Learning to Draw from the Very Beginning

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Every one of us has the ability to draw within; it is something that can be learned. Whether you wish to learn how to draw for its own sake or to learn drawing as a means to aid some other artistic pursuit, there is no doubt that drawing is a beneficial and satisfying activity.

This online drawing class will introduce you to drawing techniques to get you started right now!  You will learn how to begin a drawing, check your drawing’s accuracy and refine your drawings with shading.  You will also have the chance to try different styles of drawing. Annette will introduce each Session with detailed written explanations. Drawing principles will be reinforced with Jill Bay’s video and Claudia Nice’s book (supplied with this Course).  You will choose your own still life object to draw from in two of the lessons. Annette gives valuable guidance and individual critics throughout the Course

Start Date:

January 21, 2014

Course Length:

4 weeks



Course Materials (included with tuition):


Annette Raff (bio)

View Course Schedule


What You’ll Learn:

  • Different styles of drawing – quick sketch, blind contour, detailed drawing
  • Beginning your drawing with block-in shapes, measuring devices and angles
  • Methods and hints to achieving accuracy
  • Learning to interpret what you see with the use of ‘negative’ shapes
  • Using light and shadow to reveal form

Who should take this course:

  • Beginning artists who wish to draw and paint well
  • Artists who wish to improve their observation and drawing skills


  • 4B and 6B graphite pencil
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Drawing pad 11 x 14” approx. (medium or smooth tooth)
  • Retractable Pen Knife (for sharpening charcoal)
  • Pencil Sharpener or retractable pen knife

All assignments must be submitted through the Blackboard System for evaluation.

To expedite responses to questions, contact the instructor via e-mail.


Course Syllabus

Session 1
Part A – Experimenting with Pencil

  • Read Chapter 1 from Claudia Nice’s book “Tools and Marks” pp9 – 16
  • View (0:00 to 02:30 mins) of Jill’s video introduction and experiments with her pencil in making marks on the paper.

Pause the DVD there and begin your own practice making marks on your paper to familiarize yourself with using the pencil in different ways.  Experiment with making dark, medium and light lines by altering the pressure.   Practice ‘cross-hatching’ your lines.  Try ‘smudging’ with your finger.  There is no need to submit these practice marks for homework, as they are your own experiments.

Part B – Three Different Styles of Drawing – Quick Sketch, Blind Contour and Detailed Drawing

  • Read Chapter 2 from Claudia Nice’s Book “Seeing Past Preconceived Ideas” pp21 – 24.

Set your object up so that you have some light and shadow on it.  Take a photo of the object in the exact position in which you plan to draw it from.  You can either draw your object from life or you may print your photograph and draw from that.  Either way, you will need to also send me the photo with your drawing when you submit your homework.

The three methods you should use to draw your subject are listed below:

Method 1 – Quick Sketch or Gesture Sketch

  • View (02:30 to 06:45 mins) of Jill’s video demonstration of drawing a pear and a tomato.
  • Read Claudia Nice’s “Drawing Styles” pp26 – p27.

On page 26 Claudia explains that the quick sketch uses “restated lines and scribbled shadows to capture as much of the subject as possible in a short amount of time”.  Imagine that you are trying to get your information down quickly so that you can go back to your studio and do a more finished drawing.  There is seldom any erasing done in these type of drawings. If you make a mistake just draw the corrected line in darker.  These drawings are used generally for the artist’s information only, although they can often be quite lovely in their own right.  Please note that the “Gesture Sketch” is similar to this and it may help to also read Claudia’s description of it on p32.

Method 2 – Blind Contour

  • Read “Blind Contour Drawings” p28 from Claudia Nice’s book

Claudia’s explanation of Blind Contour on page 26 describes this method as, “…  spontaneous drawing in which the eyes of the artist remain on the subject and the work is completed with little or no eye contact with the drawing surface.”  Re-read p28 and take a look at the example of Claudia’s boots drawing.  This method is concerned more with learning about your subject and ‘really seeing’!.  Take your time to co-ordinate the movement of your eyes around the object with the pen or pencil on your paper very slowly.  Try to keep your pencil on your paper by drawing a continual line rather than ‘stopping’ and ‘starting’ lines.  If you need to look, stop drawing and reposition your pen (only if absolutely necessary) then when you start drawing again do not ‘peek’!  Your drawing should not be accurate in proportion, but should show some evidence of the subject.  This is an excellent warm up exercise!  Remember this drawing should look really ‘weird’ and out of proportion.  It is the doing of this exercise that helps re-wire our brains.  If your drawing doesn’t look out of proportion, I will know that you cheated and ‘looked too much’!

Method 3 – Detailed Drawing

  • Read Chapter 7 pp121 – 125 “Revealing Form through Light and shadow” from Claudia Nice’s book

Claudia’s description of  “Detailed or Refined Drawing” on p26 explains that detailed drawing uses “…lines, marks, smudges and value changes to suggest the subject in a clean, well defined manner.  For this drawing you will need to include pencil shading and/or texture on the object.  You may wish to erase some ‘working’ lines once you have finished.  You may even wish to use an eraser to ‘lift’ some of your highlights.  This drawing will take much longer than the previous two.

Homework assignment – Session 1
Refer to the instructions above and complete 3 separate drawings of your chosen object using each of the 3 methods described. Submit your images of your drawings for evaluation via Blackboard.

