For the past month or so I have been using two online resources to focus my motivation into effective practice. These are the Watts Atelier online and Proko. Both are very similar, mainly because Proko is run by a student of Jeff Watts, and even though each resource has a clear well thought out progression from drawing basics to more advanced techniques each course progression varies slightly. So I pooled the two resources together and came up with a progression of my own that I will follow.

The hierarchy of art

I have always believe in a hierarchy of representational art, meaning that you need to learn or master one piece of  the puzzle before you can master the next. For example, all master works are the combination of only 5 major elements; drawing, value, edges, color and composition. The order of importance is debatable and some artist wrap value in with color, but I consider it to be so important that it should stand on its own. But, the hierarchy I believe in is this.

  • Drawing is paramount. If you don’t have a good grasp of the drawing basics it doesn’t matter how amazing your values, edges or colors are the piece will just look… “wrong”.
  • Value before color. Color is nice and pretty but value is the real workhorse here.
  • Edges, yes they are more important than color. Jut look at any masterful charcoal drawing. Honestly if the drawing, value and edges are masterful the work will be praised.
  • Color is still important but will fall apart if the above does not work.
  • Composition varies depending on skill. No matter how amazing the composition is if you can’t draw well or you don’t have a good grasp of color, value and edges the composition will be overshadowed by errors. But, a piece executed well can fall flat with a poor composition.

Don’t pass up the drawing basics!

I and most art students out there have at one point on their journey, focused too much on certain elements of art before learning the basics well. Even now at 40 I know that before a month ago I have never focused as fully on the drawing basics as I should have and because of this all of my artwork has suffered. Now, thanks to Watts Atelier and I’m extremely motivated and I plan to spend the next few years correcting my past mistakes.

Considering how important drawing is to my art I figured I should break its complexities into a clear progression that I can follow. One thing that will quickly kill motivation is lack of direction, or just simply not knowing what to do next. Much like the above hierarchy I feel that drawing itself can be broken down into areas of study where each one builds upon the next and if a foundational area is weak the whole skill set will fall apart.

Lets look at dexterity as an example. The most important aspect of the drawing basics is putting a line or shape in the correct place. Knowing where you want a line to go is vastly easier than actually putting it there. This is where practicing dexterity is necessary. One of the hardest things to draw is a straight line, if you don’t believe me then try drawing a perfectly vertical straight line about 12 inches long on the opposite side of the paper as your dominant hand, then go over that same exact line a second time without breaking it. You will find that its very difficult, the line will be wavy, not quite vertical and sometimes the slower you go the worse it is. This is why before every drawing session to help build up dexterity I practice the most basics of drawing by repeating lines and ellipses. And to make the matter even more complicated you can’t just practice ellipses or lines the same way every time. I find that I can draw ellipses or lines really well if they are angled a certain way or if they are placed on specific part of the page. So I practice them all over the page and in as many angles as possible. Then I add on even more complexity to increase dexterity. Its not enough to be able to draw a perfect ellipse anywhere on the page when your faced with drawing a cylinder that needs an ellipse perfectly placed. This is why I practice a flower like shape of ellipses. The goal is to get well drawn clean ellipses from many angles placed exactly with one end touching the center of the flower and the other end touching the outside of the flower. Sometimes I even put 4 dots on a page and draw a clean well formed ellipse that hits each of the 4 dots, it’s super difficult and I have seen a vast improvement in my dexterity by practicing this daily.

Ok, so I went a bit off topic… Here is the basis for my writing, my artistic progression that I’m following to keep my motivation on track with effective practice.


  • Basic Shapes, cube, sphere, cylinder
  • Structure, objects as basic shapes


  • Lay-ins (loomis) all angles
  • Skull
  • Planes of head
  • Nose
  • Eyes
  • Lips
  • Ears
  • Drawing from photo and life 1min to 1hr
  • Master Studies


  • Gesture (focus on movement)
  • Bean
  • Robo bean
  • Mannequinization
  • Drawing from photo and life 1min to 1hr (focus on accuracy)
  • Master Studies

And the basis for this post, I went back to the beginning and practiced each item in turn.

The Drawings

drawing basics warmup page

focus on drawing basics by chris beaven - shapes



focus on drawing basics by chris beaven - head layins




focus on drawing basics by chris beaven - skulls







drawing basics figures


  • Session: 925
  • Work: 776
  • Width: 18"
  • Height: 24"
  • Medium: Charcoal
  • Location: Drawing practice
  • Art Time: 2.5
  • Creative Time:



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Chris Beaven

I am an Artist and a programmer currently living in the amazing state of Washington. I have a passion for art, but I'm stubborn as hell with it. My day is complete only when I do some piece of art each day, no matter how small. "There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile."