Ok, let’s start with the basics!
The following are exercises–starting with very simple hatching and patterns in pencil, then brush and pen. And with increasing complexity and diversity–may seem simplistic but they are important to improving coordination and hand-eye control.
The more you do them the faster you will improve. The may seem like handwriting exercises in place, in many ways they are similar. Where as with Dynamic Gesture drawing we are targeting learning how to move fluidly, and with traditional Life Drawing classes we study to refine anatomy. Here we want to target fine motor control, repetition, and a intimate understanding of your tools including your own drawing hand.
The goal is to gain great familiarity with patterns. Learn how each can be rendered and stylized by any given implement. Pencil, crayon, brush, pen, even tablet if you plan to be using it. Do these digitally if that is the tool you plan to make your primary.
We use simple patterns so you can focus on the line quality your getting and not thinking about what you are drawing. I also encourage general inventive doodling as part of this regime. ideally this will help you acquire skills useful when drawing fine detail and textures. You are looking to be able to modulate and control the level of detail and precision without too much trouble. In time these practices should lend you the control you will need to make marks with greater intentionality and control and grace.
Check your Grip! There is more than just one way to hold your tools successfully, but you should explor this, see if your usual go to method might be creating problems, and try learning a few to apply in different situations. Covered in depth here.
For pattern exercises, use traditional and Drawing Tripod grips, not extended or any of the others. For this you want to use the fine motor control of your fingers.
Now the first ABCs of drawing exercises is…
Hatches are line made to shade, render texture and form, generally trying to achieve tonal range with line. fill in a row of boxes, or circles if you like, with hatch lines as you see here.
Then, apply Cross Hatching, like this! Try different angles and make note of the effect. Note in the first, draw the longest lines first, then change angle by about 15 degrees and draw half their length for the second row. Then reverse the angle 45 degrees or so and draw only half to two thirds as long. Feather the end of your strokes for a nicer effect.
Now fill long rectangular boxes like this with gradient [dark to light] cross hatches. rendering it in stages as seen here. I’ve used a different colour for each stage so you can see one complete layer from the next. Do the lighter colour/tone first for the most orderly and clean gradient.
In B&W it should look like this…
And now practice a variety of different hatching paterns as seen here!
Look up even more, and try inventing your own too!
And for more notes on the application in drawing of hatching, read About line for tone & value!
First, watch this clip on some basic tips regarding drawing straight lines freehand.
Draw different lengths of lines, as seen here, and then repeat over top of them between 15 and 30 times. The goal is to NOT make the line thicker. To lay each new one as close to directly on top of the last as you can. The shortest line is made with just moving the fingers. Then move on to faster paced strokes and try to keep the line as strait as you can while still making the movement swift and almost gestural.
Then Isolate the stroke to the swinging movements of your wrist for shorter lines, the elbow for longer, and elbow and shoulder for longest! The simpler the movement, fewest joints involved. The cleaner and smoother it’s likely to be. The more muscles and joints involved in making it, the more chances there are for making it jump or bump.
Try doing continuous line drawings of various objects at first, and then people.
These are basicly contour drawings, where we never take our pen off the paper. Ultimately we want them to have an interesting and clean look mostly, though experimentation should be explored!
Once you put the pen on the page, don’t stop and DO NOT erase, just keep going, but think one or two steps ahead of where your hand is in the moment. To up the game a bit sometimes, try doing Blind Contour Drawings!
THINK about where you will need to go, and how to get there interestingly. Trace the edges of the thing with your eye, and copy those movements with your hand. Try to keep your hand and arm relaxed, don’t use tension, in place of control. Ok, covering the last two subjected a bit, is this older clip I did, you can use it to review some of this stuff before moving on to more challenging mediums like brush.
An extension of pattern exercises with an emphasis on control of form.
Start with practicing drawing as perfect a circle as you can with varying speed lines, those seen here are fast, gestural attempts.
At that speed the circles are harder to get evenly round, but it’s still good practice to try. For much slower attempts also try tracing the top of a bottle or a 2$ coin, then trace over that as close as you can several times, using the line as a track.
