A Mão Livre

What is drawing? It is essential to establish a definition to this apparently simple question, at the beginning of a book on drawing. I define drawing as the graphic interpretation of any type of reality: visual, emotional, intellectual, etc..
To learn how to draw, one must learn to dominate the "grammar" and "syntax" of imagery, or, in other words, know and dominate the elements used when one creates visual works. Drawing is the basis of any bi-dimensional or tri-dimensional visual work and that is why it is indispensable for art students to be proficient in it.
When we study drawing, we first discover what these elements are and afterwards we try to dominate them. Observation drawing is a way to do this, but it is important not to confuse drawing with observation drawing. To represent realistically is only part of the world of drawing, because we can also use the dots, lines and spaces of this graphic language to communicate impressions of reality, not only visual, but also emotional, psychological or intellectual.
Observation drawing is, above all, a way to master the principles, or fundaments, of drawing (which are not rules), to develop our visual perception, to understand the bi-dimensional or tri-dimensional space where a work of art exists and the elements that form images. It is a means to understand the language of visual arts, through an investigation of the plastic reality which surrounds us, and for us to discover our own way of dealing with this language.
Observation drawing develops an analogical and concrete thought process and a sense of proportion, space, volume and planes. Sensibility and intuition are enhanced as we become more appreciative of the other elements of visual communication: texture, line, colour, structure and composition.
Through exercises of observation drawing, it is possible to dominate all the visual and graphic elements, which signifies total creative and interpretative liberty, derived from having options. Confidence to experiment with different styles is greater and it is also easier to do expressionist or gestural drawings. Without this skill, one's creativity will always be limited.
When I thought of writing this book, my first intention was to valorize drawing and dispel several misguided notions, especially that which associates academicism with the use of observation and realistic drawing. Because of this misapprehension, many people think that observation drawing inhibits one's creativity, and, as a result, many students are wary about applying themselves to learning how to draw. There is no basis for this concept; in fact, there are hundreds of classical and modern artists - Picasso among them - who were never hindered by studying observation drawing. On the contrary, they were the creators of the majority of our most revolutionary and innovative art.
It is not drawing that inhibits our creativity, but an academic attitude. When observation drawing is taught as if it were based on rules, then, really, it will harm one's creativity, just as any teacher, who imposes rules, styles or solutions, discourages students to search for a personal means of expression. I must emphasize that observation drawing is a means to master drawing, and it is only when we obtain this skill that our art becomes totally free, in which no option or solution is excluded due to a lack of knowledge.
This book was not written only for art students. Even if you never pick up a pencil to draw, you will be able to apply much of what this book contains in other activities. However, this book will be of greater appeal if you are an artist, an art educator or student of any level, beginner or university level. I am convinced, after years as an art educator, that anyone who does not have a serious physical liability (such as dyslexia) can learn to draw, just as anyone can learn simple arithmetic and to read. It is not easy, just as it is not easy to learn to read and write, but you do not need any special talent. It is quite another matter to use drawing to create something significant, a work of art, which requires much more than the mastery of drawing. Drawing is just one of the instruments you use to create, but it must be used with intelligence, sensibility, insight and expressiveness, to become art. Art has great value because only an elite have the ability to produce it. However, when you master drawing, even if your artistic pretensions are only modest, you can develop very expressive works that will give you pleasure and personal satisfaction.
It will be seen that to learn to draw does not depend on manual ability, or technical skills, or even on a different way of seeing. It depends on a different way of thinking. To be able to observe adequately, in order to be able to draw, it is necessary to think in a particular way that is different than the way we usually think.
You will notice that gradually you will apply this type of thinking to other activities, both personal and professional. You will become more critical of your surroundings and more sensitive and creative in general. Your family and personal relationships will be enriched. It has become apparent to me that drawing is a very powerful educational instrument, with a much wider scope than I had at first thought. Artistic expression and drawing are means for intellectual, emotional, spiritual and creative enrichment. All this puts obtaining an artistic product in second place, at least at the beginning of one's studies.
Therefore, one of the most important aspects of this book is to emphasize the educational possibilities of drawing, beyond those of art education.
Recent research, begun by Dr. Roger W. Sperry at the California Institute of Technology and continued in various universities all over the world, have begun to unravel how human beings think. Professor Betty Edwards used this research to create the concept of "drawing on the right side of the brain" in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This concept has greatly helped teaching observation drawing, because it is using the mental attributes, located in the right hemisphere of the brain, that enables one to draw realistically. However, attributes located in the left hemisphere also have an important role in drawing.
The right hemisphere of the brain is much less developed in most people, because, not only is the left hemisphere dominant, but also traditional education has privileged the development of the left's attributes: logic, reasoning, abstraction, symbolism, linear, detailed and analytical thinking, and verbal, temporal and digital-arithmetic conceptions. Furthermore, according to Dr. John C. Eccles, it is on the left side that the concept of self is formed.
However, when drawing, it is important to think concretely and not, as is the custom, symbolically or abstractly. You should be concerned with things as they are visually, and not what they signify. Normally you look at a few significant details that provide the minimum information that is needed to decipher what is being seen. But when you draw, this is insufficient information , so you must learn to see and think concretely.
In your daily activities, logical and rational thinking predominate. But, in drawing, the use of logic can be totally misleading. Drawing is, above all, the use of analogies, or comparisons. Sizes, spaces, points, and dark and light are compared. Drawings are composed of contrasts. It is in this way that you decode the three dimensional world and transform it into two dimensions.
Drawing is also important in the development of expressiveness, sensibility and intuition, or insight. While drawing, it is the process in which you are involved that is important, and not the product which is a result of this process. For the artist, pleasure is found creating a work, and not in the finished work itself. It is important for you to remember this, because you should not be concerned with the finished drawing, but with the process of learning and discovery. You should concern yourself with understanding and mastering the elements which form the visual art work, and then the product will be a natural consequence of this understanding.
To be concerned with results is due to being dominated by the attributes of the left hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere works with other attributes, less important, but also very valuable, for most of our daily activities: analogies, synthesis, intuition and concrete, spatial, geometric and holistic concepts. The right side is also the musical side. In fact, music and observation drawing are what best develop this type of thinking, to my knowledge. Based on this knowledge, I believe that art education should be used primarily to develop the thought processes of the right hemisphere of the brain, to enhance perception and as a means to express oneself emotionally and creatively.
The following graph illustrates how each hemisphere thinks and functions. Note that the functions of one side complement the functions of the other side.

