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Line by Line

In the summer of 2010, David Shipley, the editor of the New York Times OpEd page, asked me to write a series of columns on the subject of drawing for the online edition of the newspaper. He envisioned them instructing readers on the most fundamental aspects of drawing and then moving on to more advanced elements of the skill.


As he succinctly put it, "Teach me to draw, Jim!"


I'm not sure I ever succeeded in teaching David Shipley to draw, but I did go on to write and illustrate twelve weekly columns beginning on September 24th, 2010.


Here are the twelve columns on drawing, just as they appeared in the Times.  The first column appears chronologically at the end of the list. 

Originally published September 16 2010, this is the first column in our series.

Drawing, for many people, is that phantom skill they remember having in elementary school, when they drew with great relish and abandon. Crayon and colored pencil drawings of fancy princesses poured out...

Originally published September 23, 2010, this is the second in a series.

Pope Boniface VIII was looking for a new artist to work on the frescoes in St. Peter's Basilica, so he sent a courtier out into the country to interview artists and collect samples of their work that he could...

Originally published September 30, 2010, this is the third in a series.

In the last column, I discussed ellipses and how drawing them involves the fluid, fairly fast movement of the hand, letting your reflexes carry out the kind of rounded shape you intend to make. Now we'll move...

Originally published October 28, 2010, this is the fourth in a series.

In the second column we freed the circle from being a flat-on geometric shape so that it could move out into space as the ellipse. We've used it to help us draw a pot and to see the roundness of forms, and now w...

Originally published October 14, 2010, this is the fifth in a series.

Mother Nature can look very chaotic. When we take a walk around a garden, every flowering bush can seem like a confusing explosion of blossoms and leaves, every tree like an impossibly complicated tangle of branc...

Originally published October 21, 2010, this is the sixth in a series.

Probably the first thing we notice when we observe an object is its shape. This is an enormously useful characteristic because it gives us an immediate impression of the spirit of the subject.

Think of the shape o...

Originally published October 28, 2010, this is the seventh in a series.

There is something particularly satisfying about setting up objects for a still life painting. It's like a little world that you control. First you get to choose the inhabitants - maybe a vase, some flowers, a...

Originally published November 4, 2010, this is the eighth in a series.

The human head is potentially the most emotional subject an artist can choose. We spend our lives scanning other people's faces to assess their relationship to us and our feelings towards them. Among the myriad...

Originally published November 11, 2010, this is the ninth in a series.

The subject of this column is caricature, but I'm not going to explain or demonstrate it myself. When the art god was doling out the syrup of graphic wit, he must have slipped on a banana peel just as he got to...

Originally published November 18, 2010, this is the tenth in a series.

In the preceding columns I have introduced you to ways of seeing the particular structural logic of different kinds of subjects - the ellipses within round objects, the strength and/or flexibility built into man...

Originally published November 25, 2010, this is the eleventh article in a series.

In the last column, I demonstrated a way of looking at the figure and seeing the energy that moves from part to part. This makes it possible for us to draw the figure and express its liveliness and ps...

In this last column of the series, I will show you the process of conceptual thinking, sketching, research photos, painting and lettering that led to a finished

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