If you are trying to improve your drawing, one really great way to do so is to try your hand at figure drawing and figure sculpture. I am doing both right now, and they are helping IMMENSELY!
A lot of people ask me what life drawing has to do with Industrial Design, and what I always say is: If you can draw the body, the most complex, dynamic thing ever, you can draw virtually anything.
In my life drawing class we learn different techniques of drawing and life drawing every class. For example, we’ve done classes where we only draw by edges (contour), by volumes and masses, by scale and alignment, by gesture, by shadow and light, by 3-dimensionality, etc… All of the ‘greats’ did figure drawing as well, and its really interesting to see their charcoal work and how their approaches were similar or different from their famous works.
Example 1: Georges Seurat
Seurat is very famous for his use of pointillism and this painting, which you might recognize:
“A Sunday On La Grande Jatte”, 1884. here.
In these drawings he likely used soft charcoal on very rough paper. Although he doesn’t actually do pointillism here, his rough paper makes it appear as though he’s using a sort of pointillism.
Also, you can see how he uses light and shadow very effectively to create 3-dimensionality, but I would guess that he is not as concerned with realism or accuracy in his life drawings. This actually makes perfect sense with the rest of the image (the background, a prop) not being fixed in space, and being fairly undefined and unstable.. It is more of a question and a allegory to the background, than an actual drawing of the background itself, just like the details of the face are more general indications, with an emphasis of how the figure is formed out of the background.
Boy with hat here // Nude model here // Cat here // Crying woman reading here
-> Note: If you are lucky enough to find an entire book on the sketches or drawings of such-and-such artist, they are usually going to better than anything you find on the internet. If you need some inspiration or guidance and don’t have anyone to ask, refer to these books in a library or in the library of a nearby art school… It really helps you improve when you know you have a long way to go to get to their level.
Example 2: Auguste Rodin
“The Thinker”, found here.
Rodin is most famous for his figure sculpture work, including the very famous “The Thinker”, but here we can see his relation to figure drawing.
As opposed to Seurat, Rodin was much more focused on edges and contour. Almost all of his figure drawings are based on a thin wire-like edge around his figures, with cross-hatching shading applied on top. This gives a clearer, more detailed image, but a more 2-dimensional effect.
Man curled on floor here // Minerva with watercolors here // woman and man here // seated female life drawing here
Seriously, applying these different techniques will really help your drawings. Try them out on people on the bus or at a coffee shop, and you’ll see how much they actually help you see differently.