Workouts are structured exercises that focus on a small aspect of sketching at a time. The tasks in this sub-section may appear simple and even elementary, but are actually demanding when you take into account the constraints on the process of execution. For instance, it may be easy to fluently draw a series of lines with a pre-determined path (straight or curve etc.), but maintaining the correctness of the path as well as the quality of the line drawn, with a constraint like drawing with a paintbrush or drawing lines in a reverse direction pose new challenges. Efforts are also made to build other motivational tools within the tasks, to convert them into engaging self-learning modules.
To make the tasks a little easier for the learners, the correctness of sketched paths is ensured with assistance from specially designed template grids used as underlays. The workouts must be done on tracing paper so that the grid lines are seen through as reference. The grids allow you to check the errors in the line path.
Workouts are done on tracing sheets with template grids as underlays to help check errors in the line path
Fluency at any cost!
The need to maintain consistent quality in the series of parallel lines overwhelms the beginner and makes him/her self-conscious. The video recordings showed building up of tension in the hand and the grip. Lines are often drawn with discontinuous strokes and look shaky. The speed of drawing slows down.
Discontinuous or shaving strokes while sketching
The results are not very different when drawing curved line segments, waves and springs. How do you get fluency in the act?
You are required to start with elementary tasks like drawing freehand parallel straight or curved lines. Beginning with straight parallel lines (horizontal and vertical) one can move on to inclined parallel lines at angles 30, 45 and 60 degrees and later shift to curves. The tasks are deliberately simple. However, carefully designed incremental constraints on the process of execution, makes them challenging. What makes fluency difficult to achieve are the variations in the constraints, like change of directions, speed of drawing and tools used. These constraints challenge the learner to retain fluency in movements. You too will experience this in 05.Practice Sessions, when you practice with these constraints.
Key constraints used to achieve fluency include the following:
Consistent pencil grip, no matter what direction the line is drawn
Observations and video recordings of learners showed that the changes of pencil grip are not uncommon in drawing lines at different angles.
Change in grip while sketching
Most learners use normal writing grip for horizontal lines and different grips and hand alignments for vertical and inclined lines. With frequent changes in the pencil grip, it will be impossible to draw complex figures with flowing continuous lines. The solution is to sign your line.
Sign your line
Interestingly, most learners are unaware of their habit of continuous changes in the pencil grips. Video feedback to the learner is effective, but it can also be substituted by the cheaper and yet equally effective method of starting and ending each line with a signature and drawing the line without changing the grip.
Starting to draw a line with a signature helps to make pencil grip more natural and uniform
Signature grip is probably the most practiced grip for individuals and so is worth adopting.
Starting a line with a signature ensures a more natural and uniform pencil grip
Fluency: No matter what the orientation of the line is
Like the grip that holds the pencil, most learners also show preference for the direction in which the lines of different orientations are drawn. A popular habit is to draw horizontal lines from left to right and verticals from top to bottom. When drawing complex figures, some people turn the sketchbook around to accommodate this habit.
Rotating the drawing surface while sketching
This habit becomes a major hurdle when you draw a polygon or a cube quickly and a real deterrent when drawing complex perspectives. These tasks demand effortlessly drawing lines at angles like 30, 60 degrees along with vertical and horizontal lines.
The constraint added here ensures that while repeating the earlier tasks of drawing straight/ curved/ inclined parallel lines, they are also drawn in reverse directions. Standardizing the direction of drawing lines seems to be a self-imposed constraint that is totally dispensable.
The use of normal grip and acquired independence in direction of drawing lines goes a long way in developing fluency of movement and making the process appear natural. With little practice, the quality of line does not suffer with change of direction or inclination, but the fluency actually improves!
Fluency: No matter how fast or slow you draw
It is necessary to learn to willfully control the speed of drawing the line, without affecting the fluency, the pressure with which it is drawn and the visual quality of the line. The control on the speed also ultimately ensures that you are comfortable with any tool that you choose.
While retaining the quality of lines, two variations in the speed control must be practiced,
1.Drawing lines at varying speeds
Drawing lines at various speeds i.e. slow and fast
2. Varying the speed while drawing a single line, i.e. to start drawing the line at a constant pace and half-way through, gradually increasing or decreasing the pace.
Varying the speed in a single line i.e. beginning at constant pace and then increasing or decreasing the pace
During the process of execution of the tasks, it is quite easy to forget the underlying goals and return to a standard speed. So, it is often necessary to create an external situation, which would force variations in drawing speed. It can be partly achieved by selecting background music with varying pace where the learner has to synchronize the line speed with the pace of the music.
In a class room situation, games are found to be more effective. Two students stand opposite each other, with the first student controlling the speed and the direction of drawing the line, and the partner follows that line closely, trying to match the unpredictable variations in the directions and speed.
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Game where the principal partner controls the speed and the direction of the line, while the other tries to match it.
