This blog is about learning. I am asked numerous questions about: how to draw, how to paint, creating characters, drawing animals, how to use watercolour and gouache, what kind of pencils I use, what crosshatching is, and how to do perspective. The list goes on.
People have many reasons for wanting to learn an art form. It may be because they want to go to an art school and so they tell me that they “need to learn everything!” One person I talked with wants to learn how to draw dogs. Another wants to finally understand perspective. Yet another wants to eventually teach art and give back to the community. These are all completely understandable reasons for learning art.
I graduated with a degree in Art History and decided that I wouldn’t be a very good art historian if I didn’t know how to draw or paint. And so I enrolled in a figurative drawing class. I spent the next four years learning how to draw the human form. By year five I dived into painting. By year twelve I was learning about comic art and cartooning. I am now in my twenty-second year of art learning and it will continue. Every year I take a course on something that is interesting to me and that forwards my learning. I also spend a lot of time reading books about painting and drawing and about specific materials.
At this stage of my career, I look for the little nuggets of wisdom in a class or a book. For instance, in an Extreme Anatomy course I learned that the space between the fourth finger and the pinky was slightly bigger than between the other fingers. Understanding that little bit of information allowed me to improve my hand drawings in both traditional drawing and comic drawing. It is these little nuggets that are so important.
At the start of every class I teach I ask my new students who have taken drawing before: “What do you remember from your last teacher?” The most common answer is: “nothing.” Wow. They remember nothing of what they were taught. I find this totally unacceptable.
In teaching core fundamentals, I strive to teach elements that the students will remember. My teacher – 22 years ago – taught me these things and I in turn, teach my students.
- Draw lightly
- Draw general to specific
- Learn to draw through your mistakes
Obviously, there are more lessons that I teach. But these are the three elements of basic drawing that I repeat over and over again. I hope if my students are asked by another teacher: “What did you learn from M-J Kelley?” they will remember these three elements.