Question: What Drawing Skills Are Needed for Engraving?

brennon272

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Jun 19, 2014
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Austin, TX
Since the drawing section here is read only, I am a newbie wondering what drawing skills are important to have? Are there things that are essential that do carry over to engraving? Things that do not? I have recently bought some drawing materials and want to learn the necessary skills that will carry over to engraving while I save up for a Lindsay Palm Control. Additionally, I have purchased Sam's "The Essential Guide to Drawing Scrolls" though I have not progressed by minute 5 with trying to draw these darn backbones. Any good reading or reference material recommendations are also appreciated! I primarily am interested in gun and knife engraving and perhaps a minor amount of jewelry for the significant other. I know this is a pretty broad topic, but I really do not know very much about drawing so am unable to ask specific questions. If there is any special drawing supplies I should acquire I am all ears. Thanks everyone!
 

rweigel

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Hi brennon272, I have no answers to your questions, except that „drawing skills seem very important, what you can‘t draw you can not engrave convincingly“. I‘m a bit in the same situation as you, with focus on jewellry engraving. I‘d also like hints to books and online references, suitable for people with zero artistic training and no obviuos, self-relvealing sketching and drawing talent.

I would like to add one more question to those engravers here who are very good at drawing and designing:

How did you learn artistic drawing, sketching, designing?

My art lessons at school did not provide any information or training on the „how“. The teachers where just appalled that we could no „see“ things the right way but never explained how we should look at them to sketch them correctly. So I have similiar problem progressing trough the Sam‘s lessons and rely on design software for the backbones. I bought many books that promised to teach me drawing in self-study.

The only book I ever found that really sets practical excercises to acquire certains well-defined skills (if one has the time and stamina to follow them through, some excercises are several hours long) is „Nicolaides: The Natural Way to Draw“. I ordered mine second-hand from the internet.

Good luck

Ralf
 

Paulie

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One can never have 'enough', better said 'too much' drawing skills for hand engraving!
 

oniemarc

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Probably not what you are after, but the only true way to get better at drawing(same as anything really)...is to practice. Get frustrated....start over...copy other designs...trace them...get frustrated again...and start over. Not everyone is going to be a natural at something that takes skill. There are no shortcuts. Watching even the best dvd's or reading the best books will not substitute practice. Staying motivated will be your biggest hurdle.
As for supplies...you don't need anything else, but a hard pencil, softer pencil, an eraser(most important..hahaha) and a huge pile of paper. Some tracing paper will help alot when you start refining your designs, as you can use the previous sketch as a guide and make changes as you trace.

Hope it helps...
 

Andrew Biggs

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A very good question indeed :)

Pencil and paper are the most simple art materials out there. But they are also the hardest thing to learn how to use.

The only problem with videos is that it is incredibly hard to get an overview of what is happing without fast forwarding, backwards and pausing. Either that or you have to watch the whole thing in one hit. And as much as I love engraving, it is not a spectator sport and is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Don’t get me wrong as DVD’s have their place and I have several and they are all excellent recourse materials. Sam’s videos are as good as you can get.

You don’t need to learn how to draw human figures, animals or still life, etc, etc. Engraving scrolls is very specific so learn just how to do that.

Drawing is a discipline and to learn to draw you need to do it in a methodical manner so the building blocks go up one at a time in the right order.

My best advise is to purchase the book from FEGA or GRS “Advanced Drawing Of Scrolls” by Ron Smith. It is the best money you will ever spend.

It is a workbook designed to be worked through from start to finish. You can sit on the couch/table, flick through it and open the page and copy and work through the exercises. It is also incredibly inspirational.

Over time you may want to buy books showcasing other engravers works. There are plenty on the market and some of them (in fact most) are truly inspirational

In the beginning don’t overcomplicate it and keep it simple and build from there………just learn to draw one good scroll and a collection of leaf shapes. This is a lot harder than you think. It is frustrating and more than a few swear words will come into the process. But keep at it and practice. When you are sick of practicing keep practicing more. Eventually you will reach that “Uh-Hah” moment and it will come together for you.

Start drawing big so you have plenty of room to see what you are doing. Make your scrolls about 3” high or bigger if you want.

Once you have learned to draw one decent scroll with inside and outside leaves…………then learn to connect those scrolls in a straight line using a rectangular border. This will start teaching you how scrolls interconnect and the relevance of the all important border

Then start drawing more complicated borders like knife bolsters, gun floor plates……..and then start experimenting with interlaced and multiple scrolls.

All of this takes a lot of time and study and developing a discerning eye of what is good work and what is not. A breakthrough will come when your eye goes from seeing to understanding and observing.

A few tips.

1. Draw very, very lightly

2. Use dots/dashes….dont just draw a long line in the form of a scroll and hope it works because it won’t. Scrolls have to be built up and worked at……..Use small dashes.

3. Turn your paper as you go. Look at the scroll every which way.

4. Make minor adjustments until the scroll starts to form. Look for proportion, flat spots, bumps, etc and correct.

5 As you make adjustments then start pressing slightly harder with the pencil but still keep it light. Use the rubber as necessary.