Related to Consciousness No such relationship
Abstract and Symbolic Concrete
Conceptual Intuitive
Sequential-Linear and Detailed Holistic
Analytical Synthetic
Logical and Rational Analogical
Temporal Synthesis of Time
Verbal Musical (Almost Non-verbal)
Linguistic Description Pictorial and Formal Sense
Digital Conception (Arithmetic and Computation) Spatial (Geometry)

When you transfer the thought processes used in drawing to other activities, not only do you obtain additional information that can be used with information obtained by the left side of the brain, but you also can use an alternative approach than that used by the left side. This enables you to have a much better understanding of your problems, both personal and professional, and of the world in general.
There is also a cultural gain, because learning to draw leads to a greater appreciation and knowledge of art, its periods and development.
When drawing is used to develop your perception, sensibility and the attributes of the right hemisphere of the brain, results are obtained rapidly. However, when the purpose is mastery of drawing, the process is slower, because it is necessary to practice a great deal, repeating the exercises at the end of each chapter, until you have mastered, first, the principles and then the techniques.
The development of a rich theme is also slow, because it depends on having linguistic and technical options at your disposal, and knowing what can be done with these options.


The information which this book contains forms a valuable educational instrument when used with an adequate method. The purpose of the educator and the type of student determine the best method for a course as a whole, and I do not intend that this book be a substitute for an art education or drawing course.
The main intention of this book is to present and discuss the elements that form visual language. The order chosen to present the topics does not constitute a method, but is based on the observation that usually students need them in this sequence.
Drawing is studied in three parts: fundaments, themes and techniques.
Traditionally, first the fundaments are taught, then the techniques and lastly themes. Although this method is complete, it has the disadvantage of being very lengthy and of confining drawing to observation exercises, disassociated from the development of expression, for a long time.
Having observed this, many educators prefer to develop expression first, then technique and the fundaments lastly. I believe that beginning with expression is very good for children under ten years old, who should be stimulated to appreciate colour, line, texture and so on, while expressing themselves emotionally. However, they are not usually prepared to study the fundaments at this age. However, when used with adolescents and adults, this method generally provokes frustration, because most people are primarily interested in learning how to register what they see, which means they require an understanding of the fundaments.
Courses that intend to teach only techniques are also faulty, because it is difficult to learn a technique when one does not have a theme. Expression is a result of an intention. At this stage, you will obtain mastery of a certain technique when you think of what you wish to express through your drawing and search for adequate solutions. Furthermore, many students come up against their poor knowledge of the fundaments of drawing, and misunderstand this to be a technical difficulty.
I have developed a holistic method, which consists of working on the three areas simultaneously. This method works only on an individual basis. Generally I start by explaining the basics of drawing, and suggest some observation exercises. I ask each student what he, or she, would like to draw, and show them how to apply the fundaments to obtain a simple line drawing. I have found that it is difficult for one to become involved in the process when one is not interested in what one is drawing, and it really does not matter what one draws, be it a face, a flower or a vase. This allows me to find an area of interest for each student, and then to develop a simple theme. We then work out a study program of the fundaments and techniques, in relation to the theme. It is important to get to know each person during this period, and to observe how each one draws and which elements they have a feeling for. A teacher can guide a student and help him develop a theme, using an adequate technique, only when he knows for what he has a feeling. Everyone has to be true to himself, so it is important to discover if a person is intellectual or emotional, contained or expansive, likes lines or volume, colour, texture or whatever. It is this that will determine what and how anyone will create.
One problem that can arise is that the student may disregard some of the fundaments, when they are not needed for his project, resulting in an incomplete education. Educators should be aware of this. I have also found that young teenagers do not respond to very rigid systems and do not assimilate information that is not of use to them at a particular moment. In fact, they usually ask for the help that they need and prefer to be given the freedom to draw whatever interests them.
However, it is important to remember that I developed this method for a specific drawing and painting course for adolescents and adults. In other situations, such as secondary education and art therapy, other methods will be certainly more adequate, although the information contained in this book will always be pertinent.


