they interchangeable in some way? Can I use one of the mechanical.03, say, for the H? Or is there some other reason for the decibel numbers on mechanical pencils?

  12. I found the drawings from lesson 10 to lesson 11 a big jump for me. I was feeling pretty confident after lesson 10 drawing basic forms and shading them but not so much with lesson 11. It felt very complicated even though I was breaking it into the basic parts. It made me feel like giving up. Should I persevere with this lesson and complete the skull or move on if it is frustrating me?

  13. Matt said two things that stand out for me 1) “It doesn’t have to be perfect” – my effort(s) sure wasn’t 2) “It’s a drawing not a photograph” – my work looked something like a drawing and nothing like a photograph.
    This is a really difficult exercise for me and what surprised me was getting the aspects of the cube and funnel correct.
    Did the drawing twice (it improved) and will revisit for two more attempts tomorrow.

  14. Love this way of breaking the skull down , I watch your video’s first with full on attention then go back to have a go ! I find this really helps , it also helps me to remember too !
    As always your professional manner & structure really are second to none , you have been an absolute inspiration.

  15. This day is hard for me. HARD! I started this course before, a year ago, and this is where I quit. I do not see the shapes. Or I do no see the same shapes as the instructors. It isn’t just this course. I clicked on a class to draw a bird breaking it down into basic shapes. I was going to try it, then the instructor started to sketch out what shapes he saw in the bird and I was way off. I just cannot see it. This is the instruction I need, though if I want to be able to draw. I am going to read the other comments and see if anyone else struggles as I do. Maybe I can gain some insight that way. I even bought a skull the other day to practice drawing with. It’s going to take a lot of practice and patience from me.

  16. I found this particular lesson very difficult. I didn’t like the subject, so I didn’t enjoy drawing it. I decided not to think of it as a skull, only as a drawing concept. I also put in the table edge from behind the skull so it wasn’t floating about. In the end, it looked more like a zombie, hahahaha! I finished it and learned from the exercise, which is what is important.

  17. Hi Matt, I am really enjoying these lessons, you are a terrific teacher! Thank you so much. I have not quite finished this lesson yet, I still have to add some shading lines, but I was pretty pleased when I got in the basic forms and started to add just a couple of contrast lines for the outside shape and my daughter walked by and said “OMG you are drawing people now!” I think it was great that she recognized the shape. I cannot get over how much I have learned in just a few lessons. I am concerned about “ruining” my drawing by adding some of the shading and value lines but I also realize I need to do it to progress and I can always draw it again later. Thanks again for being an awesome teacher.

  18. WOW I actually drew a scull and it turned out pretty good!

    Matt you are a great instructor. I find the concepts are easy to follow and replicate. I was actually looking at my foot today and was dividing it into forms and in my mind I saw how to draw my foot! and it wasn’t a difficult concept. Actually, I think I am going to do that before I take your next lesson…

    I am REALLY having a great time and enjoying myself. Leaning so much. You make drawing easy with easy to understand concepts. I have painted before but never received formal training and already I am amazed at what I can do with what I have learned. I could never just look at something, draw it, and have the proportions come out right. I am getting the hang of this!

    My ultimate goal is to draw a portrait of my beloved father who passed 7 years ago. any suggestions what other course I should take to be able to do that after I finish this course? Portraits are rather a challenge for me.

    thank you, so glad I found your classes!

  19. I am totally enjoying the opportunity to learn that I can draw. The yearly price is a steal. But don’t tell Matt that. I am a retired school teacher. This is giving my days a big boost. Thanks.

  20. This one was hard for me. found my proportions were out of wack. Going to have find some more examples and practice using these forms.
    Thanks Matt

  21. No one in their right mind
    Would think that you could go from drawing simple shapes in lesson 10 to drawing a skull in lesson 11. From the other comments I see that others agree with me! I don’t like skulls! So after watching you, I decided to sleep on it. This afternoon I decided to try it. I was totally amazed at the way it turned out! I went ahead and did a full value study. Yes, it took several hours to get it done, but it was worth every minute!
    Thank you,Matt! You are an amazing teacher!

  22. My son loves skulls. I’m going to give the drawing to him. Maybe??? I want to learn how to draw people. Knowing how to draw the underlying structure will be a great asset! Not to mention that between drawing this skull and the water glass, I feel like you have given me a bullet proof vest! I can try ANYTHING!!!

  23. Hi Matt,

    I’m doing this 25 Days to Better Drawing, love it 😉. On this skull subject I got a little carried away 😛. A bit more than 1 hour. I would like to know if reference photos are copyright free. Thank you!

  24. Wow this was 🤜🤛 so much different then drawing with shapes, but i managed its not perfect of course but practice is the key.
    Now when i go on a holiday i take my drawing pad with me and draw things i see, i get more and more confident during this course. Thank you so much Matt, you are the pefect teacher and 1 i needed 👌

  25. I struggle to get proportions and angles correct which is the reason I started this course, but so far I am still no wiser on how to improve that specific point. So drawing this skull feels very discouraging.

  26. Hi Matt. Just started 25 days. Got to the drawing of the skull and I froze. I did not think I could do this. I skipped a day, and practiced past lessons. Next day, took a deep breath and followed the process. The drawing came out.better than expected! I surprised my self and accepted the challenge. Thank you. Your lessons are excellent.

  27. This lesson was a leap for me. I’ve always just looked for shapes not form. My skull came out pretty well, and I am eager to try this approach on my own with different subjects to cement the concept into my repertoire of seeing and drawing . Another great lesson, really enjoying this course.

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