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The Big Secret to Learning How to Draw:


In the Beginning... You see an apple, and you draw an apple. You look at your drawing, and it's utter crap. It looks nothing like the real thing, and you wonder why. "Hey, a real apple is red and round. My drawing is red and round. Huh. What's wrong?"

You draw some more apples. Many times.

And finally, one day, you have a Eureka! moment. You realize, *d'oh!* a real apple isn't entirely round! It's wider at the top, narrower underneath. It's got funky little lumps at the bottom. It's got a dip like a crazy deep belly button at the very top. You draw another apple. The result is better, but it's still crap. Much nicer crap than before, but still.... Hmm.

You draw more apples. Repeat.

Another day of drawing, another Eureka! moment. Hello! The red isn't really red. This particular apple is slightly darker than true red. And it's got some tiny tan spots on it. And at the top, the red turns into a pale green color near the stem. You draw an apple once again. And hey, it's getting close, but still not quite there. And you wonder why.

So you keep drawing and drawing, blah blah, repeat.

And one day, after you've been drawing apples to the point where you never want to eat an apple ever again, you realize.... Holy crud! The redness of the apple shifts with lighting! There's a circular white spot for hard light sources. There's a softer, fuzzier light reddish orange spot for softer light sources. Back to the drawing board. The apple drawing is getting pretty good now, but still not quite right. Geez, how long does it take to learn to draw a friggin' apple anyway?

Blah blah, more drawing....

... Texture! You forgot texture! Little bumps on the surface! It's not perfectly smooth! Aha! But...how to draw those bumps? Hmm.... Oh! Those bumps show up as color shifts! You mix some lighter reds with the subtle, darker red splotches. You break up the highlights a bit so that they're not just round white circles. They're slightly irregular circles, and sometimes they have little satellite circles surrounding the main highlight circle. And while we're at it, those green streaks near the top of the apple sometimes spread out a little in a star-like pattern, although it's really faint, and the color at the tips of the stars look more orange or yellow than green. And hey, since we're looking closely, this apple is so shiny, you don't just see highlight from lights on it. You can actually vaguely see a reflection of the rest of the kitchen on it. The shapes are really vague and they don't affect the color much, but they're there. Just a slight hint of shadow on the apple surface. And oh! The apple is on a white table, and the reflection of the table is visible on the lower half of the apple as a hint of lighter red. And at the edge of the apple, that reflected color is a bit stronger so that it actually causes a near-white outline on the bottom half of the shape of the apple. Woaaah, never noticed all that stuff before! Seriously, there's hardly a single large spot on this apple that is uniform in color! So much to think about in such a simple object! (And at this point, your roommate walks in and wonders why you're staring at this apple, titillated, like you just met the love of your life.)

So now, you can draw an apple wonderfully when you're looking at it. But you go to draw it without a real life model or a photo reference, and it looks like crap again. *headdesk* So what's wrong?

Uh-huh. You don't know the apple as well as you think you do. So you go look at more apples, and you obsessively try to memorize them. You study different kinds and note how they vary in color and shape. You compare to see how different apples are similar to each other, and how they're completely different.

Meanwhile, you keep drawing apples.

And one glorious day, you realize you can draw an apple from memory, and it looks pretty damned good! Yay!

... And then you realize YEARS have gone by. D-:

It didn't happen in a day. It didn't happen in a week. And you are disheartened, thinking that you must be the world's biggest idiot if it takes you YEARS to learn to draw a stoopid apple. (Never mind a more complicated shape like a human! Or a human in a dynamic pose! Or a human in a dynamic pose standing in front of a crazy background with nutty perspective! And multiple light sources! Aaaargh. Time to crawl back into bed and never come out. Ha ha.)

But I digress....

Yeah, why did it take so long to learn? Hmm. Maybe all along, while you were drawing them incorrectly, your brain was slowly learning and assimilating and percolating. And part of the process is to collect bits of data and munch on them for a bit. That mental munching takes time. And without the time, you wouldn't have had those Eureka! moments because your brain wouldn't have been ready to make the leap just yet.

The years you spent, they have nothing to do with how simple the form of an apple is. They have everything to do with developing a different way of seeing the world. Seriously. Congratulate yourself! You didn't spend years learning to draw a piece of fruit! You spent years learning how to see in AN ENTIRELY NEW WAY. And learning a new way to see is quite an accomplishment. Because now, if you want to draw something else, like, say, a banana... You won't have to spend years learning it like you did with the apple. It'll only take a short amount of time to learn because the groundwork has already been done. Your brain knows how to approach the task now.

