Lesson 1: Lines, Ellipses and Boxes
Tables of Ellipses
The first exercise is relatively straight forward, and involves drawing a lot of ellipses. These are not, however, simply free ellipses with no real goals. Instead, it is pinned on the idea of setting out criteria and targets for the ellipses we intend to draw, before drawing them. Therefore, when you draw your ellipse, it is either correct, or it isn't.
For this one, you draw a circle starting from the far left of the box. Then, draw another beside it. Keep repeating it until you fill in the whole box. Strive to make your circles touch the top and bottom of the box, as well as the line to the left of it.
Next, same idea, but with ellipses. Within the same section, you should aim to draw ellipses of the same degree. You can also play with the angle of the ellipse, and this should also be consistent within the same section.
This one's a little different. Draw a wave through the section, dividing it into irregular pockets of space. Then fill these spaces with circles or ellipses, trying to keep them touching the bounds of the section as well as the curve. Everything should fit in there snugly, and nothing should be floating around.
The purpose of this exercise
This exercise is meant to get you used to drawing ellipses, in a variety of sizes, orientations and degrees. It also sets out a clear space each ellipse is meant to occupy, giving us a means to assess whether or not an ellipse was successful, or if there were visible mistakes (where it went outside of its allotted space, or ended up falling short). Practicing against set criteria, with a way to judge success/failure is an important element of learning. There's nothing wrong with failure - it's an opportunity to learn. Having a clearly defined task allows us to analyze those failures and make the most of them.
Things to remember
When going through this exercise, there are a couple things I want you to keep in mind:
Draw confidently - use the ghosting method and "draw through" your ellipses two full times before lifting your pen to achieve a smooth, even shape.
Always set out a goal for the ellipse you're about to draw. This is generally what the "planning" phase of the ghosting method is for.
For a more in-depth explanation, you can check out this video, or the points listed below.
Mistake: Drawing without a concrete goal
I've seen lots of people do these in the past - that is, drawing ellipses floating inside of other ellipses. This is my opinion of course, but I don't think they're terribly useful, since they don't give a concrete target to aim for. I understand that it definitely is tricky to draw a circle inside of another circle and keeping it centered, but I still don't feel like it's as effective as other more concrete exercises.
Mistake: Not drawing through ellipses
This is something I'm pretty adamant about - you should be drawing through every single ellipse you draw for my lessons. That is, draw around the ellipse two or three times before lifting your pen. Two is ideal in my opinion, but three is also acceptable.
When you try to hit your ellipse in a single round, it's usually going to come out uneven and wobbly (due to drawing too slowly and carefully) or extremely loose (due to simply not having built up the muscle memory to nail an ellipse). Drawing through your ellipses gives your arm the chance to familiarize itself with what's being asked of it in that first pass, and then firm it up in the second.
Along with giving you an extra chance to build up the muscle memory, it also helps you maintain the confidence needed to achieve a smooth, even shape, without totally losing control.
As you get better, your ellipses will tighten up - the gaps between your successive passes will shrink and eventually your ellipses will appear much cleaner. At this point you'll probably be able to nail your ellipses in one pass, but I still want you to continue drawing through them for all of the Drawabox lessons. Outside of Drawabox, you're free to do what you like.
The Art of Blizzard Entertainment
While I have a massive library of non-instructional art books I've collected over the years, there's only a handful that are actually important to me. This is one of them - so much so that I jammed my copy into my overstuffed backpack when flying back from my parents' house just so I could have it at my apartment. My back's been sore for a week.
The reason I hold this book in such high esteem is because of how it puts the relatively new field of game art into perspective, showing how concept art really just started off as crude sketches intended to communicate ideas to storytellers, designers and 3D modelers. How all of this focus on beautiful illustrations is really secondary to the core of a concept artist's job. A real eye-opener.