6. Don’t abandon a scroll because it’s not working………be disciplined and fix it till it works.

And above all, spend the time doing it. 10 minutes a day is not going to cut it. You have to eat, sleep, dream and breath it in as many spare moments that you have in a day. You really need to devote several hours per week. If that means less sleep then so be it. How much time and energy you put into it will be proportionate to how quickly you advance.

Don’t be too hard on yourself because it doesn’t happen overnight. For some people it takes longer than others……….Relax, enjoy the process and learn from mistakes. :)

Cheers
Andrew

Oh yeah………..buy boatloads of paper, pencils and rubbers because you will need them. :)
 

Mattymo

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Try cheaply drawing scrolls with tracing paper and flipping it to look at it through all angles. In addition to scrolls which can take awhile to master, newmastersacademy.com can give you a lifetime supply of growth in the drawing endeavors. Andrew said it best and the most thorough. Heed his words.
- Matthew
 

brennon272

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Joined
Jun 19, 2014
Messages
14
Location
Austin, TX
A very good question indeed :)

Pencil and paper are the most simple art materials out there. But they are also the hardest thing to learn how to use.

The only problem with videos is that it is incredibly hard to get an overview of what is happing without fast forwarding, backwards and pausing. Either that or you have to watch the whole thing in one hit. And as much as I love engraving, it is not a spectator sport and is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Don’t get me wrong as DVD’s have their place and I have several and they are all excellent recourse materials. Sam’s videos are as good as you can get.

You don’t need to learn how to draw human figures, animals or still life, etc, etc. Engraving scrolls is very specific so learn just how to do that.

Drawing is a discipline and to learn to draw you need to do it in a methodical manner so the building blocks go up one at a time in the right order.

My best advise is to purchase the book from FEGA or GRS “Advanced Drawing Of Scrolls” by Ron Smith. It is the best money you will ever spend.

It is a workbook designed to be worked through from start to finish. You can sit on the couch/table, flick through it and open the page and copy and work through the exercises. It is also incredibly inspirational.

Over time you may want to buy books showcasing other engravers works. There are plenty on the market and some of them (in fact most) are truly inspirational

In the beginning don’t overcomplicate it and keep it simple and build from there………just learn to draw one good scroll and a collection of leaf shapes. This is a lot harder than you think. It is frustrating and more than a few swear words will come into the process. But keep at it and practice. When you are sick of practicing keep practicing more. Eventually you will reach that “Uh-Hah” moment and it will come together for you.

Start drawing big so you have plenty of room to see what you are doing. Make your scrolls about 3” high or bigger if you want.

Once you have learned to draw one decent scroll with inside and outside leaves…………then learn to connect those scrolls in a straight line using a rectangular border. This will start teaching you how scrolls interconnect and the relevance of the all important border

Then start drawing more complicated borders like knife bolsters, gun floor plates……..and then start experimenting with interlaced and multiple scrolls.

All of this takes a lot of time and study and developing a discerning eye of what is good work and what is not. A breakthrough will come when your eye goes from seeing to understanding and observing.

A few tips.

1. Draw very, very lightly

2. Use dots/dashes….dont just draw a long line in the form of a scroll and hope it works because it won’t. Scrolls have to be built up and worked at……..Use small dashes.

3. Turn your paper as you go. Look at the scroll every which way.

4. Make minor adjustments until the scroll starts to form. Look for proportion, flat spots, bumps, etc and correct.

5 As you make adjustments then start pressing slightly harder with the pencil but still keep it light. Use the rubber as necessary.

6. Don’t abandon a scroll because it’s not working………be disciplined and fix it till it works.

And above all, spend the time doing it. 10 minutes a day is not going to cut it. You have to eat, sleep, dream and breath it in as many spare moments that you have in a day. You really need to devote several hours per week. If that means less sleep then so be it. How much time and energy you put into it will be proportionate to how quickly you advance.

Don’t be too hard on yourself because it doesn’t happen overnight. For some people it takes longer than others……….Relax, enjoy the process and learn from mistakes. :)

Cheers
Andrew

Oh yeah………..buy boatloads of paper, pencils and rubbers because you will need them. :)
Thank you for the detailed response! I went ahead and purchased this per your recommendations:

https://grs.com/product/self-study-kit-for-engravers/

as well as these:


Obviously more than what you suggested, but their shipping prices are pretty high so I did not want to end up spending $20 to ship a $20 book.
 

Grayson

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Joined
Aug 8, 2009
Messages
67
The following quote impeded my progress for years. I was foolish to heed it. "Any aspiring engraver must fight the urge to start cutting before the drawing and design phase is perfected." George Sherwood

To find, " ... practical excercises to acquire certains well-defined skills ... " read John Schippers for practical advise (pick one design, trace it 50X, draw it 50X while you look at the original, put the original away and draw 50X), along with inspiring advice to copy cut and practice and beautiful examples.
 

