Back to Basics

In the Fall I teach drawing classes.  My primary class is Sketchbook Journaling, a how-to course in the basic principles of learning to see line, value, form, and depth. The most important word in that sentence is “see.”  Learning to draw is learning to see.   This often comes as a surprise to new students.  When you stop drawing what you think a daffodil looks like, but instead draw squiggly lines, curved lines, and straight lines where you see them, you’re going to get a bouquet of daffodils.

1 daffs line

The ability to notice details and to observe subtleties and relationships  grows as one gains experience in seeing.   Rather than thinking about three eggs in a white bowl, consider the gentle value shifts between the three round objects set inside a curved shape.  How deep is the bowl?  How do the eggs relate to each other?   Where is the light source?


In order to think about what we see, we have to slow down, look carefully and move deliberately.  There’s a calming, meditative aspect to the focus that’s required in drawing.  Concentrate on each scale of the pine cone and you’ll find that everything else clamoring for attention in your mind disappears.   Relax, breathe, look, draw.  It’s an ideal stress reliever. 


You might think teaching the same ideas over and over would get old after so many years.   Actually, I look forward to this class every time.  I am convinced that regularly reviewing foundational concepts strengthens my owns drawings.  The next series of posts will take up some of these basic concepts.  I hope you’ll find them helpful.






  1. I’m taking a graphite drawing class now from a Gage instructor, and I feel like I recently got a new brain/eyes. 😉 Seeing all kinds of things I never “saw” before. Looking forward to your posts! Everything I learn reinforces everything else I’ve learned!

    – Tina

    1. Thanks, Tina. Yes, isn’t it great how we keep learning and seeing new things? And lo and behold our drawings getting better too! Enjoy that drawing class at Gage. Hope you’ll post some of the work you do.

  2. I couldnt agree more with the “draw what you see”. Trying to sketch what they know instead of what they see is a big a trap for everyone starting drawing.

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