Project - Simplify from Observation
Project - Simplify from Observation
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Drawing Basics

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Project - Simplify from Observation

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Project - Simplify from Observation

Course In Progress

Alright guys, let's jump into the deep end and see how you do! I feel like we've been talking a lot and not drawing enough. So, before we move on to learning about Lines, I want to give you an opportunity to spend some time doing a simplified drawing. You’re going to draw a pear or portrait if you’re doing the level 2 project. I know… A fruit isn’t the most exciting thing to draw, but it’s going to allow you to focus on the process I’m going to show you, instead of being distracted by a difficult subject matter.

This will let us see where you're at with your skills. It’s totally fine if you're at zero. Kind of expected actually. But, you'll identify right away what you struggle with. And you’ll be introduced to a lot of the skills that you’ll be working on improving in this course.

You can draw from the photos I provided in the downloads tab, or find your own fruit and draw from life. Pick a fruit that has an interesting shape you like. Put the fruit on your desk and shine a light on it. Move the light around until you like the balance of light and dark shapes. 

If you don’t want to draw the photo I provided, or you want to do more than one, feel free to find your own photo. Just make sure you choose a photo with a strong single light source that creates a clear separation of lights and shadows. Many moons ago I wrote a blog post about good photo reference.

Make sure you take a photo of it from your point of view, so you can include it when posting your drawing in the community. If you want to be critiqued by me or others in the community, we'll need to see what you were drawing. 


Simplification is the key to this exercise. I want you to start training your brain to simplify what you see to communicate more clearly to the observer what it is you drew. And btw, simplifying is not simple! Simplifying is harder than copying what you’re seeing because you have to process what you’re seeing and then change it. Copying exactly what you’re seeing doesn't require problem-solving. Just really good observation skills.

In this project, we’ll be simplifying 3 things: Shapes, Values, and Edges.

Ok, so you got your fruit. Let’s go through those 3 things.


We’re going to start by drawing the shapes with straight lines. Imagine the fruit to be sculpted out of stone with a big chisel. You’d get these large flat planes. So, you have to observe the fruit and imagine what it would look like if it was sculpted with these large flat planes. This is a very useful skill.

Don’t draw too dark in the beginning. You want to be able to erase and adjust your lines. 

Start with the outer shape of the fruit. This is called the contour. Then, find the edge where the light meets the shadow. This is where it’s important to have a direct light shining on the fruit. If you can’t see a clear edge between your light and shadow, then you gotta change your light source. 


Value is how light or dark a shape is. We’re seeing an infinite amount of values, but we’re going to simplify them down to 5. We’ve already found the shadow shape, so let’s fill that in with a dark value.

Now let’s focus inside the shadow and try to break it up into darker shadows and lighter shadows. Indicate those darker shadows with an even darker tone.

Finally, we’ll focus on the light family and break that up into 3 values. The lightest one, the highlights, is just the value of the paper itself. Try not to be spotty with the areas you shade in. Don't worry about the details of the texture of the fruit. Just get the major plane changes.

Now our drawing has 5 values. 2 in the shadow. And 3 in the lights. 


These are the transitions between the shapes. Now, usually in a drawing, we would have a range of edges from sharp to soft. But, for this project I want you to simplify it to 1 edge type. Make every single edge sharp! I want you to commit to the shapes. No blurry mashed potatoey stuff. That’s how beginners tend to hide their mistakes. But I want you to start thinking about how everything you put down has a shape that needs to be thought of and designed. So, clear shapes, sharp edges. 

And that’s it! Your drawing isn’t gonna have a “finished” look, but this is where I want you to stop with this one. Practice taking a good picture of your drawing and post it in the community. If you did a good job simplifying, you might actually be surprised with how good your drawing can look with so little information. That’s clarity.

Level 2

For many or most of the projects in this course, I’ll be providing you with a more difficult version of the project. If you’re not an absolute beginner or you’re going through this course for a second time, these “Level 2” projects will challenge you a little more. So for you, level two folks, I provided a photo of a portrait. You can get that in the downloads tab under the video.

In the next 2 lessons, I’ll demonstrate these a little slower. Generally, I recommend you attempt every project on your own before you watch my example. This allows you to use my example to identify areas you did wrong or can do better and then go back to fix those things. Or attempt the project again after seeing my example. Remember, learning to draw requires learning some information and then practicing it a bunch to seal it in there. Without the practice, you’ll forget the knowledge.

Ok, that’s it! Let’s get to work!

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About instructor
Founder of Proko, artist and teacher of drawing, painting, and anatomy. I try to make my lessons fun and ultra packed with information.
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