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Sometimes things go wrong and your painting or drawing just doesn’t look right. Kathy Decker says that this can happen even when you know what you’re doing. She likes the saying, “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”
There are days when everything works and days when nothing does. When you’re starting out, mostly nothing does. Not knowing what to do or how to fix things can feel overwhelming and discouraging.
One day, Kathy Decker asked me how my drawings were going. She had challenged me to do some drawings of people from magazines as though I were going to paint them, paying close attention to light and shadows.
“I’m having a hard time making them look like the people in the pictures,” I told her. “They look like people, just not the people I’m drawing.”
She offered to come over and look at them. When she came, I took out the magazine and the pictures I’d drawn. She asked for a ruler.
She measured an eye in one of the magazine pictures, and then measured distances between the features on the face in eyelengths. She measured the distance to the other eye, the nose, the ear, the mouth, the chin, the top and back of the head. Then she measured the eye in my picture and did the same measurements on my drawing.
I like to use the Ensign Magazine to find pictures of people to draw.
The original picture is in this article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/a-teacher-who-helps-save-souls?lang=eng
Next she checked angles and drew a line to show me the angle of the top of the head, the neck, the eyeline, the chin, the nose. She did the same with my picture. We compared them.
The rulers lines are in the upper left corner.
The original picture is in the is article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/a-teacher-who-helps-save-souls?lang=eng
I had thought my picture had all the right things in all the right places, but looking at the measurements and angles, I was off in a lot of little ways. “If you check each picture you draw like this for a while, eventually it will become second nature, and you won’t need to check every time,” she said.
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t taken her advice to check every picture I draw yet. However, when I draw something that just doesn’t look right, I now have tools to see what went wrong. I check angles and distances, and usually I can find my errors.
I am also more aware of angles and distances as I draw. I mentally check the angles and distances before I add the nose, the ears, the chin, an arm… I think it’s helped me improve my drawing. Sometimes, there are days when I do my best and the drawing still looks terrible, and everything I draw looks awful despite my best efforts. Kathy Decker says it’s normal to have days like that.
If there are enough errors, or if I really am unhappy with my picture, I redraw it the next day. Usually it’s enough better that I can move on. Rarely, I end up drawing the same picture every day for a week.
This is from the May 2018 Ensign. The online version doesn’t have all the pictures of people, but this picture is on page 26 of the magazine.
Weeks like that are frustrating, but they help me learn. Weeks like that, where I try and fail and learn, are the types of week that contribute to my growth spurt theory. When things start looking right again, I find that I draw little bit better than I did before. And so, I am maybe even grateful for the mistakes. They help me learn and grow.
Have you measured distances and checked angles on your drawings? Has it helped you? Are there other tools you use when things don’t look right? Please share them!