Fundamental Drawing Strategies

Whether you emphasize line or value in your drawings (or both), applying some fundamental drawing strategies to your process will help you enrich your drawing skills and improve your results. Leading figurative artist Jon deMartin offers some tips and tricks you can use regardless of subject or medium…

fundamental drawing strategies jon demartin

Striving, Jon deMartin, 1990, Black and white chalk on toned paper

 

Choosing Your Orientation

Before you begin drawing, you will need to determine whether the height of the subject is greater than its width. If the height exceeds the width, then typically, you would orient the composition vertically. If the width of the subject is greater than its height, orient the composition horizontally.

 

Holding Your Drawing Tool

When you hold your drawing tool, grip it farther back from the point that you would if you were writing a letter. This will help you draw with freer, bolder strokes. If you use chalk, it’s a good idea to use a chalk holder to act as an extension. If you’re holding a small piece of chalk, you may work too much with your wrist; it’s better to work mainly from your shoulder and elbow.

 

Positioning Yourself

Stand or sit straight, far enough away from the subject so that you don’t have to raise or lower your head when looking back and forth between the subject and your drawing. You want to be able to see the subject and your drawing in one glance. This will allow you to make comparisons more effectively
and accurately.

 

Drawing Big

Once you’ve established your orientation, set guidelines on your drawing so that you can fit the drawing within your marks. Get used to drawing larger because it encourages you to draw all parts of your subject. Mistakes are much easier to see at a larger scale, and drawing large has the benefit of allowing you to include the small, beautiful structures of a form. Learning to draw on a large scale makes it easier to draw on a smaller one. The opposite is not true—if you get comfortable drawing small, then drawing large becomes difficult.

 

Sketch the Whole, Not Parts

Make your first sketch with the fewest, lightest lines possible in order to capture the general idea; it’s simply an approximation of what the finished drawing will look like. The universal rule of all drawing is not to finish any single part right away, but to faintly sketch the whole. In other words, you should give a certain visibility to all of the principal parts before finishing any single part. This will enable you to make intelligent and informed corrections. Whatever the stage of a drawing, it should have the same degree of resolution throughout.

 

Keep It Sharp

Always keep the point of your drawing tool as long and as sharp as possible. You’ll be in a good position to make precise and elegant strokes rather than blunt, crude ones.

About Jon deMartin
Jon deMartin is among the leading figurative artists working today. He has taught life drawing and painting for over 22 years at the some of the most reknowned academies and ateliers in the country, and has also exhibited at prestigious national and international galleries. Jon’s first book, Drawing Atelier: The Figure, was published by North Light Books in 2016 is based on his popular series of articles in Drawing magazine. Visit jondemartin.com to learn more.

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