In this book I am not going to deal with teaching techniques, because I think that, to avoid being superficial, this would have to be done in a separate book or in a series of books covering each technique fully.
Firstly I will discuss the fundaments of drawing. Fundaments are not rules; they could be described as the alphabet of the graphic language. They are based on scientific and aesthetic knowledge, accumulated over time, such as laws of physics concerning light, and studies on optics and psychology. Fundaments may be subverted, should the best solution for an idea demand it, but should never be ignored. There is always a place for poetic liberty!
The fundaments are the following: composition, proportion, linear and tonal perspective, spatial conception, axes, light and shade, linear value and structure.
Next, I will examine the creative process, which is the part which deals with the development of a theme, and also colour.
The third part of the book is dedicated to the human figure. It may seem a contradiction to dedicate an entire section of a book on drawing to the human figure when I say that the observation process is always the same, no matter what is being drawn. I do not intend to infer that drawing the human figure is different than drawing anything else, rather, contest such a notion. Most of the books on drawing that I have seen propose a method that is intended to facilitate drawing the human figure, and, consequently, the authors imply that there is a difference between drawing it and anything else. In reality, what the creators of these methods want is to make it easier to draw the human figure without a model.
The majority of methods currently found in books were developed this century for university-level students, who already know how to draw by observation. The intention was to help illustration, dispensing the use of models. However, all students studied live model drawing first.
With the growth of propaganda and the press, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, and the creation of cartoons, the work rhythm of illustrators was increased considerably, which made the use of models impracticable. As a substitute, wooden figure models began to be used, and, later, methods were created that made it unnecessary to use even them. These methods are fantastic -if one already knows how to draw.
If you study drawings of masters before the Twentieth Century, you will see that they were done from observation and that the procedure employed is different: always analogical (not using a simplification such as a doll as a starting point), and beginning from a central point instead of from the outside inwards. When I began to draw, my greatest interest was the human figure, and it seemed natural to draw in this manner, beginning my drawings with the eyes. Later, I discovered that it was better to begin with the nose. I learnt many of the methods to which I referred, but I never had to use them, because I always drew from observation.
When I became a teacher, I noticed that students that tried to use these methods to draw live models had great difficulties; however they could draw from imagination quite well. I also noticed that those that draw well naturally, generally employ an analogical and holistic process. Therefore I decided to dedicate a whole section of this book to figure drawing, preserving a process of observation that is not only natural, but also that used by the greatest draughtsmen of all times: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Prud'hon, Ingres, Picasso, etc. Furthermore it is the same process used in all observation drawings, which makes live model drawing one of the best possible drawing exercises.
I do not show any of the methods used to draw the figure without a model, because it is easy to find books that do this very well and I would not like to recommend any particular method. However I do recommend illustration students to investigate these methods - but first learn to draw from observation!
Everything that is found in this book is the result of my experience: as a student, because, when I teach, I always try to remember the difficulties that I encountered when I began, as an artist, working since 1972, but principally as an art-educator. I always have tried to employ didactic methods that simplify the study of Art, and many of them are those used for centuries. My intention is to recuperate some that have been forgotten and discuss the emphasis that is currently given to art-education. I believe that what I present here will make it easier to learn how to draw, but this book is not a collection of tips or magic formulas!
It is very important to remember that art education is a process that enriches and provides great pleasure. I do not teach or write this book thinking only of future artists. I think of enriching people, and if some of you become artists that will be only one of the consequences of this process.