Sunday, 21 July 2013

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 1

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1B
30 Minutes
3 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 36cm (9.5" x 14")

Chapter 1 of the Keys to Drawing is about the drawing process. It is primarily a chapter about contour drawing and seeing the world as shapes.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1A
45 Minutes
1 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
29cm x 34.5cm (11.5" x 13.5")

Bert Dodson starts by discussing a basic drawing process of Look, Hold (Remember), Draw. He stresses the importance of drawing what we see rather than what we expect to see and towards the end of the chapter, he presents 4 rules:
  • Draw the big shapes first and then add smaller shapes
  • Look for enrichment shapes – shadows, reflections, highlights, etc
  • Merge adjoining shapes of similar tone
  • Draw trapped shapes (negative space)

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1C
30 Minutes
7 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
23cm x 23m (9" x 9")

The chapter includes two important ideas:
  • Restatement - correcting mistakes without erasing the original inaccurate lines. Initially, this can be a bit demoralising, but it is an important concept for a number of reasons. In the early stages of a drawing, the mistakes can help you to work out what needs to change. Time spent erasing can be used more productively for studying the subject. Multiple restatements can add a sense of energy to a sketchy drawing.
  • Focus - in a limited time, you can’t draw everything. Once you have drawn the big shapes, focus on the details in the most important/interesting areas. The less important areas don't need the same level of attention. 

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1D
20 Minutes
8 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
19cm x 10cm (7.5" x 4")

The chapter is interspersed with plenty of challenging exercises. After completing The Natural Way to Draw, I was expecting to breeze through these exercises, but this is not the case. These are difficult subjects.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1E
60 Minutes
13 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
39cm x 19cm (15.5" x 7.5")

It is interesting to see the difference in how the authors of The Naural Way to Draw and the Keys to Drawing handle similar ideas, for example:
  • Dodson recommends repeating trigger words to describe the feeling of the subject - spiky, furry, etc.
  • Nicolaides suggests you imagine you are touching the contour with the pencil and can feel the surface you are drawing through the pencil
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1F
40 Minutes
15 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
38cm x 21.5cm (15" x 8.5")

I still have the sketchbooks from when I first read the Keys to Drawing in 2009. It is interesting to compare the two sets of drawings and pleasing to notice some improvement.
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1D 2009
20 Minutes
25 August 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
13cm x 8cm (5" x 3")

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1C 2009
20 Minutes
24 August 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
16.5cm x 13m (6.5" x 5")


  1. Nice.
    your persistence amazes me.
    I have been trying to go through "Keys to Drawing" I did some of these exercises. You can see them here (pepper) and here (eyes)

    1. Hi Moish,

      Thank you.
      I enjoyed your eyes and peppers.
      Have you done any more exercises from Keys to Drawing?

  2. I did most if not all of the first two chapters. I ran into a rut on chapter 3 as a model is required, which I lack.

    1. Hi Moish - I am extremely fortunate that Elaine poses for so many drawings and allows me to post them. I cannot imagine trying to follow the Natural Way to Draw or Keys to Drawing without a model.