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How to use shadows and lights

Shadow and shade

The three types of light

  1. Sunlight
  2. Ordinary daylight
  3. Artificial light

Sun light and shadows

The sun creates a very different light and shadow depending if the sky is clear or overcast but also on the time of day and the position in the sky. The colours

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and shadows at sunrise and sunset are very different than those at midday. When the sun is low on the horizon the shadows will be long, colours of objects will inherit the warm reds, oranges and yellows of the sun. On a clear day objects will have a sharp and dark shadow, however if the weather is overcast, the shadows become less contrasted and the edges are less distinct. The time of day will affect the length of the shadow, in the morning and evening the shadows are long, whilst at midday they are short.

Artifical light

Diffused light, dark, light, effects, contrast, brightness, texture, strokes, lines. When lighting an object you want to do draw, limit yourself to one source of light for the time being. Once you have completely mastered the basics we are discussing here you can move on to more complex forms of lighting.


What is contrast ? Contrast is difference between the light and dark areas in a painting or drawing.

Learning perspective and view points

3D box

The nine typical viewpoints

There are nine typical views which will help you many a time. Try to fix these views in your mind by practising as much as you can, first by referring to the model and then gradually on your own.

The 9 typical views of frontal perspective. There are 9 boxes in front of both of these figures. Note that the numbers, from one illustration to the other, are a mirror reflection since the viewpoint represented on the right is that of one or other of the figures facing us on the left. Boxes 4 to 6 straddle the horizon line, so their upper and lower sides will not be visible.

The aspect and number of sides presented by the boxes will of course be the same for the two spectators. Only the floor plan will be seen differently, but this is not what concerns us here. Up to now we have been looking at boxes made of opaque material and with only one, two or three sides visible to us.

But if the boxes were to become transparent, you would be able to see all the other sides and represent them by drawing their edges, even if they are concealed.

You will note that the observations we made in the three preceding pictures remain valid for the sides which were hidden:

  • The vertical lines of the boxes remain vertical in the drawing
  • The horizontal lines perpendicular to the visual ray remain horizontal
  • The horizontal lines parallel to the visual ray all converge on the principal point

If you look at the central box, you see very clearly that the side perpendicular to your visual ray – the front side – is much larger than the rear side. This is an optical phenomenon that one comes across time after time.

This observation seems obvious enough but please remember one very important notion which can be summarised as follows:

The further away an object (or shape), the smaller its size as it appears to us.

Why is this the case?

An illuminated object emits rays in all directions. Each point of the object emits numerous rays, some of which move towards our eyes. Only the rays which reach the crystalline lens are “seen” by our eye. Those that do attain the crystalline lens pass through it and are deflected. The optical properties of the lenses cause all the rays to converge on a single point on the retina. So we can simplify our diagrams by concentrating solely on the ray which passes the focus of the crystalline lens (grey star) and is not deflected. In this way we can determine the place where the image of a point is projected on the retina.

According to this principle, when an object is in front of your eyes, it is “printed” on your retina upside down, like this red triangle.

Each reflected point of an object will follow a trajectory equivalent to the point passing through the focus of the crystalline lens.

The coloured stars dotted around this drawing will follow the same optical principle before appearing on the retina. Thus, as seen by your eye, the red star will be below the blue star and the yellow star above it, whereas in reality it is the other way round.

If several points are situated along the same “path”, they will be situated one behind the other as far as your eye is concerned, and you will see only one of them – the point nearest to you.

The points reflected by the objects constitute in their entirety the “picture” projected on your retina. Look at this illustration. The two grey bars marked respectively by a red star and a green star are two objects of the same size situated at two different distances from an observer. They could just as easily represent two vertical poles as a slanting view of two railway sleepers.

By looking at the trajectories of the luminous rays reaching the retina, we understand very well that the object furthest away is projected in a smaller size on the retina than the nearest object.

The apparently diminishing size of the more distant objects is an additional observation which will help you make a convincing representation of reality.

Learning perspective

3D box

How to use perspective.

Although we live a world with three dimensions, you only have two dimensions when drawing a picture on paper. The third dimension, the one that will give depth to the painting, sketch, draft or whatever is created by using the rules of perspective. Even if you are only sketching still-life objects on a table, you’ll need to understand and master the principles of persepctive. Learn the difference between a plan, elevation and perspective.

Compare the human eye to a camera.

Understanding perspective

A guide to drawing perspective

  • Viewoints
  • The horizon
  • Planes
  • Altitude
  • Angle of view

Drawing objects which are parallel in a landscape. How subjects move from the foreground to the background to give depth.

