Switching from drawing what you see to constructive drawing.

First post here, so please bear with me!

I've learned to draw from observation to a very mediocre level, having been taught to draw what's in front of me by measuring and breaking it down into shapes etc, and it's always bothered me that I can't draw from my imagination.

I'm trying to address that, work on my perspective and anatomy, draw more constructively, but I'm having trouble switching to this method.

When I'm drawing say a head from reference, or from life, should I be trying to break it down using spheres etc to build it up, more like a loomis head?

At the moment I would just starting drawing, check things to see how they scale/line up against other things, and keep going, tweaking until it's done.

I can't get my head around how I would build an accurate drawing constructively.

Same for perspective, I've tried placing the vanishing point when drawing on the train, and generally ended up with a less accurate drawing due to mis-placing it, would I draw 'through' shapes when drawing constructively, ie, draw a box, rather than just the lines I can see of it?

Sorry for the big post, I'm keen to start learning how to construct my own stuff, I'm just struggling with this concept.

Heya, its good that you're drawing from observation already, it will invaluable as you begin to invent and construct.

I feel the breaking down into simple volumes is not only a matter of technique but as a way of observation?

Try to observe things in the round, as in when you are observing things by measuring shapes, also appreciate how some parts of the shape are deeper or shallower in space.

Say for instance, you are seeing a fellow passenger on a bus or train and he is presenting his side profile to you. Observe how one shoulder is larger than the other as one is closer to you. Now imagine he is wearing a sweater with horizontal stripes, appreciate how the shape of the stripes are changing as they curve around his chest proceeding further away from your eye.

Lets imagine you are studying a face of a person in 3/4 profile on the train. Setting up the vanishing points would be great if you had the time and a large enough surface to do that; if you place the vanishing points too close together, the face ends up being hella distorted (lets further discuss if this is unclear).

A better way, imo, would be to setup the sizes of similar things to suggest depth, the eye that is closer is larger, the shoulder that is closer is larger etc. Next, check to see that you are consistently referencing a fixed eye level.

Say for example an UPRIGHT cylinder, it is above your eye level in the view/scene, it presents its side surfaces to you as well as its bottom surfaces. You will see little or none of its top surface. Now lets imagine the cylinder as a human head with horizontal striped warpaint it XD, the stripes will be more likely to curve upwards like the shape of the letter "n" than that of the letter "u".

Appreciating things you observe in their entirety is half the drawing done I feel.

Sorry for the text wall, I hope it gives you some useful ideas! Best of luck!
Hey dodeqaa, thanks for taking the time to put together such a comprehensive reply.

I hope you don't mind me replying with more confusion!

I get a lot of what you're saying, but it feels like I'm drawing a bit like that already, so as you suggest, I would know from perspective that the nearest eye is bigger (although somehow in a lot of my sketches I still get it wrong!)

What I don't get is, say I'm drawing a car, at the moment, I just look and draw, compare lines and angles as I go, so I know furthest wheel is smaller, I know a straight line will line up on the other side even though I can't see some of it, and I use stuff like that, but essentially it's just lines to me, not forms.

What I don't do is try and draw the cars main basic shapes in perspective, so I wouldn't rough out an elongated cube, and then add more cubes and cylinders in perspective, so I guess I'm not learning much the way I'm doing it?

Same with people, I copy a photo, it's just that. Feels like I get nothing out of it except the practice of copying it, and the odd realisation like 'those tones are much closer than I thought'.

I see people constructing heads like loomis/proko approach, and can't see how to apply that to my studies from life/ref.

Phew! sorry for another massive post. Hope that makes sense.

No worries, takes time to communicate, im good reading it.

Not speaking against constructive drawing, I meant when sketching on a train, there might not be enough time.

Proko and loomis are great methods, I feel it would be more effective to learn applying them using still life of organic objects or in life drawing with a model first. In photos you cant walk around the model to check the form. Once to get the hang of it, try with photos.
If you haven't seen it already, http://drawabox.com and the cntrl-paint (not sure on the spelling of that one, but google should find it?) both have bits on form and construction. I started out the same way, and it was a struggle to figure out the form in objects, both those sites, and funny enough anatomy drawing using the bean shape - proko.com helped with it.

I'm still no where near good at it, but it helped.

dodeqaa - thanks for coming back with that, some of the confusion in my mind is starting to clear a little now, good pointers to work this approach from life initially and then apply to ref, thanks..

punk-a-cat - thanks for the links, I hadn't seen drawabox so I'll check that out - I need to put a schedule together on what to work through first! I've been trying some of the proko stuff, but it just exposed more gaps so I've bounced back to perspective!

Thanks again for the responses, I'm gonna post up a sketchbook and try to work on the basics, hopefully make some progress.
Good luck man! Can;t wait to see how it turns out!
Something really simple I've just started noticing is the difference between drawing from reference, and drawing without looking at reference.

But, there's an inbetween that really helps you think about every stroke you put down! I've found it's really helpful.

1) When I'm drawing from reference, I will look at the image-- Try to commit as much as I can to memory, then I will try not to look at it. (Can be kinda tough).

2) I will try to put the first line/shape down without looking. Then I'll look at the reference image, and correct it.

3) Rinse and repeat until the whole reference is taken down.

After doing that from one reference, I try to do the whole thing without looking-- And I tend to be more successful than I would be if I just drew the reference without thinking about every line!

Just some ideas to help get you into constructively drawing. Thumbs_up

Good luck, and keep at it! You'll get there, as long as you keep trying.


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thanks dodeqaa.

bookend - that sounds like a good approach, I do sometimes try and draw from my memory after a tonne of gestures, but I haven't tried it your way yet - I'll give it a go.

thanks again.


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