In the picture above, I wanted to draw a caricature/chibi-like cartoon of a garlic girl. I was inspired by this sketch my friend Alex (aka o_8) posted a few months back (check out his DA gallery—really great character design work). I added a few more alliums behind her (which look more like onions than garlic) to suggest that garlic lovers love the company of other garlic lovers, and that one must never be the only eater of garlics. ;)
When I first began traditional drawing lessons, my instructor always emphasized copying what you see exactly as you see it. Later, I understood that this not only trains the drawing hand, but it also helps you learn about the object you are drawing.
I recently read this great article by Mark Kennedy (storyboard artist on Hercules and Tarzan) that emphasizes the importance for aspiring artists to carry a sketchbook around. His main point is this: you don't carry a sketchbook around to draw pretty pictures in it. You will end up with drawings you won't like.
Sketching your surroundings is a great way to learn because you are forced to slow down and analyze your subject extensively. The act of copying a shape or structure helps commit it to memory, and you learn about its spatial relationships, functions, and movements. Our lives move so fast these days that we rarely slow down to appreciate the little details. Spending a few hours sketching is a great way to do that.
A lot of people shy away from copying things—especially other people's drawings—because they believe that sketches from the imagination are more "valid." While this is true of most major finished pieces that are intended for galleries and such, nothing could be further from the truth if you are still in the learning phase.
If you are burgeoning in your art career (or hobby!) and have the resources for it, I highly recommend finding a mentor. Their insights can guide you away from mistakes and challenge your talents. Most artists are more than happy to share their bits of wisdom, so go search the 'net for blog posts and articles.
If I could offer one piece of advice on learning to draw, it would be: Learn by copying. Imitate pictures and styles that inspire you, and try to understand why you find them so attractive. If you are a beginner, start by copying shapes, then move on to shades, then colors. Once you have a firm grip on the basics, you can then try to explore with different styles of expression.
At the end of Mark Kennedy's blog post, he brings up silhouettes, which reminded me of this article about the importance of silhouettes in logo design. In short, great logo design, like great character design, excels when recognized simply as a shape without any details. Naturally, I was curious as to how my little garlic fared as an outline.
Does she still look like a garlic girl? Can you still recognize her? I'll let you decide...
(By the way, if you are interested in a great online digital drawing community, check out our sister site, 2draw.)