Key Concepts That Will Make a Huge Difference in Your Drawings
Focus on inproving few important aspects of drawing, master the fundamentals, and each of your future drawings will be transformed. Let's get started.
Using Basic Geometric Shapes
One of the first challenges in the "learning to draw" journey is representing 3D space and depth trough 2D drawing. It's all an illusion, but how do you achieve the right effect? One habit to adopt early on is thinking in terms of simple geometric shapes. At first, you may focus on exercises with the specific purpose of displaying complex objects like they were made out of simplified forms and basic geometric shapes, like spheres, cubes, cylinders, prisms etc. You can imagine how would the object look like if it was rendered like a 3D wireframe model and try to draw that.
One of the main challenges in drawing is representing space. That is to say, giving depth to your drawings and the illusion of three dimensions. A simple and effective way to think about depth is that objects shrink in size as they get further away from the viewer eventually becoming a single point. That is why perspective in drawing is usually explained as one-point, two-point , three-point or four-point perspective. You should definitely learn and practice a lot of perspective if you want to draw or animate from imagination. Perspective applies to every scene or drawing you can think of, it's just may be a different variation - a long shot or a close up, but you need to figure it out in order to have a consistent looking drawing.
Drawing in Proportion and Foreshortening
These are also two very important concepts. When you are drawing something you can see in real life, an existing object, most of the time the drawing on your paper or canvas is scaled smaller (or in proportion) to the dimensions in reality. So it seems a trustworthy representation. This is an important aspect to keep in mind, and double check it when things seem out of proportion.
Foreshortening is what happens when parts of an object seem "hidden" because of perspective and because of other objects or part of the object in front of it. It's easy to understand this in figure drawing, when drawing the human body from different angles and perspectives, you will notice some parts of the body covered by others, and long limbs looking shorter when drawn in perspective.
Rendering Light and Dark Values
Tonal studies are one of the essential practices in drawing and there is no way around it if you want to build a base of understanding and skill about the way light falls on and reflects from objects. Line and tone are the fundamental visual vocabulary for drawing, so you should be aware that light study deserves a special attention in the context of visual arts. As other complex matter, study in simple ways first. Take a simple ball or a photo, and find where is the "highlight", "drop shadow", "reflected light". Where is the source of light? Even if it's outside the boundaries of the image it must be present somewhere and a better understanding will help you get better drawings.
If you plan to use just a simple graphite pencil, at first you don't need to pay lots of attention to color, but when you are ready to start experimenting with colors you'll need at least some basic color theory. Learn how to use the color wheel, what are "warm" and "cold" colors, contrasting colors, color harmony and more in THIS article I have written some time ago.
Also very important in photography and filmography, composition is making a conscious decision of placement of subjects on your canvas. Also the size and distribution of height and width of the canvas is part of the composition. Make sure you learn more about "The Golden Ratio" and "The Rule of Thirds".
Technique and Style
If you are passionate about drawing and painting or some other kind of visual art, sooner or later, you will certainly hear somebody talk about style and how important it is to develop your own. What I would recommend is focusing on technique instead. Choose how to solve certain visual problems, and work on improving. If you practice for a long time, certain principles or your own attitudes will start to show in your work. Don't worry about developing style, because it will happen naturally given enough time and practice. Developing other skills or your personal philosophy or experience outside fine art can bring a dose of character to your work that is unique is sometimes very recognizable. Another benefit form doing work that you are really invested in is - you'll get extremely good at it. If you believe that your work reflect your deepest values, you will putt in that extra effort that makes all the difference.
If you are a beginner explore many different techniques first, or start with something you feel competent at try to add in more variety with time. When you get more experience you will be able to guess which strategy will work best for a given situation with rather great precision. To go even further specialize some aspect of your work that pull your attention the most. You can specialize for a certain subject, technique or using specific materials. What makes an artist amazing is his creative perspective on a given subject, your viewpoint is the source of "the art" and that is beyond any technique.
Drawing from Life and Pictures - Drawing Studies
There is infinite value form this kind of practice. When drawing form a life model or from a photo, you are getting deeper and deeper into the world of visual representations. You will start to notice more and more subtle aspects of visual representation. Besides the practical aspect of improving your observing and execution skills, you will develop problem solving and creativity. Art in it's heart is a meditative activity and visual arts like drawing and painting are a great medium to get more intimate with reality apart from representations. When you give more time and attention to a certain subject, you will start noticing more and more detail that you weren't aware of before.
One of the traditional subjects of drawing and painting is the human form. It's complex shape, dynamics and character make for a great subject, besides we all have bodies don't we. It's an interesting subject and will challenge you in many ways. It will also open the door to drawing high quality portraits that almost anyone loves.
Drawing books are a piece of art themselves. "Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life" is a figure drawing classic and a must read for every serious student of art. If you love books with massive value, you should certainly get a copy of "The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed - another one of my all time favorites which you can easily find online for free. But there are also some amazing new books on Amazon really worth the money that will give you a modern perspective on the traditional practice of figure study.
Enjoy the learning process, and stay beginner at heart, because to keep your art alive, you have to keep growing.