One of the things that following this Chris Hart manual of drawing is helping me with is the concept of guided practice. I drew the same face from several different angles (it’s on page 14 of Figure It Out: The Beginner’s Guide to Drawing People, so you can see what I was starting from, if you look at the book). What becomes apparent is that small shifts in line shape and length and curve result in radically different faces. Even though I’m working from the same illustration at different scales and at different angles, small shifts result in the ‘same’ person having radically different expressions.
Guided practice matters, even in the ‘frontal assault’ method of learning. You don’t get better at something just because you’ve done it once. It requires a bit more effort than the “Ok, I’ve done that, I’ve got it” school of learning.
Then the question becomes, though, OK, how many times is enough?
If you follow the numbers on this sketchbook page, you’ll see how the drawing process improved over the course of five drawings. The first looks like an old woman, and I think she looks like she’s scheming, even as you look at her. The second drawing makes her look younger, but I think she also looks more conniving or deceitful. The third is almost villainous. Number four is much more open and friendly, and number five is the youngest and the most open of all.
It doesn’t take much to get better at drawing, but it does take a bit of guided practice.