That new vision is what takes time. And that new vision and understanding is what you can't get just from mindlessly reading a book or doing a tutorial. Those resources can help, but only if you put forth the effort and actually bother to think while you're using them.

And sadly, so many people don't seem to get it. They think there's some Ultra Secret Shortcut to learning how to draw. If a tutorial doesn't help, they think they're simply using the wrong tutorial, and they go off in search of the right one, not knowing that they'll probably never find it, and they'll just be disappointed.

And all along, the answers are in their own head if they'd only put in the effort and the time. But hey, some people can barely wait 5 minutes for a burger at the drive-thru. Asking for years of dedication's just absurd. Especially when you've got Wonderful Things like Photoshop and Magic Tutorials. Right? *..... sigh.*

:-P
Sorry for posting this twice, but some people requested it as a deviation.

Thanks for the all the positive response on this! Would love to comment more, but I'm off to attend a wedding! Will edit this properly later. :)

EDIT:

Wow, I can't believe how many people have actually read this monstrous entry all the way through. Thank you!

I just posted it so that I could be lazy and refer people to this instead of having to explain this stuff over and over. It's just too much to type out. :p


To Beginners:

I know it's frustrating when you ask people how to draw, and they tell you "practice" or "draw from life". People aren't trying to be jerks when they tell you that. It's just that techniques and media really don't matter quite as much, since preferences for those vary a great deal from artist to artist. I hope this answers your question a little bit more clearly.

And obviously, it's not literally just about apples. I just used apples as an easy example. I've only scratched the surface though. There's much more than just the stuff I mentioned here. But it's a start, at least.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconemosstink1:
emosstink1 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is soo true!
Reply
:iconvalentine345:
Valentine345 Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2013
thank you
Reply
:iconmeimei808:
meimei808 Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is wonderful. :heart:
Reply
:iconsparklin-poop:
Sparklin-Poop Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2010  Hobbyist Artist
Wow. Just wow.
With this, I think I'm ready to start my journey
to acquiring that "new vision" that you
were talking about.
Reply
:iconntsd-applejuice:
NTSD-Applejuice Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm not so sure if you have gotten my mssg, so here it comes again


Great story! I would love to use post it on my blog! Ofcourse I will give credits to you etc.
Reply
:icontristan-the-dreamer:
Tristan-the-Dreamer Featured By Owner May 10, 2010  Student Traditional Artist
Sadly, I believe this deviant has died.
Reply
:iconntsd-applejuice:
NTSD-Applejuice Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, thanks.
Reply
:iconntsd-applejuice:
NTSD-Applejuice Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I was wondering if I could post your story on my blog, Justphotoshopping. Ofcourse I will credit to you etc.
Reply
:iconzoe-the-rune-wolf:
Zoe-the-Rune-Wolf Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Truth,hence,amazing!

i get asked for tutorials,first off,im no teacher,second,give yourself a couple years-not 5 minutes cl

Thank you so much for writing this!my thoughts,but in text of awesome proportions!
Reply
:icondragnixianfireheart:
DragnixianFireheart Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2010
This made me smile very widely. It's true! So many people have asked me to give them lessons on drawing, and I really can't. They have to first gain that artist's vision, which takes a LOOOOOOOONG time.
Reply
:iconstrykewolf:
StrykeWolf Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2010
luv it :)
Reply
:iconorangeyyy:
Orangeyyy Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2010  Student Traditional Artist
LOVE IT!
Reply
:iconcherryhobbit:
cherryhobbit Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2009
This is so true. I'm so glad you wrote this. I think I have a new appreciation for apples now XD
Reply
:iconnoctuart:
Noctuart Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Kyaaaaahhhhh!!!!! This is like my life story, lol XD even the part about your roommate walking in on you... 'cept that was my dad and I was drawing the apples in our kitchen for art class *laughs* XD Still, it does take a lot of hard work to become a good artist, hehe, I once locked myself in a dark bathroom with some lamps and a bunch of still life objects just to study the effects of multiple light sources! *laughs some more* My family was REALLY ticked off about that one... anyway, great story, I'm definitely faving this one. XD
Reply
:icongrimnim:
grimnim Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2009
now i want to see your picture of the apple
Reply
:iconosarcastico:
oSarcastiCo Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
My friend just showed this to me. I've been feeling really bad about my artistic abilities recently, even though I'm in art school right now. She mentioned she had an essay on here to show me, and this was it. It made me feel better.

