Sketchbook: RFA Sketch Tutorial Lesson 2 (Proof of Concept)

Having just sung Darlene Nguyen’s praises on this very site, I tuned in today to find Lesson 2 of her How to Draw series. It’s free! You should try it. I did. /unsolicited testimonial


Speed recap: Art track, portraits, anime, adult coloring, new ideas… and now Rapid Fire Art, dot com.

Having just sung Darlene Nguyen’s praises on this very site, I tuned in today to find Lesson 2 of her How to Draw series. It’s free! You should try it. I did. /unsolicited testimonial

Today’s hurdle: Objects!

I’ve never been particularly good at drawing objects, especially still life assortments that my art teacher used to toss together. Funny and true story about that at the end of this post.

So as I looked around at random items on my desk, I was very daunted at the idea that I of all people could actually hack together a reasonable facsimile of say, my coffee mug. (It’s not the usual shape.)

Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem drawing geometric shapes. Here’s where the breakdown would occur:

Beach ball: No problem.
Globe on a stand: Blrph.

Kleenex box: Easy! (Unless a tissue is sticking out of the top.)
Stack of in/out filing trays: Mrrrrgh.

Long story short, the problem I was having was trying to rough in The Thing with terrible results (or none at all, because I normally don’t bother trying to draw objects) rather than breaking it up into bite-sized chunks.

Enter Rapid Fire Art.

After reading the lesson, I decided to try my hand at sketching my coffee mug. It is not the usual cylindrical shape. But, using Darlene’s method of breaking the object down, I sketched out a large circle and then an oval on top. Mostly done! I roughed in the handle, and BOOM, instant feeling of accomplishment!


Feeling emboldened, and yes I am aware I didn’t show any actual art yet, keep reading, I decided to try something more complex: My peanut jar.

This time I used the full process: I framed out a rectangle, started with an oval for the top of the lid, and worked my way down joining the essential shapes together step by step. Then I started to rough in the details like the label and the actual peanuts, and ta-da, here’s today’s sketchbook page:


Great success!

I’m well aware that these are rough sketches and will not at any time grace the halls of the MoMA, but hey, I went from “won’t even attempt this” to “I did it!” in the course of just a few minutes.


See if you agree that these are the prime suspects.

Thanks once more to Darlene Nguyen for creating Rapid Fire Art!


Bonus extras and deleted scenes:

I never did mention this… my forays into adult coloring more or less began with the cheap sketch pad I bought at Target one day with a “color it yourself” cover. I got a 4-pack of “brush markers” (not really, story here) from Dollar Tree and enjoyed the process so much that I branched out into coloring other patterns, etc etc. Here is that cover, coated in Mod Podge:


And finally, the funny yet true story about drawing still life assortments in high school. One of my friends was left-handed and an amazing artist. You could say, “draw me a gorilla balancing on a stack of orange crates juggling ten fish” and he’d practically be halfway done with it while you made the request. I wasn’t that clever artistically, or otherwise, frankly. I could probably pull off the orange crate part.

So we were sitting together in class, drawing the same assortment, and we went into it deciding to be as obnoxious as possible working subliminal references to the word “sex”. My most vivid memory of the experience was that there was an old tricycle in the mix, and I made long spokes that spelled out s-e-x, the brand name label in the front was s-e-x (I honestly don’t recall how clever we actually were, trying to be sneaky about it). It was an in-class project and at the end we had to turn in whatever we had done.

The next day, we got them back. He got a “B” and I got an “A”. By any objective standard, his was far and away better than my drawing.

He even balked at the ratings, and I did what I do best.

I said, “there’s only one rational explanation.”

(Wait for it…)

“He graded yours at work and mine at home.”

Groan yourself.

Author: Ethan Johnson

Words like silent raindrops.

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