Art is a hobby that many people want to have but don’t. Why not? Probably because they don’t feel as if they’re good enough to be an artist, even at a hobbyist level.
If you feel this way, please don’t. Even if you can’t draw a stick figure, as long as you’re drawing something regularly, you’re an artist.
If you do want to improve your art skills, you need to practice. And it will take a lot of practice, and not all of it will be fun. There aren’t any shortcuts on the artistic road.
But there are some running shoes if you really want to push yourself to improve more quickly.
Form studies are a pair of those running shoes.
What are form studies? The name is quite apropos, as they are just studies of forms. The easiest forms of which are spheres, cubes, and cylinders.
At a higher difficulty level, a still life of bowls, cups, bottles, and vases counts as a form study, but the forms you would be studying would be more complex. They would be combinations of the simpler geometric forms that you should study first.
When you really get down to it, everything can be simplified to geometric shapes.
a) Eye = Sphere
b) Arm = Cylinders
c) Book = Rectangular Prism
d) Nose = Triangular Pyramid + Sphere
e) Tree = Cylinder + Cone
f) Tulip = Sphere + Cylinders
Because everything can be simplified to geometric shapes, learning how to shade those shapes, why shadows fall across them in certain ways, how the light bounces off of the different faces, will help you when drawing anything that uses those forms.
Practicing form studies is important, and so is how you practice them. If you are just beginning with studying art, doing form studies in black and white will eliminate the added variable of color.
You may think that color isn’t a big deal, but you’d need to master color theory in order to really understand how those colors work and why they act in the way they do. So if you’re just starting out, try using black and white (and the shades of gray that come in between).
Like learning how to draw anything else, it’s great to work with a reference, so here are a few I made in Blender:
After you get used to doing form studies with a reference, try doing shapes out of your imagination, to really test your skills. After a while of doing form studies using different shapes, test out still lifes using cups, bottles, bowls, flowers, and fruits.
For the still lifes, whether or not you want to use color is up to you. It would be a great way to challenge yourself, and introduce color theory into your world of art.
If you want to have a measure for your improvement, draw something that you have difficulties with or that you want to improve.
For example, you could draw a face. Then do 3 form studies over a week, and at the end of the week redraw what you originally drew, but use the knowledge that you have gained from form studies.
Do that for about a month, and then compare all of your drawings. See how much your understanding of shading and light have improved.
And don’t just practice blindly. By that I mean: put in the effort to try to understand why a shadow falls in a certain way, or why the highlights look like that.
Understanding why certain things happen will better your understanding of when they happen and when they don’t. That way, you’ll be able to use your knowledge to draw any shape under any lighting circumstance!
If you really want to improve your art skills, you will find a way to. Why not start with form studies, which will help with your shading, no matter what your subject is, from humans to animals to landscapes?