I found this email from Sandra in my mailbox last Saturday and it was so inspiring, that I had to share it with you. Sandra had said that her favorite drawing instruction book was The Natural Way to Draw by Kim Nicolaides. It was written in 1941. I have a tattered copy on my shelf because it was the first drawing book I ever had. It was given to me by my artist aunt in 1968. I love this book and refer to it from time to time but I was curious as to why Sandra thought it was the best. Here is her answer, which I found motivated me to pick up my pen and draw more immediately.
Yes, Barbara, I believe that "The Natural Way to Draw" is still relevant and always will be. I don't think any drawing method will eversupersede it, mainly because it teaches a person how to look. For instance, find Picasso's drawing of (someone!) smoking a pipe, sitting in a chair. The instructions are to turn the picture upside down and copy it. You will have an almost perfect replica since you no longer confuse yourself with thoughts of "how is he sitting? what is his hand doing?", you are merely copying lines. To me, this is a most valuable lesson - one that I saw could be used in the watercolor class that I just attended. There were manygood watercolors, but the few excellent ones were not of trees, grass, etc., but of shapes and colors and the way colors reacted with each other & the water. That is art, an interpretation - not a photographic representation - of what is in front of you.
The drawings you make of Socks are not photographic, they depict how you feel and what you think about Socks - not what I would see if I looked at Socks. That's another reason I like the Chinese drawing classes with Jean Shen. Although the strokes are meant to be exactly the same from person to person and exactly the same from picture to picture, there's no getting around the fact that each person's personality/thoughts/feelings are expressed through their hand/eye coordination and use of painting materials. Just look at your students' pictures in your library classes. Even though you have provided the drawing, no two paintings are alike - everyone thinks differently.
In drawing, we all could learn to take out pre-conceived ideas - things I've heard include "Oh, let's don't draw trees, they all look alike."
I wrote my insights about the order of drawing skills I found useful at the top of my notebook page. I grabbed a Pilot Varsity pen I had languishing in a draw and used it for the sketch. I have been trying to find a technique or marks that work for me to describe the color changes I observe in Sock's fur. After making hatch marks closer together for darker areas and farther apart for the lighter colors, in frustration I dipped my fingers in my glass of water, rubbed them on the ink areas I wanted a medium tone and since the ink is not waterproof, wa la! I added a mid tone wash.......