Start by Tracing

When I teach drawing I always start out by having the students trace something.  Everyone can trace.  It’s a no-brainer.  Just put the pencil along the edge and follow it around the shape.   Whether you’re tracing your hand, a leaf or a cookie cutter, the action is familiar and easy.

164hand              164snowman

Now, see what happens if you take your eye instead of the pencil and go around the outline of  the object you traced.  Make your eye do the tracing.  This is the first step in learning to see.  Your eyes can trace just as easily as your pencil.  Then, carefully tracing your object a second time with your eyes, pick up your pencil and make it follow your eyes.  You’re drawing!

This might take a little practice.  I recommend taking several simple objects and looking at them carefully, first with your eyes, then let the pencil follow your eyes.    What if you have something that’s not so easy to trace on paper – like this cucumber?


Set the cucumber in front of you and, holding your pencil in the air, close one eye and move the pencil around the outline.   It’s still a kind of tracing,   Then,  using your eyes to trace the outline of the cucumber, make your pencil go where your eyes go.


That’s all there is to it.  Really!  If you could hold a piece of glass  or a clear plastic in front of a scene you’d like to draw, you could literally trace whatever scene you wanted to draw on the clear surface.  Wherever you are, whatever you’re drawing, simply make your pencil go where your eyes go.   With practice it will become easier to let your eyes tell you where to put your lines.

Yes, there’s more to drawing, but always the first step is to really see your subject.


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