There are so many art books you can find online alone. One in particular is Kimon Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw. It emphasizes the importance of the work itself by offering a series of schedules of exercises. You may know the line, “Don’t think. Do.” Well, this book is telling you to think and do.
By thinking, I am referring to how Nicolaides begins each schedule of exercises with a small lecture on how to approach each exercise, which is important, because the more approaches you are aware of, the more choices you have when you are approaching new work of your own.
Let me borrow from another book, To Steal Like an Artist. The overall advice, if you allow me to paraphrase, is that if you want to learn how to be a better artist, you learn how other artists think. You see and think as others did/have, until you find something that works for you. Over time and with more “doing,” you will naturally use some amalgam of skills and/or approaches you’ve learned from others, along with what you do intuitively.
Full disclosure: I only got through the first few exercises of Nicolaides’ book before I moved on to my own way of doing things. Even so, I’d like look at something he discusses in those first few pages: what he calls a picture’s “gesture” or an element in the drawing which conveys movement of energy. If you are drawing an athlete throwing a discus, for example, the “gesture” may be that of a circular motion and the potential of somebody just about to throw a discus or just having thrown one.
I would like to add that the flow of the line itself is as much of the “gesture” as the idea of the subject being drawn. In fact, it was much easier for me to access the idea of conveying a “gesture” by thinking of the line, as opposed to thinking of the subject.
Here are four figures which I drew from my imagination.
From my Sketchbook
I should mention that I wasn’t thinking of Nicolaides’ exercise in gesture drawings. I was only thinking of the ideas I had in my head which happened to be line drawings. Moreover, Nicolaides asks you to use models and to convey the “gesture” a given model might make. Despite the differences, though, I think it’s worth making the comparison.
From my Sketchbook
Here is an example of how the flow of the line (or lack of) can nullify the idea of a “gesture,” or you could say it looks static. The ladies seem to be doing something or feeling something, but the horse doesn’t seem alive at all.