8 ideas on drawing & sketching — week of Mar 1

Minna Wang
16 min readMar 3, 2020

Instead of covering eight unrelated ideas I learned during the week as I have most weeks, I dove into drawing and sketching (specifically life drawing and figure drawing) this week.

I’m an absolute beginner at this, so anyone who’s studied drawing or sketching before will likely be familiar with most (if not all) of these.

A quote

The basic craft of drawing is about two things: you learn to control your hand and to see.

— Ralph Ammer, A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Drawing

Okay, I lied: two quotes.

Whenever we draw something, we ask ourselves painful questions. Such as, “Is this drawing good?” “Am I talented?” Or worst of all, “Is this art?”

No one would do that with language. No one would say, “That didn’t come out like a poem, I guess I shouldn’t speak.”

— Ralph Ammer, How Drawing Helps You Think (TEDxTUM)

Top 3 🏆

1. How to trick your brain to see what’s really there

We walk the world with a collection of heuristics — rules of thumb and mental models that we use to simplify what we observe. Otherwise, we would be overwhelmed by all the information around us and all the decisions we have to make. This is as true of seeing as it is of thinking.

In general, heuristics are wonderful. They save us time and headache. But sometimes we misinterpret or miss out on the world because of them. As Ralph Ammer says, “We try to see pattern and order. We also see less.” And then he drives home the point by asking two questions: “What is the person behind you wearing? How many trees were in front of this building when you came in?”

Seeing less is why our drawing of a plant might look like the one on the left when what we see is closer to what’s on the right:

from Ralph Ammer

Rather than recognizing the things around us by actually looking, we just use mental labels to store that information. It’s an oversimplification.

Minna Wang

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