The visual ray and principal point, the horizon line, plane, natural horizon, vanishing point, viewpoint are some of the terms used in perspective.

Here are three views of a shed – seen from above, face on, and a three-quarter view. The first drawing is seen in (plan) outline, the second is (an elevation) elevated and the third is in perspective. In the first picture we can make out the vegetation but we can’t recognise the chimney or rather (determine) the height of the chimney. In the second picture, we can appreciate the height of the chimney but it is difficult to grasp the exact position of the vegetation. The last picture shows as much as the other two put together, but what really counts is that this is the only drawing which gives a certain sense of depth, the impression that the hut is in right in front of you, that it has a certain reality about it and that it takes up a certain volume in space.

Do you like grammar? Neither do I! Nobody – apart from the odd specialist – is particularly interested in grammar. We accept that it helps us to express ourselves better (provided that we don’t have to reach for the grammar book before we dare open our mouths)! We conjugate verbs and construct sentences entirely automatically and without thinking about it. We’re able to do this because we’ve listened to these same grammatical constructions literally thousands of time.

It’s much the same thing with perspective. In itself, the science of perspective is of little interest to most of us. We are only interested in it insofar as it can help us to draw better. In other words, there are two ways of approaching perspective: the scientific or theoretical way and the practical way. With the theoretical approach, you’ll learn a set of abstract rules and you can be sure you’ll very quickly get bored.

So of course I suggest that we approach the question of artistic perspective from a practical point of view. All you have to do is to observe what I show you with a minimum of attention and you will learn the secrets of perspective quite naturally.

It would be possible to do without perspective but it would be a great pity. Perspective is the most powerful way of lending realism and depth to your drawings and of making them more striking. Without perspective, the means at your disposal (your results) would be limited. Here’s why.

Perspective is a hidden but vital element of a landscape, an object or a portrait. It is in fact an optical illusion that applies to everything you see. Remember that drawing is not the same as sculpting. The challenge facing you is to reproduce on a flat sheet of paper something which in fact possesses a third dimension: depth. I repeat, perspective is merely an optical illusion applied to everything you look at. That’s why we need to know a little about how the eye works.

Historically, it was some time before artists came to terms with perspective. A lot of medieval works of art are very beautiful but they show things as they are and not as the eye sees them.

You can see the logic at work in this illustration. The chessboard is seen without relief but the pieces on the board are seen in profile and turned in the direction in which they are set up on the board. The capitals of the columns are practically represented in cross-section. And the women are rather curiously positioned. In other words there are several different “points of view” in the same picture, and it’s rather off-putting.

This Turkish miniature dating from 1720 is another example of a partial lack of perspective. Once again, several different points of view are merged into a single picture. And we notice that that the horses furthest away are as large as those in the foreground. In perspective they would, of course, be smaller.

How the view deceives the eye This winding road seems to get smaller and smaller as it moves away from our point of observation. In actual fact, of course, the width is always the same – otherwise there wouldn’t be enough room for the cars! Looking at this picture, we get the impression that the two rails will end up by joining together. Visually speaking, this is true, but visually speaking only. Reason and the eye are engaged in an endless combat Reason tells the brain: “These rails are parallel and horizontal”. The eye says to the brain: “As you can see, the rails climb towards the sky and become thinner towards the top”. The brain replies: “The rails are always parallel otherwise the trains would be derailed. But I don’t want to use my reason. I want to draw so I’ll listen to what the eye tells me. As you’ll see, it’s always difficult to forget our knowledge of things when we try to transcribe them. And yet we must learn to concentrate exclusively on visual perception. You are confronted by a landscape, stretching out before your eyes towards the horizon. Your brain registers the depth which moves from the foreground into the distance. You have no problem in placing what you see to your left and right onto the left and right sides of the sheet of paper. But how are you going to render the depth?

Here are three suggestions which you can use separately or together. 1. Draw the trees close to you in front of those which are further away – this will have the effect of hiding part of them. 2. Draw the trees further away from you more lightly; this will give an effect of distance. 3. Draw the trees in the distance smaller than the ones close to you. Don’t make a special effort to remember these three tips; just observe how they are present in this drawing.

Look at this picture for a moment. This time it’s an indoor scene and there’s a certain impression of depth. We might even suppose that the artist was situated just a few feet from the figures. Can you see how the three ideas I mentioned above have been incorporated in the picture so as to render the depth?

Is the outdoor scenery painted in more lightly than the rest of the scene? Yes. Do the figures in the foreground partly conceal those further back? Yes. Are the figures further back smaller than those in front? No, not at all. The size of the figures is dictated solely by their age and build.