*fav*

Thanks for writing this.
Reply
:iconbendzz:
bendzz Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2009
It's not THAT difficult... I'd say people should just start with outlines and copying drawings, that's what I did and I learned insanely fast.
Reply
:iconcatmaniac8x:
Catmaniac8x Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2009  Student Digital Artist
So true! You want to draw something, you gotta keep working at it, you have to be really commited, and involved! Only it wasn't apples for me, it was cats, not entirely realistic but it took me since 2003 to draw cats pretty well, and I'm still trying to figure out how to make them more realistic but still have a cartoon edge to them. Some recent changes include the eye positioning and coloring,and the back legs look more like real cats's back legs. I think I'm keeping my cats this way now...but who knows, I might figure something else out that improves their appearence! ^^
Reply
:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2009
Yes. This is entirely true.

I think where a lot of people stop and say no is at the line between light hobby and serious hobby/profession. I will never make money off my drawings, and I never intend to try--for me, tutorials and using myself as a pose model in the mirror works just fine, because I only want to be good enough to get basic ideas across. I want to show someone else a sketch of a character and have them be able to draw it the way I want it, the way I imagine it. I've tried to paint pictures with words, because that is my preferred medium, but I'm not good enough at it yet and need visuals to help get my meaning across.

For someone who's serious about art, they should be drawing the apple. They should be doing it their entire lives, because it's what they love to do and have always wanted to do. For professional work, there are no shortcuts. Just remember that most people are nowhere near that serious, and don't want to spend all their time learning.
Reply
:icondezuleh:
dezuleh Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2009
HECK YEAH! I recently found a stash of really old drawings I did and spent all day just comparing and looking at how much better I've gotten.

I still have a lot to learn, of course; but that's exactly what makes art so fun.
Reply
:iconirunwithwolves:
irunwithwolves Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2009
wow... that was rlly kool! its an interesting veiw on things and i liked ur example with the apple :D im definatly gonna fav this one! :)
Reply
:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
That is brilliantly put and so true!
Reply
:iconfrai7ty:
Frai7ty Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2009  Hobbyist Interface Designer
I agree wholeheartedly.
Reply
:iconsangis:
sangis Featured By Owner May 19, 2009  Student General Artist
After having read the first two thirds, I thought I won't ever be able to look at an apple again.
But, of course, the point of this piece is beyond apples.
Or crumpled sheets of paper.

Thank you for putting all this unspoken truth into words. :heart:
Reply
:iconredchinese:
redchinese Featured By Owner May 16, 2009  Student General Artist
i have to agree with you there, i just wish there was a more concrete way of judging how far ones come, and how far i still to go
*sigh* but thats the learning process isn't? lol
always back to dedicating life to it, no matter where we are in the process or how long it takes.

really i'm kinda glad in a way that human beings have yet to find a limit to how realistic, how well we can keep making reality to unreality (cause images and art in my opinions are windows and mirrors, comprehensible to only the fickle thing we call the human mind)!
this is a very good post :)
Reply
:iconchillayfox73:
ChillayFox73 Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2009
Genius. Pure, Dynamic genius.
Reply
:iconphoenix-61:
Phoenix-61 Featured By Owner May 24, 2009  Student General Artist
I don't know about that - I could just immediately draw after I had cracked my skull in a motorbike accident... But with practise it has been getting better - and even at the start I could copy pictures with perfection.
Reply
:iconlennethkeen:
LennethKeen Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2009
i'm sure the whole world already said this to you, but this is the best text i've ever read.

just a few days ago i was talking to my friend and blabbering about "oh i suck i'll never be able to draw like the artists i watch" then she just said "practice".

yeah, that word is annoying and true. i found my old drawings that same day and i realized that in just one year i managed to improve a lot. that inspired me to continue drawing and it was like a relaxing note "you don't need to try to learn everything in just one day".

you little text about apples helped me a lot, thanks ^^
Reply
:iconkai-pinata:
KaI-PiNATA Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2009
This is so amazing and I'd like to think, that even though you're not reading these in person, all the kind things deviants have sent you are still reaching you wherever you are and you are still creating as many beautiful pieces as possible. Even though you may never ever read this, I want you to know that this is so inspirational and it is going on my wall and I am sending a copy to my art teacher. ^_^ Thank you, and rest in peace.
Reply
:iconexonfang:
Exonfang Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2009   Digital Artist
I'm favoriting this because it is 100% true.