Just like with the basic line control exercises. Pay attention to the movements you make with your fingers and wrist. For circles roughly larger than 1.8″, 3 cm-the size of a 2$ coin CDN-you’ll need to use your elbow and shoulder more to make a nice smooth circle. Smaller should be doable with just the fingers and wrist. Do that about 10 times at least, then, start drawing lines
Experiment and try to find the speed you can be the most consistent at. Then as you come closer to being able to draw the circles consistently, gradually speed up the pace. Both to find and push your limits.
Do the same with ellipses like as seen on the bottom of the sample page. Try different angles of ellipses. Do a set freehand in a graduated series of angles. As seen at the very bottom.
With all these we’re looking for consistency and accuracy, but don’t stress if they aren’t perfect. This is a lot like handwriting exercises, if you desire a very high level of expertise then expect to practice more often to reach that.
Line the second row up so it’s points meet up with the corners of the base of those above. Then enlarge them in the next row to be twice as wide and repeat. You don’t need to fill them in as i have here on the right, just the outlines.
You’ll know you got it right if the base and points of the larger triangles line up with every peek in the first row. You can lay down a ruled baseline for the first row but do it without guidelines for those that follow below.
Next try to tender ellipses in sets as seen on the left here, drawn as though they lay on a surface at an angle to the eye. This targets angles, and control over proportions as it specifically relates to the optical illusion of perspective.
Draw organic and simple geometric forms.
Then shade them with hatching and other methods. And then use hatching to shade it! Think about the highlights [areas that most directly face the light], midtones, shadow cores where the least light reaches the surface.
The cast shadows thrown on the other side of the object from the lightsource. And reflective light, light that bounces off the surface back to the form. Detailed in this page of studies. For the geometric forms, i’ve given you examples of balls, cubes and cones. Done in both pencil pen and brush. Try it out with a few different shading techniques.
The structures of lighting effects are fairly simple. Where the light hits directly, will be the brightest. Where the least can reach, it will be in the most shadow. Think of the rays of light emanating like lines from the source, where it strikes the object it will be lit, where it can’t reach will be a shadow of some kind. That leads to what breaks down to four zones typically.
Highlights: The brightest areas where the subject is reflecting the light source most efficiently. The number of highlights on a subject is limited only by the number of reflective surfaces on the subject, the number of light sources, and the ability of the surfaces to reflect light. The shape of the highlight depends on the surface of the subject.
Midtones: A tone is midway in between the highlight and the shadow. typically the “true” color and consistency of the object. The highlights are brighter than the “true” color, and the shadows are darker than the “true” color.
Shadows: The darkest area of the surface shadows can have sharp edges between it and the midtone or it can just sort of gradually blend into the midtone. In addition to the shadows on the object itself, there’s also the cast shadow. This is the shadow that the object is making by blocking the light. This shadow may be sharply defined or soft, depending on brightness and proximity of the light casting the shadow.
To up your game next try doing it with some compound forms like this.
Next, for your organic forms, start with an organic silhouette like these. Then imagine and plot out the surface topography with a simple grid as seen here. We’re making this up, i’ve kept them fairly simple while trying to extrude something interesting out of it.
I recommend a very light line when starting, [like using an H2 pencil and don’t press hard] or employ a col-erase pencil like I do here for the mapping of the contours so it doesn’t interfere wit the shading. The lines should look as they have been drawn over the surfaces, following the contours as they change. And again use hatching to shade it! Think about the highlights [areas that most directly face the light], midtones, shadow cores, cast shadows, and reflective light.
In Dynamic Drawing I stress the importance of learning and practicing linear perspective, and more advanced forms beyond single point including my own spin on it all that I call Bifocal Perceptual Curvilinear Perspective. But drawing it using rulers tends to lend itself for a stiffness, and Bifocal Perceptual Curvilinear Perspective is impossible in practical terms to render with ruled lines on the go when sketching.
It’s an big task even at my desk to do. Be it on the go or on the job, learning to be able to see the angles of perspective in your mind’s eye, and freehand draw the various forms without a lot of ruler use, is a must have skill set. This means training up three key skill areas as I see it.
