I always encourage my students to practice drawing from previous artists. When I taught life drawing at the Art Institutes of California, I gave regular master figure studies for students to complete. When I taught drawing at the Getty Center and Norton Simon Musuem of Art, students worked on studies directly from master artworks. The idea when copying from a favorite artist is not to reproduce the drawing or painting exactly, but to spend time with it, study from it, and learn from the work and from the artist. There are many benefits from this practice. It develops technical skill, the eye for observation, and also an aesthetic sense. And it's also fun. Some good sources of master artworks are www.wga.hu, books, and museums. Enjoy.


The tendency we all have when we draw is to zero-in on details before we have established a solid, overall foundation for our drawing. Errors in proportion are largely due to this mistaken approach. Instead, we want to work from the general to the specific. Start with the biggest shapes you see...if it's a landscape, the overall shapes and contours of the terrain or architecture (before you start drawing leaves on trees, or doors on buildings), if it's a portrait, the shape of the face and hair mass (before you start drawing specific facial features). Draw lightly during this stage, then later you can develop specifics on top of this foundation. By always approaching your drawing this way you will end up with a much better drawing with more accurate proportions. Have fun!


This may seem self-evident, but I'll say it anyway...the more time you put into sketching and drawing, the quicker you will improve. Of course there are other factors, like having good instruction, but I and other drawing teachers believe that pencil (or pen) mileage is the most important one. The best way to draw often is to carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. This way you will always be ready when the inspiration strikes, and instead of thinking 'gosh, I'd love to draw that', you open your handy sketchbook and start sketching. To maximize convenience, I recommned having several sketchbooks of varied sizes, so that depending on where you're going when you leave home, you can grab the one that's most appropriate. For small sizes, I love the Moleskine sketchbooks, and for larger sizes I use the Canson spiral-bound sketchbooks. Have fun out there, and don't forget your sunscreen!


One of the most popular things to look at and to sketch is the human face. The most common mistake when drawing the face is the same as when drawing most things - rushing in to draw details before establishing the big shapes, relationships, and proportions. A way to simplify the shape of the face is to think of it as a mask, like those used in the theater of antiquity. It extends from the widow's peak to the front of the ear to the bottom of the chin to the front of the other ear, and back to the widow's peak - an overall oval shape (except in profile, where it looks more like a triangular shape). Within this you can indicate the 'T' of the face which consists of the eyeline and midline (the midline divides the head and face from left to right). By establishing these simple shapes and landmarks first, you will have established a solid foundation in the correct perspective, and with the right proportions. Then on top of this you can continue to draw the features. Try this out, and have fun!


I have been sketching in art museums for decades now, and have had the great privilege to teach drawing at some of the best, such as The Getty Museum, The Getty Villa, Norton Simon Museum, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (pictured here--I taught a head drawing class during which we studied a portrait painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds). To draw directly from the work of the great masters is a wonderful opportunity. Most museums now have education departments that offer regular drawing classes. But even if your local museum doesn't, you can still take advantage and learn directly from what the masters have to show you. Be sure to check with the museum staff when you arrive, to tell them that you plan to sketch--that way they can tell you what limitations and regulations they have on drawings materials that you can use. Have fun!