As you can only submit one file for each assignment in Blackboard, you must ZIP your files together. Click here and follow this link if you need assistance.
Feel free to post your work in progress in the Critic’s Corner, where you can get feedback from your peers & provide your own feedback for others.

Session 2

Using ‘Block-in’ Method, Lines, Measuring Devices and Angles to Construct Your Drawing
You will be required to firstly:

  • Read the following pages from Claudia Nice’s book

o    “Using Shapes as Building Blocks” pp37 – 43
o    “Finding the Mid-Point in the Height of a Subject” pp62 – 63
o    “Finding the Mid-Point in the Length of a Subject” p68
o     “Verifying Angles” pp90 – 91

  • View the video download demonstration (12:48 to 19:50 mins) of Jill drawing the still life (group of vegetables).
  • Print the photograph supplied of the vegetable still life.

You will be using the methods that are described in the viewing and reading material above and applying these concepts to your own drawing of the vegetable still life from the supplied photo that you have printed.

Hints: When you begin your own drawing.  Try to visualize the complete group of vegetables within a rectangular shape.   While keeping your eye on the subject, lightly pencil in these ‘rough’ working lines just as Jill did.  Your drawing should take up most of the page.  Remember, at this stage these lines are just a guide and you will need to adjust them a little as the drawing develops.  Now draw a central horizontal and vertical line lightly over your drawing just as Jill did.  Begin to add some light ‘block in’ lines to plot in the main shapes of each vegetable.  Keep looking mainly at the photo rather than your drawing to make sure that you are drawing accurate angles on your lines.  For instance, notice the angle of the edge formed at the top of the capsicum on the right.  Also notice the onion is angled in the opposite direction, i.e. to the left.

Optional – If time permits and you wish to do more work on this drawing
You may go on to shade your drawing

  • To do this you will find it helpful to read Claudia’s “Revealing Form Through Light and Shadow” pp 121 – 125

Once your main shapes are in place you may begin shading your vegetables.  It is helpful to ‘squint’ when you are looking at your subject and you will see the shadows and tonal values much easier.  Pay attention to the way the shading follows the ‘form’ of the object.  Compare the values to each other.  Look for the subtle changes in the tonal values.  Complete the shading on your still life objects and the shadows that you can see on the surface of the table.

Homework Assignment – Session 2
Refer to the instructions above and complete 1 drawing of the vegetable still life using the methods described above.  Submit an image of your drawing for evaluation via Blackboard.

Feel free to post your work in progress in the Critic’s Corner, where you can get feedback from your peers & provide your own feedback for others.

Session 3  – Using Negative Shapes to Help Construct a Drawing
You will be required to watch and read the below supplied material prior to beginning your drawing:-

  • Jill Bay’s video demonstration (19:50 to 23:45 mins) of drawing an ivy plant using ‘negative shapes’ (the spaces between things).
  • Read pp54 – 55 “Drawing Negative Shapes” from Claudia Nices book
  • Print the photograph supplied of the Ivy plant

The negative space drawing method (once learned) can be used on its own or in conjunction with our usual way of drawing.  It is a great way to help us check the accuracy of our positive shapes.  It is a very useful way to correct our drawing when we are having trouble interpreting what we see.  If we shift our attention to looking and drawing the negative shapes, we can in turn often correct discrepancies in our positive shapes.

Remember using ‘negative shapes’ is just one of the methods we can use to aid accuracy, just as we used ‘block-in’, lines, measurement and angles.

Usually drawing in a realistic manner consists of the conjunction of several methods combined to help you achieve accuracy.

Homework assignment – Session 3

  • Refer to the instructions above and complete a drawing of the ivy plant using the ‘negative shape’ method.  Photograph or scan your drawing and submit the image via Blackboard for evaluation.

Feel free to post your work in progress in the Critic’s Corner, where you can get feedback from your peers & provide your own feedback for others.

Session 4 – Revealing Form through Light and Shadow

  • You are required to read Chapter 7 “Revealing Form Through Light and Shadow”, pp121 – 125.

In this Session you will study the effects of light and shadow on an object.  You will learn how important light and shadow are in describing the shape of an object.  You are asked to read the supplied material and then find one or two small objects (eg. shells, simple toys, rocks, vegetables, fruit or ornament).  You will need to set each of your objects up in a position where they are strongly illuminated from one side and show shadows on the other.  This may be in the outdoors or from a source of artificial light indoors (try turning off most lights and leaving just one lamp on).  It is best to put a sheet of light colored paper or cloth under your object.  You may choose different settings and lighting for each of your objects if you wish. You will need to photograph each of your objects separately and then draw each object from the printed photograph.

Homework Assignment – Session 4

  • Refer to instructions above.  Complete one or two separate drawing of your own objects each photographed separately under lighting indoors or in sunlight.   Draw and shade your object paying particular attention to the different elements of light and shadow as mentioned on page 123 of Claudia Nice’s book.   Submit your photographs of your objects and your image of your drawings via Blackboard for evaluation.

*As you can only submit one file for each assignment in Blackboard, you must ZIP your files together. Click here and follow this link if you need assistance.

Feel free to post your work in progress in the Critic’s Corner, where you can get feedback from your peers & provide your own feedback for others.

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