a complete course in drawing

on this website
What is presented on this website are samples from some of the first few chapters of the book 'Gotta Draw'. It provides a preview of the content of the book, and it shows my approach to the subject of drawing and to the experience of teaching.

my approach
After teaching this course for several years, I came to realize that the main task I faced was not teaching students how to draw, but rather, teaching them how to see. Many of those who took the course already knew how to draw. I have evidence of this in a set of some thirty paintings created by a class of six-year-olds. Every single painting in this series is a competent work of visual communication, painted with condfidence and skill, and most important at that age, joy. In continuing education I had students of all ages. But age had no bearing on their ability to draw. A retired accountant who has not drawn since childhood may exhibit comparable skills to those of a high school student. I began to ask myself why people have so much trouble drawing and are so troubled by it. Drawing is not a highly valued skill in our culture. At a certain point, the education system discourages art in favor of other subjects. It gets a bad rap, and most people abandon it. Those who don't abandon art do so, either because they are fortunate enough to have had some kind of counter-balancing influence to that of the education system, or they need it desperately enough to put up with the bad rap. I discovered that many of the students in the drawing course were lacking the confidence to draw and that they also had trouble seeing what they wanted to draw(I now firmly believe that these two things are linked). I began to teach my students, first, how to see.

history and background
This course was developed as a continuing education(HE in the UK)course that was taught over a period of thirteen years between 1993 and 2006 at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada. It has since been supplemented by material from a course in figure drawing that was taught over the same period at the same college.

The book evolved out of class notes that became one-page weekly handouts, then small booklets. The notes spoke directly to my students, an quality in this book that I have tried to preserve. Possibly the most important aspect of the course for both teacher and pupil, is the order in which subjects are approached. Based on trial and error, it changed constantly over the years to it's current order, which appears to work very well.

The motivation for developing the book came from the endless enthusiasm, the limitless variety of skills and interests, and the real commitment to learning that I encountered from those who took the course. I sincerely believe that I learned more from them than they did from me. I also appreciate the trust and generosity of those students who allowed me to borrow their work to scan and use in the book.

At the beginning of each course I recommend that if a student wants a good book to help them learn to draw they should consider not one, but two: 'The Natural Way to Draw' by Kimon Nicolades., and, with a small note of caution, 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards. Together, the two books provide a good balance for students looking for guidance or inspiration.

Nicolades'(1891-1938) book was compiled by his students after his death. I find myself agreeing with almost everything that he says. His approach may be considered old fashioned, but, if you are serious about learning how to draw, it works. Betty Edward's book is far more popular. It has some very useful information that helps us understand where the skills needed for drawing fit-in with other human tasks and excellent exercises that illustrate some of those theories.

Gotta Draw is a complete course in the basic principals and practices of drawing. It provides a solid foundation on which to build skills in drawing and transfer them to other media. I hope that it may also help you to see the world in a different light.