These are the keys along with understanding the underlying structural principles of perspective, to drawing with it well. To that end, one the right is an example of a practice sheet geared for developing your perspective abilities. Copy it directly the first time, but feel free to adapt it to other patterns and forms to up your game in repeated attempts.
Brownie points: After you nail the ellipses in perspective, aside from doing different angles of them, try doing it with something else, more complicated?
Practice them flat once or twice, then draw them on an inclining angle! It looks gorgons and bad-ass to be able to draw tile work like that. 🙂
The top row: Use grid intersections as fixed vanishing points. draw a 2d form, and then extruded it into two or three point perspective shapes. Stacking repeating forms or trying to build up more complicated ones is a good way to expand your skills. Don’t be afraid to as I did with the race car in the top right of the frame. You can see from the sketched in guidelines, I attempted to extrapolate to an unmarked vanishing point off the page. Rotating and object like the race car is a good way to test and exercise your ability to freehand in either an aesthetically pleasing, or very realistic way. But don’t try to do it with a race car right away. First start with an ellipse, at an angle, and then extrapolate it out to a rod, as I did next to the race car. Then find it’s center, and rotate it at least once, if not multiple times. Sketching in the new potions over the old one. Don’t erase anything, you want to be able to see the lines doing this to better estimate the changes you’re making.
Below on the Left: Freehand ellipses drawing, carefully rendered to get progressively larger, in a stepped pattern, to induce the illusion of perspective.
On the Right: simple diagonal lines, filled in using a stepping technique we’ll cover how to do these for best results in class.
And in the Middle, using the same kind of stepping technique, but adding an angle to the second line, and mirroring for the third. And then filling in the rest in the same stepped pattern used for the bottom right pattern.
These should both help with the kind of rendering control regular pattern practices do, but also help you see how the non radiating lines make a flat surface we can see as being on a 45 ish degree angle – as with Isometric Perspective.
The radial lines suggest a vanishing point a foot or more off the page I was drawing them on, and are good angles to try to memorize for when we draw things like the planes attacking in this image.
And the ellipse practice, in addition to being a good drawing control exercise, also helps us teach our hand-eye coordination to see and render surfaces as described by 2 dimensional patterns
Brownie points: Once you’ve made your 3D cubes and Thor’s Hammer, try to “skin” them with patterns you’ve been practicing laid over the surface of the objects in 3D, using value and lighting! Here’s a realistic image of a wood cube for example done in time lapse. Youtuber Alphonso Dunn has a great series of clips on this. Watch this, and this and this, and this, for some ideas of how to integrate pattern exercises with perspective practice to make both more fun, and learn to integrate them convincingly to suit your style.
Because it’s arguably the most dynamic drawing tool there is, I like to introduce my students to using a brush with ink! Historically this sort of thing is done with a small 2-3 brush, and a bottle of ink. But for ease of use, I recomend something like the Pentel Pocket Brush!! That’s what i used to do the examples posted first here!
Some of these are basicly hatching again, with the edition of feathering. The Key to brush work compared to drawing with pen or pencil, is knowing there’s an absence of tactile feedback when you are in contact with the paper, you can’t just press down, that will only make thick and blotchy lines.
You MUST use your eyes, watch where the brush makes contact, and control how much of it is in contact with the paper to control the line value/thickness. I like to say that when we draw with dry mediums like a pencil, we can feel the paper, and just have to think about the X and Y axis on the page to move the line around most of the time. But even then being away of the Z axis will give your lines a lot more subtly of expression, and for a soft medium like Brush or crayon, it can make all the difference between artful, and crude mark making.
Here’s a few from the classic Famous Artists Cartoon Course as well. Be it naturalistic looking hair, plants, or highly decorative wallpaper, the ability to render patterns at all pays off big time. And practicing them is a great meditative way to increase your hand eye control and develop the focus you’ll need for your more ambitions drawings.
Apply the notion of deliberate practice. Start with the paterns you see in the sample sheet and then move on to invent and discover your own. For Ideas check out some I’ve posted here on the Dynamic Drawing site. Look for paterns around you day to day, sketch them or take a photo and add them to your next practice session. Or if you’re solving the problem in the middle of a drawing, pull out some scrap paper and try it out a few time on that in a systematic fashion before applying it to your final art. I’ve included a clip showing how to make some of these live by example.
