Slow Down – Drawing Foundations

I think one of the most important pieces of advice an artist could give a new artist is to stop trying to go from zero to finished.

Drawing Foundations
Rough work for “Love is Love”


This was a problem for me when getting back into drawing.  I’d open up a drawing program and I’d instantly get frustrated hours later after the artwork I envisioned in my head never materialized. I’d look at something with nonobjective eyes and think oh my god, what the heck is that?  You would think that someone who understands the development process of an animation film or video game as I do, that I’d remember to be patient.  The most beautiful buildings in the world still needs foundation, structures and a team of engineers to make sure that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart and here I am trying to build a coliseum out of toothpicks and good intentions.

But a drawing doesn’t fall apart if you don’t build the structure? Yes, it can. Maybe it won’t be so apparent during the process, but your drawing may look “off” to someone with an untrained eye.  A shoulder may look displaced, a character unbalanced, or the expression might look strange.   Sometimes, what’s wrong with a drawing can be broken down to just not understanding how anatomy works.  Even if you’re just drawing portraits, you still have to understand face bones, muscles, and proportions.   It gets a little more complicated when you throw in objects affected by the body, such as cloth and hair.  You will have to understand how that works too.

My last drawing I worked on was something I wanted to do to celebrate Pride this year.  I had the idea of a group picture, and I wanted them to look like someone took a photo of them while they were all naturally sharing the same space. I had to think about how they were standing and interacting with each other. I had to think about how posture changes when someone leans on you or how you react when someone’s in your personal space.

Drawing foundations rough work
Rough work for ‘Love is Love’


I did use plenty of reference for this drawing, I’m not in the slightest bit ashamed to admit that,  and of course it isn’t the first time where I’ve had to.  I’ve been “observing” people and seeing how they stand, how they lean, how they talk and behave.   There are times, when I’d look at pictures, or just the way people are sitting, and draw stick figures to understand how they’re balanced (the term for this is contrapossto).   For me, I have to remember to go back to these basics.  Slowing down and drawing from reference has helped me. Also, practice. A good deal of practice.

Sara Tepes has a great video that outlines how to improve. Her points are simple, but I agree with every single one of them.

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