“There is only one right way to learn to draw...”
- Kimon Nicolaides in his book The Natural Way to Draw
Nicolaides was wrong. There is no right way to learn to draw. Every movement in art, from ancient to contemporary, has it’s own conception of drawing. Within each movement, every individual artist develops a unique approach to drawing that yields a personal style.
This has not stopped drawing teachers from proclaiming, that they have discovered the “right” way to draw.
What I wished someone had told me when I was learning to draw, and what I am telling you now, is that you should experience as many of these exceptional drawing methods as possible. Learn George Bridgman’s architectural methods of constructing the human form. Copy Burn Hogarth’s drawings to learn how he achieved his pumped-up super-humans. Participate in Kimon Nicolaides self-help style, 365-day drawing program.
But remember that when Nicolaides wrote “There is only one right way to learn to draw and that is a perfectly natural way,” he should have inserted the words “to me,” at the end of this sentence. I’m sure Nicolaides way of learning to draw did feel “right” and “perfectly natural”… to him. If you want to draw like Hogarth, then yes, Hogarth’s method is the only way to get there. If you want to draw like Bridgman, he wrote volumes detailing how to achieve his style. But hopefully you do not want your drawings to be mistaken for Hogarth’s or Loomis’s or Vanderpoel’s or any of the other drawing book luminaries, as much of an accomplishment as that would be.
You want to learn to draw like you. Learning how you draw will be a unique endeavor through which you will learn from many masters, adopt many of their techniques, reject some, adapt others and develop some of your own.
This is the process I have been, and am still, going through. My drawing process continues to evolve as I develop a fascination with new artists or rediscover old favorites. Keeping one foot in tradition while reaching out with the other to test new ground, is the most powerful way I have found of learning and growing as a draftsman and teacher.