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DRAW 101: Home Study Course Review by Charlotte Gochnauaer

By Sandra McFall Angelo
PO Box 124889
San Diego, CA 92112

Do you wish you could paint a picture worth hanging on the wall? Are you looking for an art program that has simple yet concise instructions for the art novice? Then this drawing book and DVD set from Sandra McFall Angelo would be perfect for you.

This easy-to-understand program is meant for the art amateur and is recommended for older children and adults ages 11 to 101. It is based on four simple levels that build on each other. Copying drawings, then photographs, and finally still-life subjects provides a step-by-step progression to the end goal of composing original, creative art.

The first part in Sandra's book is titled "Zero to Artist--30 minutes for 30 days." As the title suggests, you need to plan on spending 30 minutes a day practicing your drawing skills. In this section there are step-by-step, cumulative instructions to follow. The first step is to copy a drawing using a grid. This traps the negative space and allows the artist to view it more precisely. The second step is shape observation. By being aware of the shapes in the picture and their relationship to the rest of the drawing, you can copy more accurately. The next step is to see the lines that objects have and then copy the contour of those lines. Then shading is taught, which gives your drawing dimension and depth. Finally, creating texture is addressed, which gives definition and character to your drawings. For each of the lessons in this section, there are assignments broken down into daily increments. There is space for the student to copy the drawings, which increase slightly in difficulty with each lesson. Some lessons have 5 or 6 drawings to copy, others only 1 or 2, but the lesson is meant to be completed in about 30 minutes. The second section of the book is another set of exercises to copy. These exercises address drawing realistic textures. This part of the course takes another 30 days to complete. These drawings are more advanced, so the student will spend two days on each drawing. Finally, in the third section, Sandra addresses how to draw from a photograph. She gives many tips on what kind of photographs work best for drawing purposes. The exercises in this section are more challenging and are not divided into daily assignments. Throughout the different sections, there are many impressive before-and-after drawings by some of Sandra's students that were inspiring to see.

Included with the instruction book are four DVDs. The Drawing Basics DVD covers the points from the book and provides an excellent way to reinforce the drawing steps. Shading techniques, creating texture and giving roundness to objects are all addressed. Another DVD focuses on drawing animals. This was filmed at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and it gives step-by-step techniques for drawing wild and domestic animals. A third DVD focuses on landscapes and shows how to use both dry and water soluble pencils. A fourth DVD is titled 7 Common Drawing Mistakes & How to Correct Them. It addresses mistakes such as solving proportions, creating depth, and drawing realistic eyes. All the DVDs run between 45 and 62 minutes long. These are especially helpful for the visual learner, as Sandra demonstrates all the techniques that she shares in the book plus many more.

I myself used this course to improve my drawings, and I happily saw a marked improvement. Instead of being overwhelmed, I was able to break down the drawing process into methodical steps. I especially appreciated the simple writing style and down-to-earth tone of the instructions and drawing hints. I was also able to share some of the techniques with my two older children and help them become more aware of lines and shapes when they drew objects. The book and the four DVDs are sold as a set for approximately $140, but the program is very thorough. The book is not reproducible, so you would need to buy one for each student ($22.97 on the website). The current edition of the book does have the wrong page numbers listed for each assignment, but each book comes with an easy-to-read paper insert that lists the correct page numbers. Overall, I found these art lessons to be a great teaching tool for our family and would recommend them to an older student interested in improving their drawings.

Product review by Charlotte Gochnauer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2010