It’s the perspective which gives the impression of depth; it represents the room not as it really is but as the eye perceives it. Drawing in perspective is really the art of drawing “wrong” so that the (end) result seems “right”. Or to put it another way, it’s the art of closing one eye so as to see better. Let me explain. First of all, let’s take another look at the picture. You’ll be able to make the same observations in a minute when you look round the room you happen to be in. The walls are at right angles to each other, there’s a window with small panes, a door and a tiled floor. Look at the lines formed by the edges, the ridges and the corners of the walls and windows, or the stone tiles. The lines are for the most part vertical or horizontal and are perpendicular to each other. This is perfectly natural since the architect has designed everything at right angles, and the builder has used a plumb line, a set square and a spirit level in order to respect the architect’s plan. It would really be too good to be true if things were as easy as that for the drawer.

If you superimpose a piece of tracing paper marked with white horizontal lines on the picture, and then trace in blue the vertical lines visible on the picture, you will notice something rather curious. The vertical lines are indeed vertical. But the horizontal lines in the picture are quite different from those on the grid. They slant off in different directions. The artist has distorted the objects by using these diagonal lines to put them in perspective. But how are you going to attack this problem when you have to deal with this kind of drawing?

How to draw water

Water, Running water, Reflections, River water movements, Ripples and waves, The seaside, Underwater, Rocks


Water always gives an aesthetic touch to a landscape drawing or painting. But, just like the clouds in the sky, water can assume so many different forms and we really need to start by putting our thoughts in order. Remember, water is a fluid: it runs, flows, jumps, gushes and spurts.

Depending on its movement, its own or its reflected colour can change completely. You will doubtless have noticed how a stretch of water which appears dark blue one morning may become green or grey as the day wears on. The influence of the sky is often at work here.buy commercial wrecking ball inflatable

As you know, of course, you cannot rely on the pencil to reproduce colours, so once again you will need to think and observe in terms of values.

Stretches of water. This category will include the sea, lakes, ponds, canals (not strictly speaking running water), puddles and all other forms of static water. In the absence of wind, these waters are nothing more nor less than mirrors forcing you to draw he same subject twice, once the right way up and once “upside down”. That is actually not strictly speaking true since, as you know, the reflection of an object is never entirely identical to the object – or rather, it is the same thing but seen from a different angle.

The module on how to construct reflections in perspectives deals, I hope, with this question fairly clearly so I suggest that we confine ourselves here to the shapes and tones which water can take.

Running water

Streams, rivers, all kinds of waterfall large and small, all natural or artificial spillways fall into the category of running water. Whenever their shape alters their reflections change as well. When you learn to observe a stream, you notice how the water flowing against a rock winds itself in a continuous movement giving the illusion of an unchanging aspect.

We learn that the particles of water making up this border and then a series of wavelets going round an obstacle are in fact in constant movement. And yet we look upon the whole as something more solid, like a sort of vitreous paste left to cool. A photograph which fixes or freezes running water sometimes gives this unreal look to a mass of undulating water.

But in your drawing are you going to emphasise or downplay this special effect?

The photographer’s choice

An accomplished photographer can easily lengthen or reduce the camera’s shutter speed, and when he takes a photo of a waterfall he can choose his exposure time. The result is a different photograph each time. If the exposure time is short the waterfall will be “frozen”, showing thousands of clearly defined drops of water separated from each other like glass marbles rendered elongated by their movement. But in the case of a longer exposure time, several successive positions of each drop will be superimposed on the role of film, thereby creating a plethora of light marks indicating the direction of their movement. The result is a certain blur due to the speed at which the drops move. This result will undoubtedly be more realistic and close to what is perceived by the naked eye.

If you opt for this second approach you will render the effect of blur and movement through lines running parallel to the movement of the water. Don’t overdo this effect or else you run the risk of lapsing into convention. Remember, you are not trying to emulate the cartoon approach where movement is indicated by the lines situated behind the objects. This convention which works very well in comic strip drawings would be entirely out of place in a landscape drawing.

Tonality of reflections in still water In rendering the reflection of an object, you will be at pains to observe the general tonality of what is reflected compared to the original. In many instances, the whole is a little darker and a little less contrasted, but this not always the case. With water, there is sometimes a light mist serving to “bleach” the entire range of tones of the reflected part.

This observation is important for getting you on the right track, but once you have decided whether the reflection is lighter or darker, stick to your guns and be consistent in your range of tones.