In this final lesson, I’m going to challenge you to put everything you learned in the previous lessons into practice.
I’m going to show you several images and you need to draw them using some or all of the techniques from lessons 1-9. If you forgot what each lesson was about, click the links below to refresh your memory, or see the list below that (each link opens in a new tab):
1.) Intro to sketching
2.) Break things down into simple shapes
3.) How to make things look 3D
5.) Commons drawing mistakes (example: continuity)
7.) Line quality
8.) Shading techniques
9.) How to shade
Draw Image #1
Before you pick up that pencil, run through the list above and see where you can apply each technique. Use it as a checklist.
Below is my approach. I encourage you to try it out for yourself first. So don’t scroll down until your drawing is finished!
My Approach For Image #1
There’s no single right way to do it. So don’t worry if your approach was different from mine.
Step 1: Observe the Reference Photo
Get to know the scene, objects, proportions etc. Can you use one-point or two-point perspectives to help you draw some objects more accurately?
It looks like the wooden planks can be drawn using one-point perspective. Let’s draw on top of the reference photo to see if this is true:
I extended each wooden plank towards the ships until the lines met at a single point – called the vanishing point. Now that I know one-point perspective can be used to draw the dock and I know where the vanishing point is located, I can save this information for later and apply it to my drawing.
Note: Notice how the lines don’t exactly meet at a single point? The dock is made of wood, which can warp due to changing weather conditions, so it’s normal for the vanishing point to be a little ambiguous.
Step 2: Break Everything Down while Checking Proportions
Before you draw, you can trace the rectangle shape of the photo so you have enough space to draw everything. If you don’t want to trace, just eye it and then revise the rectangle along the way.
The whole image can be broken down into 3 main sections horizontally: the dock, the water and the sky. The dock takes up about 1/3 of the photo width-wise while the sky takes up about 1/4 of the remainder.
Pay attention to angles as well. The dock should slant downwards on the left side.
Next, pick out the main subjects within the scene and sketch them in one after the other, roughly. You can break a subject down into a much simpler shape and add details after you measure, compare and confirm the proportions.
While adding details, make sure to constantly check if the proportions are right. How much space is there from the top of the right shoe to the edge of the water? What angle is the left foot rotated and how far is the heel from the right foot? The more observations, comparisons and measurements you make, the more accurate your drawing will be.
Have a look at the checklist on the right hand side. You’ll notice that I crossed off number 1,2,4 and 5: “continuity”. If you haven’t been paying attention, I applied continuity twice throughout the drawing already – Once where the dock line crosses through the feet and another where the water level line runs through the boat.
Step 3: Sketch More Details
So far, it’s just a rough sketch. Not too much commitment has been made to the drawing yet, so it’s the perfect time to check over proportions again. I noticed that the second boat from the left was a little short, so I extended that one slightly.
Add a few details here and there…
I sketched some patterns on each shoe, further defined the shape of each boat and drew some tiny boats in the distance (over on the right side). If you’re happy with the shapes, you can darken your lines.
Step 4: Perspective
Remember step 1 where I found the dock’s vanishing point? In the drawing below, I drew a dot to represent the vanishing point and used a ruler to draw straight lines, creating individual planks of wood.
I’ve crossed “perspective” off the checklist as well.
Step 5: Line Weight
Pay attention to each of the lines you make. The thicker your lines are, the more attention you will bring to that particular area of the drawing. In the picture below, I’ve added some waves using light pencil marks. This makes them subtle.
The main focal point for this image are the shoes and the dock. You can pull these things closer to the viewer by using a variety of thicker lines where appropriate. If you look really close, you’ll notice that the squiggly designs on each shoe are thicker the closer they are to the viewer.
I also thickened the lines for each wooden plank. It’s just something you can add to make the drawing look more impactful. Let’s cross number 7 off the list.
Step 6: Shade Everything and Make it 3D
I like to shade the darkest areas first. Especially if the value is solid.
Take a look at the reference image and see if there’s any white. I didn’t find any true white, so there shouldn’t be any white areas on my drawing. The lightest color seems to be a light gray, so I went ahead and shaded a base layer of light gray over the whole drawing.
It’s been shaded but it still looks flat. Observe where the light is coming from or simply where the lightest/darkest areas are and then use the shadow-lining technique to outline all the major shadows along the legs and shoes.
Then shade those shadow areas using the appropriate values. It’s starting to look more 3D.
I went ahead and shaded the mountain and boats as well. Those values were pretty solid, so it was quite easy.
Introduce more midtones to the shoes so the surface has more planes (what are planes?). Make sure your shading is gradual where it needs to be (gradual transition around smooth edges, less gradual around hard edges).
Time to shade the water. To make the waves look calm, you can use the contour shading technique. For rough waters, try a mix of hatching and squiggling. If you don’t want the viewer to take their attention off the main subject, avoid adding too much detail into the water.
I think that’s enough shading. Look over the drawing once more to see if anything is missing…
I forgot to add the weaving patterns on each shoe, the wood grain on the dock and I should probably add more detail into each boat…
That looks much better! Anything else missing? It never hurts to check again you know!