You're an amazing artist, and writer. Though you will never read this, may your soul rest in peace.
Reply
:iconkirari-kitsune:
Kirari-kitsune Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
I feel really inspired after reading this. :heart:
It shows there's always something new to learn and do, and I love HOW you said what you did.
Amazing.<3
Reply
:iconinsanefastone:
insanefastone Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
A friend linked this to me, and I must say that this is the best piece of drawing advice I've ever heard.
I'll have to remember this for when people ask me how I draw the things I do.
Reply
:icondarkw1ng:
darkw1ng Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
Pretty much how I started this whole drawing artise stuff!! It helps when you just start with an apple as weird has it sounds...

But I think that's how a lot of us start out is by doing the simple stuff first all the basics.
Reply
:iconla-la-historia:
la-la-Historia Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2009
:hug:
Reply
:iconghostlymarionette:
ghostlymarionette Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
i totally agree!
thank you for posting this.
Reply
:icongargomon251:
Gargomon251 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
Wow, I'm never drawing again.
Reply
:iconinetgrafx:
inetgrafx Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
both thumbs up for that writing! Makes absolutely sense ...
Thanks a lot for actually having taken the time to put this together!
Reply
:iconphillus:
Phillus Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2009
For a person who begin drawing in a pretty late age like me, it is just a very thing that came to my mind which tells me to quit drawing, even though this is not your original intention. Anyway, I faved it because this piece of your makes a lot of sense.
Reply
:iconthecurseofrainbow:
TheCurseofRainbow Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2009
I am going to print this out and let my students read this 1-8 grader. RIP T_T
Reply
:iconslayer-1412:
Slayer-1412 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2009  Student General Artist
they didn't say "practice makes perfect" for nothing you know :)

it's just too bad you've already gone to a better place :tears:
Reply
:iconeranova:
Eranova Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2009
I would like to take this time to thank you for convincing me that I'm not artistically retarded just because I can't draw something perfectly on the first try. I would also like to commend you for doing so in the form of a well-written and greatly entertaining explanation. As a kid, I used to despair at the fact that my drawings were complete crap (as evidenced by the disparaging comments from the other kids), but I guess some people just pick up on things quicker. Doesn't mean I can't learn to draw well in time, right? When I finally do learn how to draw well, I am going to take my drawings, I am going to find every single person who was in my first grade class, and I am going to RUB IT IN THEIR FACES (both figuratively and literally).

On another note, I'm craving apples now. Thanks a lot. xD
Reply
:iconchef-cheiro:
chef-cheiro Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2009
easy come easy gone, that what you get when you take some tutorial
Reply
:iconhappieh:
Happieh Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009
i feel like apples now... :+fav:
Reply
:iconfoeo:
foeo Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Am I doing it right? [link] ;)
Reply
:icontiredalarmclock:
TiredAlarmClock Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009  Student General Artist
I love you. =D
My art teacher from a few years a go drilled one thing into our head:
"Draw what you see, not what you think you see."
Reply
:iconbibleoftears:
bibleoftears Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008
A nice literary slap on the face to teach that not only drawing, but every skill well learnt needs comprehension, 'chunking' and testing until our brain assimilates it for further use.

Awesome. :thumbsup:
Reply
:iconjazelen:
Jazelen Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2008
Haha, you do realise I am now going to obsessively draw apples. I blame you :lol: But that said it is a very good way of explaining it :d
Reply
:iconjazelen:
Jazelen Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2008
You should put a side note "Have spare apple" it starts to look really nice after a while, I had to resist the urge to eat it lol
Reply
:iconsheahna:
Sheahna Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2008
Oh my effin god!!!! Thank you!! i can never explain to my friends how to draw!! ever!!! Thank you, im gonna show this to them and then maybe they'll understand!!! and its so true!! you cant go anywhre without practice!!
Reply
:icontomboydudet103:
TomboyDudet103 Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2008
:icon+fav:

Wow! It is true, and serious!

With a touch of humor~

I think Ive fallen in love with the piece of fruit...
Reply
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