Update: More specific pattern work and strokes with a Brush! I’ve made a clip deconstructing an example of work by Milton Caniff. These were done with a Kuretake No. 8 Fountain Brush Pen.
It goes along with a pair of videos, embedded in a playlist below. The first is a time lapse of my inking it, the second a breach down of the specific strokes and techniques used. I also made this sheet of specific brush patterns to study and practice as well.
As you accomplish the initial goals of some degree of consistency, and control, entertain thinking about line quality more diversely.
Here’s a simple kind of glossary of Line Characteristics: [In the course of looking for good examples of ways to present this information, I’ve taken some strong notes from this interesting post on process by Gareth Sleightholme. Thanks for helping me refine by example, a good hierarchical presentation on this!].
Width – thick, thin, tapering, uneven: Length – long, short, continuous, broken: Direction– horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curving, perpendicular, oblique, parallel, radial, zigzag
Focus: Lines can be sharp, blurry, fuzzy, choppy. Feeling: Line can feel sharp, jagged, graceful, smooth? Have you seen this old short animated film?
Outlines: Lines made by the edge of an object or its silhouette. They can be definite, implied, graphic, or delicate. Note how all these modes of description can overlap? Yes that’s relevant to think about!
Contour Lines: Related to outlines but additionally describe the shape of an object and the interior detail. Contours find the edges of things across a surface, as well as the edges.
Gesture Lines: Lines that are energetic and catch a sense of the movement of an active figure. In our class we work on these a lot as a quick study sketching constraint. There are really two kinds of Gesture drawing, and a third use of the term ‘gestural line’. 1. ‘Full’ Gesture, scribbly lines that tend towards almost wild, drawn with speed typically, suggesting movement through forms rather than structure or contour as much. 2. ‘Line of action’, a distilled form of gesture line, typically one stroke, or a few, more designed and clarified than the previous. Seen used in animation and illustration a lot. Describes movement through a pose still but simplified. 3. Gestural lines, these can be contour or hatching, any line on a finished piece of art. But they have a very fluid or graceful feeling. Expressive, relaxed, ‘gestural’!
Hatching: Lines used in repeating patterns to create areas of tone/value, and/or texture. They tend to convey surface textures and lighting values. And by implication reveal form.
Drafted Lines: Confident and clear lines that appear unhesitating and smooth, sometimes bold but always clear and sharp. Lines that feel architectural or designed typically.
Sketchy Lines: Lines that capture the appearance of an object or impression of a place in an often looser, more general way, but combining many of the previous together. If you haven’t found it already, check out the blog of fellow Syn Studio teacher Marc Holmes for some amazing examples of sketching, and you’ll find my own collections of sketches, here, and as video here.
Calligraphic Lines: See also general term ‘Gestural lines’. Calligraphic is a Greek word meaning “beautiful writing.” Precise, elegant handwriting or lettering done by hand, or artwork that has a flowing quality and lines like an elegant handwriting. Some of the greatest illustrators work in a line like this frequently. And I think of the mark-making philosophy Paul Pope applies to his art, as having a Gestural, Calligraphic Feeling. I think Mike Mattesi’s ideas about Force also intersect with this with again a very Gestural carved and designed feeling.
Implied Line: Derived from our innate human disposition towards patternicity is our ability to “fill in gaps”. See between marks, identifiable elements. Also called Loss Line, it can be simple as leaving a space where we expect a line, as we see by these silhouettes by droemar on DevArt. It can occur compositionally as well, by arranging a group of objects. The Implied line can be the direction object[s] are pointing to, or the direction a person is looking at, the “Eyeline”.
Tangents: The impression of a line, or the continuation of one, created by aligned graphic relationships. The li8ne itself may be absent for part or all of it’s path.
Inking with a new pocket brush, and ink that’s running a bit too heavy for fine lines, I do the same as you would with a dip brush.
Feathering View on Instagram
Applications of irregular patterns in drawing. View on Instagram