There’s no shadow underneath each leg/shoe! Once the shadows are added, the feet look more relaxed and less like they’re photoshopped into the scene.
Hey! I’ve managed to cross everything off the checklist!
Draw Image #2
If you couldn’t help but read through the steps for image #1 before trying it yourself, you should be able to do this one on your own now :) There’s no harm in trying!
My Approach for Image #2
Step 1: Observe Reference and Find Vanishing Point
When I first looked at this image, my brain filtered out all the clouds! After some time, the clouds became very apparent and I also noticed some shadows coming from the trees and people.
Observe your reference image well, a glance is never enough.
It looks like one-point perspective can be used to draw some elements in this photo. I extended the train tracks and grass edges until the lines met at a single point. Now I know where to draw the vanishing point on my drawing later.
Step 2: Break Everything Down
From the reference photo, I measured the ground vertically and found that it took up about 1/3rd of the photo, so I made a horizontal line 1/3rd of the way up from my drawing. Again, if you want, you can trace the outside of the photo to get the correct rectangle shape, or you can revise it as you go along.
Before drawing the mountains and trees, I drew a dotted line down the entire reference image and drawing, crossing through the spot where the vanishing point will eventually be drawn. This dotted line helps me break the images in half, which simplifies the crowded scene while also providing me with a great way to measure where each mountain and tree should be drawn.
EDIT: Looking at the drawing now, I realize that the mountains should have an equal amount of space from the dotted line. I didn’t pay enough attention and instead, drew the smallest mountain too close to the dotted line.
Try to avoid making assumptions like I did.
The trees are very detailed but I just want to draw a loose representation, so I’m using teardrop shapes for each one. To make sure the trees are drawn roughly the right size, you can measure and compare them against the image’s width, against each other and against the mountains.
Step 3: Perspective
Where the horizontal line meets the dotted line, draw the vanishing point. The train tracks and grass edges can be drawn from there.
Step 4: Sketch More Details
Give the trees some more detail making each one a little different from the other.
Step 5: Address Continuity
I want to draw the people last because they cover a part of the horizon line. Again, I’m using a simple shape to represent the space they take up in the scene while checking to make sure I placed them in the right spot.
Continuity is now crossed off the list!
Step 6: Line Quality
If you want to give your drawing more depth, make the train tracks thicker in the foreground and thinner in the background.
For the grass edges, I’m using the straight line I drew earlier as a guide to draw random squiggly shapes. This creates a more obvious difference from the train tracks.
Step 7: Shade it
I’m shading the mountains first because I think they’re the easiest things to shade compared to everything else.
Look at the reference photo to see what the lightest value is and then shade a light layer of that value across the whole drawing.
Shadow-line the lightest areas in the sky and then shade around it. You can use a random scribble shading technique for the grass.
Soften the outline in the sky so the lighting looks more gradual.
For tree detailing, I like to use squiggly lines.
For the tree branches in the top left corner, I’m using a variety of triangles and loops to represent individual leaves.
Time to add the rest of the details! There were so many clouds that I just sloppily scribbled them in.
Draw Image #3
This one’s a bit of a challenge, but I’m confident you’ll be able to check off everything on the list with some effort. You might not know how right off the bat, just trust in yourself that you can figure it out along the way!
My Approach for Image #3
Step 1: Observation and Vanishing Point(s)
While observing a scene, it may help to describe what objects there are, people, colors, reflections, lighting observations, etc. Think about what shading techniques can be used and where.
There are several objects in this scene that can be drawn using one-point perspective – the two laptops. The unique thing about this image is that our two laptops have different vanishing points.
Let’s keep this in mind for later.
Note: The reason I didn’t use one-point perspective for the paper is because the edge of the page is covered, giving me only a single edge to find the vanishing point with – I need at least 2 edges to find the vanishing point of a single object.
Step 2: Break Things Down
The scene is really busy, which can be super intimidating to start drawing. All you have to do is start with one line or one object. Once you have the first few main objects drawn, the rest will be easy.
I’m starting with the table because it’s the largest object and is very straight. I can see the far edge of the table quite well and I know it’s about 1/3 of the way down. The right edge of the table is really hard for me to make out and it’s mostly covered, so I’m making my best guess here.
The next thing I want to sketch is the second largest object – the laptop in the foreground. Since I’m going to draw the side edges using one-point perspective, I’m only going to sketch the two furthest edges from view.
Step 3: Perspective
Draw a dot where the vanishing point for this laptop should be. Once that’s in place, drawing the rest of the laptop should be a complete breeze!
Using the same approach, I’m going to draw the other laptop as well. The vanishing point for this one is in a different location because neither laptop is a fixed object (they can be moved around freely on the table). If they were attached to each other, their vanishing points would be in the same spot.
I checked the reference photo to see how much space there was from the far edge of the laptop to the edge of the table and made a small tick where I wanted the laptop to end.
Once I defined the laptop’s width, everything else fell into place.
