Improving Your Photography By Learning To Draw

An individual's ability to draw is... the ability to shift to a different-from-ordinary way of processing visual information – to shift from verbal, analytic processing to spatial, global processing.-Betty Edwards

Over my nearly 48 year life I have almost always considered myself a fairly "non-creative" person, especially when it came to things like drawing & other forms of art. I say that because I have always approached things in an analytical way, thinking of numbers and processes instead of letting my brain go into "free-flow mode". I never got above a "C" in art class while I was in school and later attempts at art or music were futile.

My thinking changed a couple of years ago when I set out to write a book. I managed to complete that project (look for my name on Amazon if you're interested) and in the process discovered that maybe I was a little more creative than I once thought. Then, last year, I got back into photography and found that I really enjoyed pushing my creative boundries. Looking through the camera's viewfinder has forced me to see the world differently than before. I feel that my creativity has improved a lot and I want to continue to get better. That brings me to learning to draw...

As I started looking for photographers to follow (and hopefully learn something from) I came across Trey Ratcliff, one of the most followed HDR photographers out there. His images are very "artistic like" and he believes in presenting photographs that represent what your mind's-eye sees, not necessarily what the camera captures. Trey uses HDR to communicate this vision of the world. I started reading his blog and came across this post from November, 2010 titled "10 Principals of Beautiful Photography". In this post Trey discusses his overall photographic philosophy and lists 10 "keys" to taking beautiful pictures. Number 9 on that list is "Learn to Draw", with the thought being that learning to draw will increase your ability as a photographer to see things like line, shape, light and composition. Initially, I was skeptical of that statement. How could learning to draw improve my skills as a photographer? I came back to that post a couple of weeks ago, after working on my photography skills for nearly a year, and all of a sudden it made sense. I guess I had tried enough things over the past year photography-wise (with varying degrees of success) that my mind was a little more open to new ideas. All of a sudden, learning to draw seemed like a great way to improve myself in a number of ways.

Time To Get Serious

So, over the long Memorial Day weekend, I decided to do something about it. I went out and purchased some basic drawing supplies:

Alright, I was officially an artist! :-) Now I needed to actually figure out how to draw. I started working my way through the book and within a few minutes I was working on my very first drawing. Here it is:
The drawing is supposed to be of the mug you see in the photo. As you can see, I have A LONG WAY to go but it's a start and that's what's important.

Nowhere To Go But Up

I've managed to draw something each day, usually in the evening before bed, and I'm really enjoying it. I've been at it for exactly 1 week but I can tell that I'm making improvement. Here's my latest "masterpiece". I call it "Cat in Pencil":
I think it looks a little like a cat. I got the basic shape, which was my goal. My hope is that at some point I can draw realistic portraits of our two cats, Oscar and Felix.
As you can tell from the photos I am nowhere near being confused with an artist but that's not the point. My goals with learning to draw are to:
  • Learn more about shape, lighting and form
  • Push my brain to do new things
  • Improve to whatever level I'm able
  • Be able to transfer this new skill into my photography
  • Have Fun!

Initial Thoughts

So far, I can happily report that I'm meeting all of my goals! I am learning a lot about shape, form & lighting. My brain is definitely engaged while I'm drawing and I can see improvement nearly every day. I don't think I'll have any trouble transferring these new skills to my photography, and I'm definitely having fun.
I'm awaiting a couple more books on drawing that come highly recommended:
As I get into these books and get some more practice, I plan on reporting my progress. I'll post drawings every once in a while as well, hopefully showing progress :-)
In the meantime, if you are looking for a way to stretch your brain and get some new skills to transfer to your photography, consider picking up a pencil and learning to draw. It could be a very rewarding experience.