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It's all about the shapes, 'bout the shapes, 'bout the shapes!

Have you ever felt daunted to start a drawing or painting? Well guess what? So have I !!

Many a time I have looked at a photo or a scene in front of me and wondered where on earth to start. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a painting and then identifying a glaring problem with the drawing.

Some tips to avoid that happening....

Look at the scene in terms of big shapes before you consider any detail. My drawings always grow bigger than I intend, so if I put detail in right at the start invariably I will be doing a lot of erasing, when the rest of the scene doesn’t fit on the page.

By blocking in the big main shapes - just 3 or 4 to start with - I can establish the scale and how the objects will sit within the page limitations. Is there a good amount of negative space - is the scene balanced? At this stage with just a couple of big shapes it is really easy to tweak part of the drawing that might not be working or correct.

In a street scene for example if I started with the building on the left, and drew this building with detail of windows, balconies etc, I find I am too invested in what I have drawn and the time I have spent on it, and wouldn't want to erase it fully if I realised I am not going to fit the full scene in as I initially intended.

In this scene you can see how breaking it down into a couple of squares, a large rectangle and a triangle shape assists me simplify the scene. Once those shapes are in I can look for the details within the square considering the negative shapes, such as the archway. I still don’t add a lot of detail to the drawing if I am intending to paint this, rather than as a standalone drawing.

Animals can also simplified by seeing them as shapes. My chicken, Juney, is two oval shapes and a rectangle.

Portraits and figures are again a series of shapes, and although I don’t necessarily break them down in the same way as above, I don’t put the detail in, until I am feeling confident that the positioning and shapes are correct. If I get into too much detail early I get too invested and find myself disappointed if I have to rub out a fantastic eye because it should have been 4 mm to the left! But that's a whole other blog topic on it's own.

Beach scenes can look complicated at a glance when there are multiple headlands, rocky platforms, sandy beaches and perhaps distance headlands or foreground trees. The first decision I make is where the horizon will sit on my painting. Sometimes I stick to the composition decision I made when taking the photo, but other times I might decide to increase or decrease the sky space. In the photo below there is very little sky, and I would keep that look, as I like the focus of looking down onto the beach from a higher outlook which is indicated by the close foliage just in front of the viewer.

So just to wrap up - focus on the broad shapes first and how they overlap or link to each other. Make compositional decisions if some elements need to be eliminated, featured, or diminished before you commence the drawing. Pop in those broad shapes first like I have outlined in red on the photos, and then begin to work more detail within these shapes once you feel the composition and size of your elements are working.

Draw, draw, draw and draw again! Just turning up and moving that pencil across your page daily is what will add to your confidence more than anything else.

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