Today’s post contains quite a few resources for anyone interested in learning to draw at a college level without paying an expensive tuition. It’s also the second post in my series on getting an art education for free.
I’ll start off by discussing a few of the most basic, yet time-honored resources for artists—the classic drawing textbook.
Drawing textbooks available for free online
Many college drawing courses require their students to purchase textbooks on drawing to use as a resource. If you’re studying alone it’s a good idea to use the table of contents of one of these books as a syllabus for your study.
The first four books that I’ve listed below are available for free online. Some may have copyrighted images in them (which won’t be displayed) but the text is all there.
1. Master Class in Figure Drawing by Robert Beverly Hale.
2. The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed.
3. Line and Form by Walter Crane.
4. Outdoor Sketching by Francis Hopkinson Smith (series of four lectures).
Other “how to draw” books you can buy for cheap
The following books are not free, but can often be found very cheaply in used bookstores or online (and are well-worth the price).
1. Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is probably the most popular instructional drawing book of our time, and for good reason.
2. Mendelowitz’s Guide to Drawing has been used as a textbook for many years, and the newest edition is quite pricey. Look for past editions on the internet and in used bookstores—the content will be almost exactly the same as the newer versions.
3. Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw is an entire course on drawing wrapped up in book form. It contains schedules and exercises, and if followed to the letter would require hundreds of hours of drawing.
Articles explaining various methods of drawing
Each of the books I just mentioned cover a broad spectrum of information about drawing. These next few articles that I found online are much more specific and focus on individual drawing techniques in more manageable chunks. They will also provide a slightly different perspective.
1. Contour Drawing Excercise by Nancy Doyle.
2. Mass Drawing Excercise by Nancy Doyle (includes historic examples).
3. Gesture drawing Excercise by Nancy Doyle (also with historic example).
4. Advice on sketching animals from Gary Geraths of Otis College.
5. Art Studio Chalkboard by Ralph Larmann (several lessons on drawing).
6. Drawing the human form also by Ralph Larmann.
Podcasts by artists, gallery owners, and historians
One of the advantages of attending art school is being in a community and learning from others. If you’re studying on your own, that isn’t usually possible. . . but to my delight, I’ve discovered that some museums are now beginning to offer free lectures online (called podcasts) about their collections and special exhibits.
1. MoMA has a large podcast library about their collection and exhibits.
2. National Portrait Gallery in Washington has a podcast listing.
Ideally you would listen to these podcasts in preparation for a visit, but if that isn’t possible, you could also listen to them and look at images of the works being discussed online or in a book.
This sort of experience is extremely valuable because it helps to hear other people—art historians, conservators, gallery owners, other artists, etc—talking about art. It will give you an idea of how art is discussed and analyzed.
“How-to draw” videos on YouTube
I’ve found that there are a ton of art-related videos on YouTube labeled as “how-to” videos, yet many of these are really only slideshows of the artist’s work.
After a little digging, however, I did come up with a few videos that were similar to a college-level drawing session.
1. YouTube video of Gary Geraths drawing from life.
2. YouTube video of Barry Fahr (also of Otis College) cross contour drawing.
3. In fact, Otis College Foundation has quite a big video library on YouTube
Each of those videos is the sort of thing that you might see in a drawing lab when your instructor is demonstrating particular techniques that he wants you to practice.
Drawings by famous artists
In any discipline, “seeing how it is done well” is key to learning to do it yourself, so below I’ve included some online galleries of famous draughtsmen.
If you’re serious about improving your drawing skills, part of your study time should be spent copying (for educational purposes only) some great artists of the past.
Of course, you can just as easily search for any famous artist on Google and find at least a few of their drawings online.
Viewing them in person might be better, but this is really the next best thing. Occasionally you’ll be able to zoom in and inspect the drawing up close—something that you probably couldn’t do in real life.
Additional lists of drawing resources on the internet
If you’re looking for more online resources, the two sites listed below contain a lot of links related to drawing instruction, some of it free and some not. Both are very extensive, so be prepared to spend some time going through them.
1. Katherine Tyrrell’s Drawing and Sketching Resources for Artists.
2. CG Society’s extensive list of drawing tutorials and workshops.
Have a drawing tutorial or article to add? Send it in!
Obviously no listing of resources is ever truly complete, although I do hope I’ve given you a solid foundation to start with. If you’d like to suggest a link that should be included in this post, please submit it via the contact form.
Stay tuned for my next article on getting a free art education online by signing up for the EE newsletter. Until then, happy studying!
*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*
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