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5 Things I Learned in Basic Drawing

The author's Basic Drawing class poses with their teacher, Scott Hutchison.
The author (in green) poses with her Basic Drawing class and their teacher, Scott Hutchison.

Today’s guest post is by Claire Mouledoux, vice president of communications for Visit Alexandria who is one of Alexandria’s 40 Under 40 honorees and a former member of The Art League Advisory Council.

If you are considering taking a basic drawing class for the first time, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I took basic drawing with artist and Art League instructor Scott Hutchison and it was a great experience. As someone with a busy career and other life demands, I was feeling depleted creatively. I had taken a drawing course in college and there were other periods in life where I was dedicated to different kinds of crafting. Enrolling in an art class guaranteed I would spend time each week using my hands to make art.

It also allowed me to connect with people of other learning levels — some drawing for the first time and others much more advanced than me. It turned out that the class was not only enriching, it was fulfilling in some ways that I didn’t expect. Here are five things I learned:

All images courtesy Claire Mouledoux
All images courtesy Claire Mouledoux

Go with the flow

One of our very first assignments was blind contour drawing, which is essentially looking at an object and drawing it in a continuous line without looking at your paper. As someone who likes to get things just right, it was a great exercise in letting go of my expectations and going with the flow to see what creation emerges.


Sometimes white is shades of gray

One thing I loved about drawing class was that I got to practice making myself let go of preconceived notions of what I think I see. In this case it was a white pyramid on a white tablecloth. How on earth are you supposed to draw white on white? As Scott showed us, when you looked carefully, each surface was a different shade just waiting to be rendered. How often in life do we make quick judgments of things we observe? It’s exhilarating to step away from common perception to see a more nuanced reality.


Shading is meditation

When shading, it was tempting to simply press down hard on my pencil to make a darker mark. Our instructor Scott taught us to shade in layers, building depth and richness gradually. As you can imagine, this takes time — and patience. It’s not easy to step away from the fast-paced demands of life and be completely absorbed in the moment. I found myself going into a state of meditation as I gave in to the process of shading. Not only was it calming, it was satisfying to see the result.


Drawing can raise eyebrows

Scott led a very fun activity in which one 8 ½ × 11 image of a face was cut into a grid of squares and we were each given two of those squares. Without a reference to the full face, the challenge was to represent as closely as possible what you see in that small square frame. Once the drawings were hung together, it was a treat to see that a class friend and I had created two sides of the same eyebrow.


Hands are hard – and you feel like a boss when you begin to master them

Even professional artists say that drawing hands is difficult. But after the coaching and hours of practice that came through the basic drawing course, it was very rewarding to use my new skills to make a drawing that actually looked like hands.

Of course I learned many other things over the course of basic drawing class. I hope you’ll sign up now if you haven’t already – and make your own top five list!

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