Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online?

Is It Possible To Really Learn How To Draw Online? 1
Jessica Lu – Figure Drawing / Sheridan Animation Portfolio 2018


Yes and No.


With the advent of the Internet and new technologies, (hardware and software) the platforms existing for teaching the language of observational drawing seem to be expanding…. for better or for worse, one can’t quite tell – yet.

By that we mean that the jury is still out on whether the online offerings are doing more to diminish and eclipse the authentic experience of what is really involved in earning (yes we said earning) what it takes to become fluent in the language of observational drawing as we know it. You have to earn fluency in observational drawing language through a great exertion of energy and time…thousands of hours of sweat basically. The suitability of a term like ‘earning’ makes a lot of sense in context of the advice Gerard is often overheard giving during critiques in APW classes. When a weary APW drawing student comes to cry on his shoulder about how long it takes to learn how to draw, or how hard a particular drawing exercise is, Gerard is heard to say; “Drawing is like digging a hole. You get a shovel and dig. When you’re tired you take a break, but the hole isn’t going to dig itself. The only way to continually go deeper is to keep digging and digging and digging. Don’t stop and eventually you will find you’ve dug one hole that will open up into another hole to dig etc, etc”. The digging analogy has been very carefully chosen in this respect, for it implies that a ceaseless repetition of activity, exhaustive outputs of energy and plenty of sweat are required in order to achieve some progress with respect to ones efforts in this area. In short – you earn every inch of it.


What we have not found yet, is an online ‘course’ in observational drawing that gets people to sign up for a protracted period of study, with the tantalizing promise that “if you put in the thousands of hours outside of the considerable amount of class time required to learn this stuff, you will achieve proficiency in this, you will have found ‘success’.

Mind you, we suppose that ones definition of ‘proficiency’ and ‘success’ enter into this as well, but let’s say for the sake of argument that a student goes into the study of observational drawing actually wanting to be really really good at it.


There are however, a plethora of online courses out there that do not preface their endeavours with the caveat emptor adage – ‘don’t deceive yourself into thinking that this or any other online course can actually teach you to be fluently proficient in the language of observational drawing’. And this is a problem,…and it’s a big one by our estimation at least.


What we have found a lot of these online ‘classes’, ‘programs’, ‘courses’ and ‘workshops’ touting, is that one can do everything from “mastering the art of drawing in three weeks of easy online lessons” to “picking up all the handy ‘tricks’, ‘tips’, and ‘shortcuts’ that the ‘pro’s’ use to make these beautiful drawings”-(at which point a series of drawings by ‘pro’s’ are paraded before prospective customers to tempt them into hitting the ‘pay now’ button on their screen).


It is frankly impossible to be even modestly fluent in the language of observational drawing in a very short window of time, at least short with respect to the actual 1000’s of hours it takes to truly achieve a working fluency in observational drawing language.

At the Workshop we only aim high and assume that our students are working with us because they aren’t interested in achieving a mediocre result due to having made a mediocre investiture of themselves study-wise and time-wise for that matter in acquiring a bunch of ‘short cuts’ or ‘quick tips’ so they can fake fluency in observational drawing language.


Yes, there are some things about observational drawing that can be learned online successfully, but these things are limited due to the medium of the computer screen itself – a monocular technology that delivers the images and concepts that students are ‘learning to draw from/with’.

If you are studying a ‘closed drawing system’ like linear perspective for example, it is possible to glean some vital information about how that system works and how to practice it while looking at a computer screen.

And, some monocular elements of the observational drawing language (like reducing 3-D space into a series of 2-D flat shapes within a format on one’s paper) are compatible with this type of ‘computer screen learning’.

But remember, the word ‘observational’ in observational drawing is implying that you are ‘observing something’, and that something is far bigger than what’s on a computer screen…that is the whole point of observational drawing in the first place. The computer screen itself can only provide a monocular depiction of this ‘something’ that the student of observational drawing is desperately in need of experiencing first hand. Deep exposure to the problem solving scenarios that arise as soon as one starts to try and graphically represent this ‘something’ though observational drawing language is an absolute requirement for obtaining even a modest fluency in the language.


Oh yes, the ‘something’ that we keep referring to here is called Reality.


We’ll certainly say more on this in future blog posts. At any rate, we at APW think that for the moment at least, with respect to the value of online courses as legit platforms that can actually enrich and enhance a students learning experience in the realm of observational drawing practice, a full disclosure to the effect of what online courses can’t do with respect to this is an absolute up front requirement for any of these courses to be even taken seriously to begin with.

This way, a prospective student would commit to an online course knowing full well in advance that a lot of observational drawing vocabulary is not obtainable, in fact, cannot even be tackled to begin with through the platform of a computer screen. Without exposure to other venues and concepts of study outside of the scope of the online venture, an observational drawing student has automatically limited themselves with respect to achieving a full and proficient fluency in observational drawing language.

More on this later.