We should perhaps try to make clear to the student just what is meant by "truthfully expressing the leading characteristics of the subject." To do so takes us back to a consideration of what a drawing is or should be. A drawing is simply an explanation. The best drawings which we have are those which tell their story directly and simply and which do not confuse us with multitudinous and irrelevant details. It is seldom that the artist attempts to tell in one drawing all the facts about the subject represented, but the leading truths are sought for, - the characteristics which appeal to him as being the most valuable and interesting. Just as individuals differ from one another in their choice of clothes, so artists differ in their selection and interpretation of the characteristics of any subject, so if several skilled men were to depict certain objects as viewed from the same point under the same conditions the resulting pictures would be quite different, though it is perfectly possible that all might be of equal merit and all considered as equally truthful; far more truthful than a photograph of the same objects. This may sound a bit strange as the student is often under the impression that the drawing which comes the closest to a photographic representation is the best and the most true. But this is not so. The tiny details of nature are without number and if we study any object minutely we are almost overwhelmed with the small parts which close inspection reveals. A clear photograph shows many of these things. When we glance at an object in the usual way, however, we are not aware of each tiny detail for it is only when we focus our attention upon one portion after another that we see the smallest of the visible parts at all, - the usual impression that we get is the one which we should attempt to transfer to our paper; not a photographic likeness which seeks and records every fact.
As the student gradually develops his perceptions he will be able to choose that which is essential according to the purpose for which the drawing is made from that which is superfluous, so that when we look at his drawings we will be conscious with little mental effort of the subject drawn and its principal attributes. It is undoubtedly largely this ease in understanding a good drawing which causes us to enjoy it in preference to a photograph of the same subject.
So the beginner must strive to retain in any subject such elements as have the greatest significance, in some cases even exaggerating them, sacrificing at the same time some of the lesser truths if by so doing the drawing as a whole will be easier to read or understand. It will be no less honest because of this.
To learn what to look for and what to overlook is as important as the improvement of draftsmanship, and there is perhaps no better way to begin to do this than to start with outline, as an outline drawing is the simplest that we can make, for as light and shade is largely disregarded in such work, concentration can be given to representing proportions and contours. It is for this reason that we assume that we are to draw the shoe in outline, attempting to honestly delineate it in a simple way.
Figure 3. Showing the Various Stages in Making an Object Drawing in Outline.
It is here that the student, if left to his own devices, will often make the mistake of starting to draw at one point (such as "A," Sketch 1, Figure 3) at the top of the shoe, work down one side, completing the entire outline as he proceeds, next going across the bottom and up the other side and finally back to the starting point. Should an expert artist choose to do so he might employ this method successfully, but it is not to be recommended to the beginner as it is a very difficult way in which to work, for however careful one may be in drawing each small portion as he goes along, the larger forms are almost sure to be wrong, which in turn means that the smaller proportions are wrong too, in relation to one another. Sketch 1 shows the incorrect result that the employment of such a method is quite sure to bring. At first glance this drawing perhaps seems as correct and as interesting as does Sketch 4, made by the method which we are about to describe, but its chief fault lies in its proportions, for Sketch 4 gives the correct shape of the shoe as viewed from the one position from which it was drawn. If we start at "A" and compare the contour of the shoe in Sketch 1 with that in Sketch 4, bit by bit, we find them much the same. That is the danger of the system, it leads us astray almost without our knowing it. For when we get to drawing the sole and glance across at the heel we find the sole is too low, the sole and heel coming to a horizontal line, whereas at 4, the sole is higher. Compare the height of the toe in the two sketches with the table line at the back and note that this height in 1 is too low. Then as we go on up to the top we find the ankle much larger at 1 than at 4. Now in drawing a shoe such inaccuracies are not wholly disastrous but if the same method were applied to drawing the portrait of a person and as many mistakes crept in, a correct likeness would surely fail to materialize.