Lesson 0: Getting Started
What is Drawabox?
Drawabox is, at its core, a community of people developing their drawing skills. Our members range from total beginners, to self-taught artists seeking more structured ways to practice, to established artists looking to sharpen their skills.
This community revolves around the free lessons I've written (and rewritten, and rewritten again), which were originally built upon the foundations of what I learned from Peter Han's Dynamic Sketching course when I attended Concept Design Academy in 2013. Peter's own lessons build upon the work of his mentor, the late Norm Schureman.
Dynamic Sketching had an enormous impact on me, and while I've chosen to narrow the focus of Drawabox to a very specific set of "core" fundamental concepts, I still believe Dynamic Sketching is an excellent course to take at some point - specifically because where Drawabox will teach you to make your drawings feel solid and three dimensional, Dynamic Sketching will teach you to make them look really cool.
You can take Dynamic Sketching with Peter Han himself (although this is quite expensive, due to it including feedback from the instructor).
Another, more affordable option is the Dynamic Sketching video course with Charles Hu over on New Masters Academy, where it's included in their monthly subscription. Since they're our sponsor, you can also get 35% off your first billing cycle with them, using our coupon code DRAWABOX22.
Drawabox's goal is to provide beginners with a strong foundation, and to equip them with the things a lot of other courses and tutorials tend to take for granted. We achieve this by treating drawing less as an academic pursuit focusing on memorization, and more like an athletic one. While concepts are certainly explained, they are hammered in through active drills and repetition.
Drawabox is a very rigorous course. Some students have completed it in as little as 5 months, while others have taken a year, or even two. What matters is that you give each exercise, and each drawing, as much time as it requires to be executed to the best of your current ability. Setting your own deadlines or expectations is highly discouraged - it'll cause you to rush, and to progress more slowly in the long run. Plenty of students come here with the intent to achieve something specific in a certain amount of time - if that is a necessity for you, then this course may not be the best choice.
It is not going to make you a professional on its own, but it will teach you how to practice, how to use the resources available to you on the internet, and equip you with the tools and skills you need to take advantage of them. Think of Drawabox as one big tutorial zone in a sandbox game; it'll take a while to get through it, but once you're done, you'll be ready to enter a world full of fun and interesting sources of instruction.
What are the fundamentals?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask - but what we cover here focuses on a specific subset of what others might call out when listing the fundamentals of drawing.
We call these the core fundamentals of drawing - the things you'll need to apply and learn everything else more effectively. These core fundamentals focus in three areas:
Confident and controlled MARK MAKING - the ability to make the marks you intend to make, and to keep them smooth and hesitation-free.
Attentive and fastidious OBSERVATION
And the big focus of this course overall: SPATIAL REASONING - the understanding deep in your brain that despite drawing on a flat page, the things you're producing exist in a real, three dimensional world. The page itself is merely a window looking out onto that world.
These are not everything there is to know, but they lay down a solid foundation upon which everything else can be built. For example, while we do not touch upon any lighting, rendering, or shading in this course, such concepts rely on understanding how different objects and surfaces might relate to a light source in the scene - which is what we develop by working on spatial reasoning.
As mentioned in the video above, while Drawabox focuses on a limited set of core concepts, you are still encouraged to explore any others that may be of interest to you. Doing so alongside what you learn here will help you develop into a more well-rounded artist.
Our sponsor, New Masters Academy, has a ton of material that explore other fundamentals of drawing. For example:
Steve Huston explores the human body in a manner that lines up exceptionally well with the focus on form and spatial reasoning we explore here, making this analytical approach to figure drawing an excellent complement to our lessons. I've actually been on the hunt for years for an online course that follows the same methodology I learned from Kevin Chen years ago - and this fits the bill perfectly.
Figure drawing is a marriage of two core concepts - structure and gesture. In this course, Michael Mattesi explores his unique, physics-based methodology for drawing bodies that move naturally and believably through the space in which they exist.
In this course, Iliya teaches a variety of observational drawing tools and techniques, with a focus on the Russian Drawing Approach - a distinct methodology that has remained largely unaltered in over two centuries. This course also includes two lessons dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of light and shadow, which will help you understand the basics of shading.
Finding Your Voice as an Artist with Steve Huston and Bill Perkins
This course by Steve Huston and Bill Perkins (of Little Mermaid and Aladdin fame) takes an analytical approach to breaking down the concepts of personal style, and helps students to find a guiding direction for their journey.
Sign up to New Masters Academy with the coupon code DRAWABOX22 — you'll get a full 35% off your first billing cycle.
How is Drawabox free?
Drawabox is a business, but I am a strong believer that we can provide free resources, and cheap access to feedback, while still compensating our team well for their work.
We're able to do this while remaining viable as a business because of our credit-based pricing structure. Those who subscribe here through Patreon at any of the student tiers receive "credits" when they are charged, and those credits expire two months after their receipt. Those who can afford to allow some (and even all) of their credits to expire, allowing their contribution to go towards subsidizing the overall price for others, whereas those who have tighter budgets can maintain control by subscribing, cancelling, and re-subscribing as needed.
As we continue to grow, we are working towards constantly improving the lessons, applying what we've learned by explaining concepts in thousands of critiques to updates and rewrites of lesson content, and expanding more of the lesson critiques to our team of teaching assistants. In doing so, it will allow me to focus more on refining the material, and expanding what we're able to offer on the free side of things even further.
Along with the critiques we offer, and our smaller supporter-tier patrons, Drawabox is funded by:
Display advertisements on the website - although currently our generous sponsor, New Masters Academy, has currently purchased all of our advertising slots to provide you with a much cleaner, less distracting learning experience. Every student who signs up with NMA using our DRAWABOX22 coupon code both gets 35% off their first billing cycle and helps support Drawabox.
Importing and selling fineliner pens - this is primarily to provide the community with access to good quality fineliners at a far cheaper price (though we're only able to offer them with free shipping in the continental United States, so they're not necessarily as good of a deal internationally).
Affiliate link recommendations through Amazon, where we earn a small commission for any sales that use our links
If you're unable to support us through Patreon, consider shopping through our affiliate links, signing up for New Masters Academy using our DRAWABOX22 coupon code, or purchasing our pens when they are in stock.
On the next page, let's look at just how a lot of students tend to think about drawing, what they are and aren't ready for, and what keeps holding them back.
The Science of Deciding What You Should Draw
Right from when students hit the 50% rule early on in Lesson 0, they ask the same question - "What am I supposed to draw?"
It's not magic. We're made to think that when someone just whips off interesting things to draw, that they're gifted in a way that we are not. The problem isn't that we don't have ideas - it's that the ideas we have are so vague, they feel like nothing at all. In this course, we're going to look at how we can explore, pursue, and develop those fuzzy notions into something more concrete.