"I can't draw a straight line with a ruler."

   I cringe when I hear that.

    I know it's just a colorful way of saying that  you can't draw. But rulers and the ability to use them have nothing to do with art or being able to draw. In fact, manual dexterity has very little to do with accurate drawing. Drawing is simply the process of understanding what you are looking at and explaining what you have learned by putting marks on paper. If you can't understand what you are looking at, all the straight lines -- or tidy curved lines -- in the world won't make an accurate drawing.
Watch and Goblet, pencil drawing by Kyla MacLane
    What do I mean by understand? I mean the ability to determine the direction, shape, and proportions of what you are looking at. Those are the primary considerations. After you have them right, you then want to understand the light and shadow and shading, the color, texture and weight. A sophisticated drawing also shows the artist's understanding of such things as the density of the object, it's level of animation, temperature, the effects of gravity, how it might move and in what direction and the sound it would make on its own or when touched or tapped.

    But the essential things, again, are location, direction, proportions and shape. If you don't have those right, anything extra you
Goblet and Watch, by drawing student Kyla MacLane, 15
do to your drawing won't make it accurate. Here, briefly, is how to make a drawing:
The first thing to decide is where on you paper your subject goes. The subject can be a person's head, an animal, a still life, a figure -- anything. Start by putting a light horizontal line on your paper where the highest point of the subject will be. Then a light line where the lowest point will be. Then one for the left side, then one for the right. You will hae made a square or a rectangle. Your subject will fit within these lines.
    Then draw a verticle line down the center of this "box," then a hoizontal line across the center. Everything in your drawing will either be above or below the horizontal line and either right or left of the vertical line.

    Then decide the direction of the subject. Is it ttilting to the left of  the vertical line or to the right. By how much? Make a light line that represents this tilt. Make it so it it runs through the center of the subject. You can also make a line perpendicular to it. These are very important lines: everything in your drawing must relate to them. For instance, if you subject is a head and it tilts about five degrees to the left, the the center line of the nose must also tilt the same amount to the left. And the centerline of the mouth and the eyes must be perpendicular to it. (Advanced artists know that there are discrepencies between the two sides of the face and they will take those into account, but these descrepencies are in relation to the tilt lines.)

    Next, determine the proportions of the subject? Is it taller than it is wide or the reverse? By how much? Twice? Three times? One and one quarter times? Draw a light box representing  the proportions. This will fit within the first box you drew and will be slanted according to the slant lines you drew.

    Then you have to decide the general shape of the subject. Is it a more of a circle, triangle, rectangle or square? Is it wider at the top or the bottom? Does it go in or out at the middle? Don't worry about the details at this point, only the basic shape.

It may be hard to follow this on paper, but all of the above would take just a few minutes  in a class at TLT.

Drawing is hard. Art is hard, but you can learn to draw. I hate to sound like a TV commercial, but I Guarantee It. If you take a drawing class at TLT and feel you havent really learned, there will be no charge.

--Michael Vitale

Drawing Schedule and Times: Summer Classes
  • Beginning and Continuing Drawing, Children 10 yrs. and up: contact*
  • Beginning and Continuing Drawing, Adults (& Teens) contact*
  • Drawing for Teachers (Free to Public and Parochial School teachers in Benicia Area)  contact*
  • Figure Drawing, Teens/Adults: contact if interested NEW
  • Portrait Making, Teens/Adults: contact if interested.

  • *If these times don't work for you, schedule your own class. All we need is a total of three students and an opening in our schedule. Please contact to arrange.

All Drawing Class fees per four- week session:
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  • All materials and use of equipment included in fee
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Last updated  May 24, 2010