This lesson will introduce the reader to the ten common mistakes beginner drawings suffer from.  If you are beginning your journey with drawing, it would do you very well to copy these points down.  Consider each point carefully, and compare your work to them as objectively as you can.  If you find your own work is featured in this list of Ten Mistakes, Andrew Loomis advises you to ameliorate the problem.

Here are the Ten Mistakes:


 1.  Consistently Gray Throughout

This type of drawing is very common with people who primarily ‘sketch’.  There is also a group of very tight drawers who use reference, also suffering from this problem.  Consistently grey drawing is weak.  It lacks any graphic punch because the contrast between the darks and the lights is very minute.  Loomis suggests that artists with this problem should get a soft pencil that makes a good black, and to pick out the black areas in a completed grey drawing, then state those areas strongly.  He also says that areas of highlight look best when they are left empty, and to avoid the desire to add hatching or texturing to these areas.  Loomis finally adds that such artists should not surround light areas with heavy lines.

2.   An overabundance of small fuzzy lines

This type of artist does not trust his arm.  The lines are made up of a series of tiny ‘petted’ dashes, which are intended to describe a long arc.  The way to address this is to draw from the elbow with an overhand grip, forcing you to develop confidence in that musculature.  Loomis states that shading with a multitude of little “pecky” strokes lacks intensity, and that instead we should use the side of the pencil for modelling and shadows.

3.  Features misplaced on head

Regarding the face, most problems with portraiture and realistic drawing comes from a lack of understanding of where the features should be placed.  Many artists work laboriously to draw a perfect eye or a very pretty looking nose, yet find when the drawing is complete, the net effect of the art does not yield an attractive representation.  Why?  This is because beauty is not found in the prettiness of the facial features, but in the symmetry of their placement.  Both large and small noses can be a part of a beautiful face, but no representation with misplaced features will capture the quality of beauty.  A perfect nose or eye, misplaced by a fraction can be the difference between an attractive smile and a leering stare.   He will show us how to place the features later in the course.

4. Dirty, rubbed or poorly presented art

This is a problem of sloppiness.  Representational art is a precise thing, and the artist’s practice should reflect that attitude all the way up and down throughout his discipline.  Dirty and dog-eared art is not professional.  Clean your act up, and start approaching your drawing like a professional.  Do not use thin papers if you need to erase a lot.  Spray your work with fixative if you have a problem with smudges.  If you break the surface of the ground you are working on, start again.  Keep the drawings flat in a display portfolio.  Use a kneaded eraser and keep untouched areas scrupulously clean.

5. Too Many Mediums

This is a very amateur approach.  The idea stems from a misguided conclusion that adding more makes a piece better.  More does not equate to better. It equates to more.  Make your subject in one medium.  It is worth directly quoting Andrew Loomis here.  He says: “Do not combine wax crayons with pencil, or pastel with something else.  Make it all pencil, all crayon, all pastel all water colour, or all pen and ink.”  The reason being is that consistency of medium gives the work a grounded, harmonizing quality. It may be fine to combine later in your career, but it is not a recommended pursuit for the beginning drawer.

6.Tendency to use tinted paper

This is another sign of the amateur.  Black and white drawings look better on white paper than anything else. Tinted paper should be reserved for drawings done in a medium with a harmonious colour particular to itself, such as red conte.  Such a medium looks well on a tinted tan paper. It is better to put colour drawings on white, for clarity.

7. Copies of movie stars

Intensely monotonous to anyone inspecting beginner’s work is the common habit of amateurs copying photos of movie stars or other popular figures for their portfolio.  The reference photos are usually badly lit, in terms of what constitutes a striking drawing, and the artist’s intent is always a fan approach.  This mindset shows in the drawing, as it tends to accelerate poor drawing choices, such as putting ‘prettiness’ over impact and noodling over expressive lines.

8. Bad Arrangement

This is a deficit in compositional knowledge.  Many amateur artists and almost all viewers of art think that capturing verisimilitude is the highest paragon in drawing.  These artists will labour over drawing every single crease and crinkle in a piece of drapery, or every vein and bump on a leaf or twig for the entirety of the drawing.  Every section of the art is approached with this same obsessiveness. This viewpoint is too close.  Often such an artist doesn’t attend to the arrangement of the subject onto the paper, and finds himself forced to crop parts out because he started copying the reference without thinking about where the drawing was going.  This is why drawings should come from arrangement and composition first, not subject first.  Loomis will show us how in the following lessons.

9. Highlights with chalk

I find this a strange point to add into this list.  It seems very specific, and Loomis literally writes only one sentence under this bullet point.  I’ll quote it for you, and you can judge if this point should be considered, or whether it is just an oddball… He says: “It takes a very skillful artist to do this successfully.” and that’s it.  This strikes me as strange…

10. Uninteresting Subjects

For me, this is the most potent point in the list.  This mistake is constantly made at the beginner as well as (sad to say) the modern professional comic and fantasy art levels.  Loomis says, ” just a costume doesn’t make a picture” – this same sentiment could be expressed as ‘just a character doesn’t make a picture’ or even, ‘just an exaggerated body part doesn’t make a picture’.  There are literally thousands of comic and fantasy art pieces that suffer from this mistake. Many artists draw pin-ups of established characters, and do not understand that the work is not interesting.  This also can be said for the adult-themed, dark corners in fantasy art- it is not interesting.   When illustrators seek to represent something for prurient reasons alone, it is actually embarrassing to see.  Art should have some interest beyond technical demonstration or pin-up appeal.


Those are the ten points he lists.  Next week we will go over how to determine the proportions of the figure!  Go over your notes, and write the date for today’s lesson.  See you next week.

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