Goldjockey

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May 17, 2018
Messages
165
One piece of advice I can offer, is to practice and design iteratively. Pick up traceable paper at your local art supply store, and rather than recreating the drawing each time, draft by draft, from scratch, use one draft to trace the backbone, and the parts of your design you are happiest with onto the next draft. Alternatively, you can also use a photocopier to make copies of the drafts you like, and work problem areas out on the photocopies, before tracing onto the next formal draft.
 

Aventuraal

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Oct 13, 2007
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East Central Florida
As someone who has been drawing just about since my diapers were dry, I would like to offer the following observation to someone who says they "can't draw a straight line with a ruler". Over the years of some fair amount of "art" training, I've come to the conclusion that classes can teach you "how" to draw, but not to "see" what you are drawing. By that, I mean an "artist" (small "a") sees things mentally in 3 dimensions, and that vison carries directly through into the work. Someone trying to draw without that "vision" in their head tends to see in 2 dimensions, (the paper in front of them) and the result is that flat, dead look. What you are trying to represent in 2 dimensions, a scroll, for example, should exist in your head in 3 dimensions, and when you draw what you are seeing in your head, it will follow into the drawing in 2 dimensions. Drawing is hand and eye coordination, just like engraving. An old friend of mine who was a college illustration instructor and an exceptional draughtsman told me that "drawing is maybe 5% talent and the rest is just tricks". Think of it as "real" in your head, and then it will become "real" on paper.
 

mitch

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"a scroll, for example, should exist in your head in 3 dimensions, and when you draw what you are seeing in your head, it will follow into the drawing in 2 dimensions. "

learning to 'think' in 3D is similar to becoming fully fluent in another language, when you're no longer translating back and forth between your native language, you're just automatically thinking & speaking in the 2nd. with drawing & engraving, you stop thinking about how to 'translate' a 3D image onto a 2D surface, you just do it naturally as you go.
 

JJ Roberts

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brennon272 Taking a drawing class is what I encourage every student to do if you want to be successfully in the art of engraving, painting, etching or any other art form take a class. J.J.
 

mdengraver

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Drawing is a life long practice and must be pursued on a regular basis to maintain and develop the educated hand/eye coordination and design sense to achieve success! It is a constant learning process!
 

Chujybear

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I think the question has probably received the best advice it could. Tak this as an addendum.

Engraving and drawing are actually pretty similar.. but also with some notable differences.

The visual language of engraving and drawing closely related. I think what people have said above is that if you are making mistakes in your initial layout, then they are likely to carry through to your final project. And if your intent is to be a designer, then certainly you need all the ground work with paper and pencil.
But... engraving is sort of drawing.. specifically tracing (albeit there is still a third dimension, but it has an analogue in pen and ink anyways)
I do find that I can engrave finer and truer than I could ever achieve with a pen (this is the nature of the tool) so you do not need to demand that you can draw an engraving to the level that you would engrave it before you cut it. And if you are engraving for sport, you could work on royalty free designs.
But.. if you want to learn the art of design, then you really want to cut your teeth on pencil and paper
 

Andrew Biggs

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Hi Brennon

All good books. The Art of Engraving is almost considered the bible of engraving and has certainly launched many an engraving career, including mine. I brought it second hand at an auction, opened the pages and was completely hooked from that instant onwards. A true treasure of a book.

What would you say is a good point to be at in drawing to warrant taking a beginning engraving class?

You don't need to draw to take a basic engraving class. It is more about tools and technique than anything else.
My best advise is to split your time 50/50. Draw 50% of the time and cut 50% of the time.

Drawing and cutting go hand in hand. One helps understand the other.

As for classes. Take one if you can. But if you can't then don't sweat it as it's no big deal. Just get some rudimentary tools and have at it and get a feel if you want to pursue the art..........where there is a will, there is a way!! There is enough resources out there with books, videos and internet to sink a battleship. It can be financially as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. However, your biggest expense is going to be time.

So just go for it, make the mistakes, learn from them, relax, have fun and enjoy the process :)

Cheers
Andrew
 

Bob Savage

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You've gotten great advice here from people who are well seasoned enough to take their opinions seriously but I figured I'd give you a beginner's perspective (both drawing and engraving), quite simply that I believe the artistic side ("drawing") is the more important, more difficult side of engraving, requiring your primary focus.

At the risk of oversimplifying, as I said I'm a beginner, I think the mechanical side of engraving (pneumatically assisted, not hand push) will come intuitively to anybody who's fairly mechanically inclined (again, not to discount that there's a LOT to this, requiring lots of practice).

The artistic side requires a lot of "what, when, why and how“ as well as the mechanical side of drawing. The mechanical side will come over time though just like anything, some have a higher natural aptitude than others. The artistic side requires things difficult to describe that again, while some have higher aptitude than others, will be a lifelong journey. There is no finish line. You're never "there," it's a matter of continuous improvement.

I started to ramble a bit, thinking I'd be short so I'll stop there and hopefully you get my point.
 
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