Learning how to draw: basic elements

I was talking to a friend these days about how easy it is to learn a new skill nowadays, and how online learning platforms allow anyone with a decent internet connection have access to unlimited resources: online courses, video tutorials, podcasts etc. We have all these resources at our finger tips, but do we actually use them?

I have an account on udemy.com since months now, and I take advantage of their “today all courses for 11EUR” marketing campaigns, so I have a nice collection of courses I’d like to take and skills I’d like to acquire. What I also have is a full-time job and not as much “me time” I would like to have. Thank God we have the weekends!

Last weekend was all about drawing. I started Matthew Fussell’s online course on Udemy and I had a blast! Matthew is a artist and art teacher, and he started The Virtual Instructor for the students that were not able to attend his classes, to help them keep up. He speaks clearly, uses good examples, and is easy to follow.

Over the first 9 lectures, I have learned about line, shape, form, value, space, and perspective.

A very fun exercise is the so called “blind contour line drawing”, where you are encouraged to avoid looking at the paper, direct your entire attention to object, and draw the object without lifting the pencil from the paper. It’s so fun and the result can sometimes be a work of art itself.

A drawing is an illusion of a 3D object, on a 2D medium, and to make a realistic drawing, one must play with light, shadow, values, contrast, space.

Any object is affected by light, and this is why we see it. Every drawing has at least one light source, and the shadows and highlights give the drawing the realistic touch. See below the most important shadows and tones. When adding shadows, one must work with value = the darkness or lightness of a colour.


The highlight is the brightest area of the object, that receives the most light. The core shadow, is the part of the object that receives little or no light, and in between we find the mid tone. The cast shadow is the dark area on a adjacent surface where the light is blocked by the object, and has always the darkest values in the drawing.

Another important thing to take into consideration when making realistic drawings, is the space. And there are 6 main strategies to create the illusion of space in a drawing:


Of course these are all tricks I apply more or less accurate when I draw, but it’s nice to have them  explained to me and to understand they are part of a strategy. I guess it makes me believe that drawing it’s not necessarily something one is born with, but something that one can learn through practice and get better at.

And here some of my notes and sketches from the class. Can’t wait to start exploring different drawing media!

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And as I take a look at these pictures taken with my iPhone, I know at least one course I will take soon: photography 😀

Until next time, dare to play with your ideas!

Yours truly,