Observation Drawing For Beginners 101: Master Your Basics

Observation Drawing is the core and foundation of all artworks, and it is a necessary skill to have before starting on your own art pieces. This articles dives into the basics of Observation Drawing and the various techniques to help improve this skill set.

Table of Contents:

What is Observation Drawing or Drawing from Observation?

Observation Drawing in layman’s terms means drawing what you see. Observation Drawing or Drawing from Observation comes in many forms, from a simple sketch of something in front of you to the surrounding landscapes or even a reference image from online sources. It involves looking at a subject and then making a representation of that subject through drawing. Observing the subject carefully and paying attention to its shape, form, texture, light and shadow, and other details are essential in observational drawing. The goal of observational drawing is to capture the essence of the subject as accurately and realistically as possible, and to create a representation that is true to life.

Observational drawing can be done using a variety of mediums, including pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, and even digital tools. It can be done from life, where the artist draws what they see directly in front of them, or it can be done from photographs or other reference materials. Observing and drawing from life is considered the most challenging form of observational drawing, as it requires the artist to quickly capture the essence of a subject that is constantly changing.

Observational drawing is an important technique for artists and is often used as a foundation for other forms of drawing, such as figure drawing, still life, landscape, and portraiture. It is a skill that requires practice and patience, and can help artists to develop their observation skills, fine-tune their technical abilities, and increase their understanding of form, light, and shadow.

Observational Drawing Ideas and Observational Art Examples

There are many instances of observational drawing that one may not take note of, especially in their daily lives. The following are some examples and ideas that one can consider before picking up their pencil.

Observational Drawing ideas can come in the form of still-life objects like fruits, furniture, shoes, or even your hand.

Observational Drawing of a Rose (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch
Observational Drawing of a Rose (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch

Other Examples of Observational Drawing can include reference images like cartoons or even photos of celebrities.

Observational Drawing of Spongebob and Patrick (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch
Observational Drawing of Spongebob and Patrick (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch
Observational Drawing of a Couple from a reference image (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch
Observational Drawing of a Couple from a reference image (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch

What are some of the direct Observation Methods that an artist uses to create their images?

Spongebob and Patrick Observational Sketch
Spongebob and Patrick Observational Sketch

The following are some direct observation methods Artist Celine Chia uses to create her observational drawing of Spongebob and Patrick.

  • Using the endpoints as a reference, For instance, the endpoints (highest and lowest points) in this drawing are SpongeBob’s (right) hat and Patrick’s (left) floral pants.
  • Using the midpoints as a reference. In this case, Spongebob’s right cheek should lie relatively in the middle of its bubble.
  • Aligning reference points. Notice that Spongebob’s legs are aligned on the same plane, and Spongebob’s shoes should be slightly higher. (with reference to Patrick’s eyes)
  • Observing the different angles of the contour lines (eg. Patrick’s head and body should be slightly angled, whereas Spongebob’s body should be relatively straight.

Here’s a simple time lapse of the whole sketch process:

Observational Drawing Spongebob Sketch Time Lapse

Observational Drawing Techniques

Grid Drawing

Use a pencil to draw grids over the canvas (size of the square grid can be up to the artist’s preference, although most artists use grid size ranging from 2cm-5cm). Each aspect of the image can be in one section of the grid.

Grid Drawing of a Horse
Grid Drawing of a Horse, Image source: https://pin.it/2PzcUdO

The above image of a horse broken down into grids is an example of a Grid Drawing Technique.

This technique allows us to break down the subject into different parts and prevents the subject from going out of proportion.

Grid drawing is a technique used by artists and designers to achieve a more accurate and proportionate representation of an image or object. In grid drawing, a grid is overlaid on top of a reference image or an outline of the object, and the artist then uses the grid lines as a guide to draw or recreate the image or object, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable sections.

In this case, the main feature of the horse is ‘broken down’ into simpler aspects, and it’s a lot easier for beginners to follow through.

By working on one section at a time, the artist can ensure that the proportions and scale of the image are maintained throughout the drawing process. This method is particularly useful for beginners or for creating highly detailed images, as it helps to simplify the drawing process and ensure that the end result is accurate and proportional.

Marking out Contour Lines/ Positions.

Sketch out a rough outline of the subject before adding its details. The outline gives us a rough gauge of where certain features should be.

Marking Out Contour Lines and Positions of Green Goblin From Spiderman No Way Home sketch
Marking Out Contour Lines and Positions of Green Goblin From Spiderman No Way Home

Starting from a Point of Reference

Starting from a Point of Reference and branching out from there. This technique involves choosing a part/feature of the subject and using it as a reference (based on size, lines and angles etc.) before drawing the rest of its features.

An example will be drawing Spongebob from his nose first, before the rest of his body. This style may be tricky for beginners (they may draw out of proportion), but this will be easy to overcome in the long run with enough practice.

Benefits of Observational Drawing

The following are just some of the more prominent benefits of Observational Drawing:

  1. Having an eye for detail. Taking note of the most minute detail such as a spot on the body, fold of the clothes etc.
  2. Learn to be more meticulous/observant. Spotting the difference between the original drawing and the drawing itself
  3. Practice picking up shadows and highlights
  4. Patience
  5. Sketching/shading techniques
  6. Drawing in proportion
  7. Drawing realistically
  8. Neatness

Observational Drawing Artists

There isn’t really a clearly defined ‘Observational Drawing Artists’ since Observational Drawing is pretty much the foundation of all artworks, and the more experienced artists who perfect this technique can translate their artworks into Realism and Hyperrealism artworks.

Final Words

To sum up, Observation Drawing is the crux of pretty much every artwork that takes reference or inspiration from an object or image. It is thereby, of utmost importance to master the basics and strengthen your fundamentals before proceeding to other more advanced techniques. We hope that this article serves as a guide to aid you, as you embark on your journey into the artistic world.

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