This also helps in taking away attention from the pencil point. (We will discuss this aspect separately later.) Such games are also useful in eliminating tense and shaky hand movements.
Fluency: No matter what stationery/tool you use
In sketching, most 'home in' on a favorite sketching tool, usually the one they are most comfortable with. It actually means being comfortable with the resistance that the tool-paper interaction offers. It is important to break this habit too.
Using the elementary tasks mentioned earlier, the drawing tools are now varied, from different grades of pencils (6B, 4B and H), graphite pencils to micro-tip pens, rapidographs, pastels and paintbrushes. Each drawing tool demands that the line be drawn at a specific speed, pressure and grip suitable for the tool. The paintbrushes and rapidographs occupy two opposite poles on the resistance scale, forcing a fair level of control on pressure and speed. They offer an ideal opportunity to test fluency and control. Similarly, change in drawing paper from smooth to rough ensures that the resistance it offers to the tool varies, and yet the lines must come out equally smooth. Learning to maintain fluency of movement in these varying situations is an essential step towards creating naturalness.
To sum up the discussion on fluency, learning to maintain the quality of the lines and fluency of hand movements with these varying constraints is an essential step in the journey to naturalness in sketching. Experience shows that reliance on preferred grips, hand positions and directions and speed of drawing lines are habits that are completely dispensable. It is important to de-link issues of correctness and quality of lines drawn from the variables like the speed, the direction of drawing, the tool used and as you will see in the next sub-section, the over dependence on visual feedback. As we will see later, when sketching closed figures and planes in perspective, use of normal grip and acquired independence in direction of drawing lines goes a long way in developing fluency.
Look Elsewhere and Draw
Studies of designers during design problem solving acts show that they intermittently observe what they have sketched, react to it creatively and develop new ideas. Observing the evolving sketch and even meaningless doodles often prompts new ideas. Design sketches are considered as springboard of new ideas. Research on sketching has shown that sketching plays an important role in the early creative phase of design, particularly in the idea generation stage.
When the learner designs, his mind is struggling with conflicting demands. On one hand his eyes are busy trying to scan for clues in the half done sketch on the paper to react creatively and on the other hand, the eyes have also to attend to the problems of executing a correct sketch. So, he often stops the first action to concentrate on the other. If scanning actions of the eyes are dictated by the needs to attending to the pencil point executing the sketch and to the problems of drawing a correct perspective, it is bound to block the learner from reacting to the clues in the evolving sketch. The eyes and the mind should not get locked with the problems of executing the sketch.
If the eyes have to be substantially free to wander around, it is essential to structure the practice tasks in a way that will force the learner to scan a larger area of the sketch being drawn. What makes the problem more difficult is that, most learners are not even aware of their eyes faithfully following every movement of the pencil point. Observe the learner sketching on a glass from the other side. Except for occasional and quick glances at the reference lines, their eyes more or less follow the path of the pencil.
Sketching is executed on glass to study and record movements of the eyes. Observations of the eye movements show obsession with the pencil point
You can ensure peripheral scanning in a task like adding three lines at equal distances between the initially drawn two parallel straight or curved lines or continuous waves drawn apart. Responding to such a constraint demands judgment of equal distances, planning and shifting the eyes to continuously scan the reference lines on the edges and simultaneously executing the line fluently. An expert shifts his eyes continuously between the reference lines on the edges and the pencil path.
An expert shifts his eyes continuously between the reference lines on the edges and the pencil path.
His hand moving along the path appears to be controlled partly by the internal feel of the hand movement and partly by intermittent glances at the emerging sketch. In fact, in most cases expert'seye fixations are ahead of the pencil path and drift away to scan peripheral references continuously.
This also explains why there is insistence on use of sketching on a tracing paper with templates as underlays. Use of grid ensures that the eyes are frequently shifted away from the pencil point to reference lines on the templates. Since learners are not even aware of their eye movements, could there be a self-disciplining device to ensure scanning?
Draw when you can't see what you draw
The idea appears counter intuitive, but works beautifully. All you need is a card-paper shroud mounted on the wrist, at a level that allows the pencil to move freely under/through it.
Shroud mounted on the wrist permits free hand and pencil movements.
Because the shroud cuts off the view of the area around the pencil point, the alignments of lines must now be based on somewhat distant references.
With shroud, the sketching movements have to be based on distant references.
It is amazing how quickly one can adjust to the new circumstances without much loss. Though precise control on the line path or end points is not possible with the shroud, with practice, the errors are surprisingly very minor.
Hiding the pencil point with a shroud
Besides, the flow of the line improves enormously. There is nothing more convincing than your own experience of using the shroud to prove to yourself, that the tracking of the pencil point was more of a habit than a necessity. Forcing eyes away from the pencil path and inducing the peripheral scanning habit is intended to encourage scanning of potential clues on the drawing board during the ideation phase.