I’m happy with the placement of everything, so I’ll go ahead and add details like the keyboard keys (using the vanishing points).
Step 4: Sketch More Details
Now that I’ve drawn 2 major objects, The rest of the drawing should be a lot easier to fill in.
Hands are complicated to draw, so I like to start out by roughing out the general shapes I see. No details yet! Focus on the positioning/alignment and size.
I’m crossing continuity off the list now. Can you see why?
After I’m happy with my sketch, I can finally erase all the unneeded lines crossing through the hands and arms.
Now I can add more details while keeping my construction lines as a rough guide.
Step 5: Shade and Make it 3D
In this scene, it looks like the light is coming from a window on the far wall or a light source coming from that direction, evident by the light patterns on the wall and the bright reflection on the laptop screens. I know where the lightest and darkest values are.
Instead of shading the whole drawing with a light layer of gray, I’m going to take it step by step this time. You can approach it any way you want.
Again, I’m starting with the darkest values: The laptop borders and keys, shadows on the hands and shirt, etc…
Adding some midtones…
The arm is already starting to look more 3D/round.
Here, I’m adding more details like the fabric wrinkles which I sometimes like to draw last because they can be distracting. Along areas of fabric that need highlighting, I’ll just use my kneaded eraser to lift away the precise amount of graphite needed.
Slowly adding more midtones to other areas of the drawing…
For the wooden table, I’m using lines of various thicknesses to convey the texture of wood. The reference image doesn’t have such obvious lines, I just thought my drawing could use that bit of detail.
The laptop screens have also been shaded. I used a kneaded eraser to create some clean, light reflections along the screen.
Shadowline the ring of light on the wall and shade the area around it.
Shade inside the shadowlined area until it’s the right value.
I forgot to draw the pencil tip being held by the hand in the foreground, so I’m adding that while making sure the pencil is straight from tip to end (if you haven’t noticed, the eraser end is visible through the thumb webbing).
Also forgot about the lines of text on the paper. I don’t want these lines to be too distracting, so I’m making them very subtle.
Finally, look over your drawing to see if you missed anything else. I forgot to erase the continuity lines going through the other pencil.
Were you able to check all 9 items off your list?
Your Homework and Challenge
Try to draw all of the images below. You can improvise if you want to.
What techniques will you use? It’s all up to you! You might not be able to cross everything off your checklist, as some techniques may not be appropriate. But that’s up to you to decide.
For the image below, what are you going to draw first? Second?
So many pots and they’re all different sizes! How will you draw them all in proportion?
What shading technique(s) will work best to portray thick, rough elephant skin? What shading technique will help the trunk look round? How can you make the two elephants in the foreground pop out from the elephants in the background?
There’s a lot going on here! How can you filter out all the little distractions and break everything down into larger, simpler shapes?
Once you’re done, share your artwork with me on Facebook. I want to see your unique approaches!
Submit all 4 drawings from the challenge with a detailed description of how you drew each one, share with me any realizations you made (aha moments) and explain any techniques you came up with along the way.
If you would like some constructive feedback, please let me know when you share your work :)
If you complete the challenge, I’ll feature your artwork down below with a link to your website or social media profile so other readers can learn more about you!
Finished the whole course and have no idea where to go next? Here are a few suggestions:
1.) Discover and try my other tutorials on RFA and Youtube. Here are a few that I highly recommend:
- How to shade & pencil shading techniques (learn how to use graphite pencils and which ones to buy)
- How to shade a face
- How to draw faces for beginners (YT tutorial)
- How to draw faces (original version with ruler)
- How to draw hair (YT tutorial. it’s fully loaded!)
2.) Go on a 365 day drawing challenge
Draw something everyday for a year! It doesn’t matter how sloppy your drawings are or whether you feel like it or not. Just get something down on that sketchbook. If you’re having a bad day, just draw a triangle and shade it in plainly – doesn’t have to be fancy, brilliant or perfect!
You’re training your muscles, your brain and developing a good habit of setting a goal and always following through.
3.) Discover and learn from other artists and art styles
There’s always something new to be learned and you’ve got a great resource right at your fingertips… the internet.
If you’re only interested in realism, watch some cartooning tutorials on Youtube. I just discovered an amazing and super creative Youtuber, Jazza, who inspires me to create more and helps me get those creative juices flowing.
If you’re afraid of making mistakes, watch abstract artists in action!
You never know what awesome nuggets of information you’ll find along the way. Just know that everyone has a unique perspective, approach, story etc… always something valuable for you to learn.
And with that, I hope you enjoyed this free course and learned at least a few useful things from it. Whether you learned a lot or only found one technique useful, I want to congratulate you for making it all the way to the end and thank you for making that commitment for yourself and trusting me to assist you along your artistic journey!
If you want to become a part of my Patreon community and support what I do, check out my Patreon page for more info.
And if you want to continue following my tutorials, subscribe to my Youtube channel for new ones coming your way!
Darlene created RFA In 2013 with the goal of sharing simple yet detailed drawing tutorials with other artists on the world wide web. She is a self taught pencil portrait artist and Youtuber.