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Friday, 16 October 2009

(Revised!) Learn to Draw, Lesson 3: Fantasy beast/animal introduction

Learn to Draw, Lesson 3: 
How to draw a Fantasy Beast - Introduction

Time for another part in the "Learn to Draw" series. First, have you gotten into the daily habit of drawing ANYTHING yet? If not, I suggest you go back and review the first and the second lesson and try establishing a drawing routine. Don't give me the "I don't have time" excuse. Grabbing your sketchbook and filling one page with scribbling doesn't have to take more than a minute a day!

One minute drawing every day is better than not drawing at all.

"But honestly, I work all day and when I get home all I want to do is sit in the couch and watch all those awesome TV programs", you might say. I hear you and I do understand - have two toddlers of my own - BUT most awesome TV programs have commercial breaks, right? There, a golden opportunity to turn off the sound and doodle for a few minutes. Surely you could skip ONE commercial break in order to practice something you want to learn? (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this in the first place, would you?).

The reason it's so important to draw something continuously is that:

By drawing something every day you familiarize yourself and the muscles in your hand with the media (pencil, ink pen etc.) you have chosen. This will lead to a much better control when trying to make those lines actually work together in order to construct an image.

Ok, I assume you are fed up with my preaching, get the point and really feel like drawing now? Great, let's take on a grand, challenging and fun project then: How to draw a fantasy beast/animal. Be aware that this is a real challenge. "How to draw an elven boot" or "How to draw a tower" would be much easier for you to draw and for me to teach. But, although figurative drawing (any drawing including a living creature) is the most challenging of all subjects, it is also the most popular. Finding a finished fantasy painting without any figures is actually really hard. We will make it a somewhat less daunting by drawing from reference however.

How to learn to draw a fantasy beast or animal

Note: This is just an unfinished example from a recent project of what such a beast might look like. For these lessons I will draw a completely new beast, starting from scratch.

I figured we would use the following approach to arrive at our goal for this first project: To do a finished drawing of a fantasy beast or animal. (This time only focusing on the creature, that will be quite enough as you will see).

Here is how I'll teach you how to draw such a creature:
1. I'll pick a reference (for this one probably a plastic model of an animal) and do a first, very rough sketch. The reason we use a reference is that as a beginner it is much easier and instructive to try to "copydraw" something and make it look good instead of trying to come up with something from imagination that looks right. Another reason is that I will use this reference as a foundation when turning the animal into a more fantastic beast.
2. I'll make a finished sketch of the reference as an ordinary animal
3. I'll distort and exaggerate features of the animal, turning it into a finished drawing of a fantasy beast (no background/scenery drawing in this project. One step at a time...)

Ok, by then we will have arrived at a finished fantasy beast drawing. This is where the real teaching starts:

4. I will break down the creature into the basic forms (sphere, cube, cylinder, cone) it consists of

After that:

5. I will teach you how to draw those various forms (including basics in line drawing)

6. I will explain how basic perspective works
7. I will teach you how to use knowledge of perspective in order to construct and shade those various forms in order to create a sense of volume

8. I will apply the same approach in order to explain how to draw and shade the entire figure

Told you it would be challenging, didn't I?

Yes, in order to draw fantasy - which is arguably one of the most challenging art forms - you must be prepared to put in quite some effort in order to learn the very basics. The good news is that:

Once you know the basics (basic shapes, perspective, shading etc.) you can apply that to anything you wish to draw, that is - you can draw anything you see (or can imagine)!

So in the next lesson I'll present a first, rough sketch and talk about how I got there. After that we'll break down the figure into it's diverse building blocks, learning how to draw them from scratch.

"Nooo!!!" I hear you scream. "Have I been reading all this and now he's just referring to the 'next lesson'. I want to draw something. Show me something to draw. Now!" Ok, I know that feeling, that frustrating desire to just skip ahead, past all these foundational stages and just start drawing. The problem is that you don't know what to draw (if you do - by all means, stop reading and start drawing. The only way to improve!) Therefore I have also begun writing a more practical series of simple fantasy drawing exercises, in order to get you drawing that elusive SOMETHING right away. At the same time approaching the more complex shapes that will be demanded in the figure drawing. A "Learn to Draw" Light. I call it Simple fantasy drawing drills and the first exercise can be found here:

I do encourage you to eventually read the entire "Learn to Draw" series though and actually making sure you have fully understood and tried the suggestions/exrcises of a lesson before moving on to the next one. Remember: 

First get into the habit of daily drawing before trying to tackle more advanced subjects. Or be prepared to deal with quite a few frustrating results as the house collapses due to not being built on solid foundations. That's ok - mistakes is what you learn most from - but it can give you an unnecessarily unpleasant start on the way to learning how to draw.

By the way, as soon as you're ready I strongly recommend you to join an online art community and upload your work for feedback. One great, friendly place is the ImagineFX forum. There you can also join the Sketchstorm thread I've initiated in order to provide suggestions on drawing subjects, as well as download great tutorials for free.

If you are already an experienced artist, I can recommend art communities such as ConceptArt and Epilogue .

Best of luck with your practice, don't forget to post comments and feedback so I can improve/change/clarify these lessons.

Happy Drawing!

(This lesson last updated January 2010) 

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