Craftsy Review: Drawing Essentials by Kathleen McKeehen

'Drawing Essentials' by Kathleen McKeehen is a Craftsy tutorial course that comprises of 7 video-lessons that will teach you how to draw subjects related to botany (eg: parts of plants, vegetables and flower). Each lesson is progressive and builds up on what is taught in the previous.

You will begin by learning the elementary essentials of drawing, and by the end of the tutorial course you will have grasped the knowledge to draw 3-dimensional subjects more realistically.

Each of her 7 lessons ends with Kathleen sharing with you some of her students' drawings where she analyses and gives you a critic of these drawings. There are also class materials provided, such as reference photos of the subjects used in each lesson, tips and diagrams as well as a metric conversion guide.

Lesson 1

In the first lesson, Kathleen discusses how to observe subjects, use measurements (such as a divider) to measure your subject(s) for accuracy (more detailed drawing) and complete your drawing with careful lines. Throughout this lesson, she will be using a twig as an example for her drawing demonstration.

Model sketch of twig-subject from lesson 1

You will start off learning how to do 'blind contour drawing' (ie: learning to draw without looking at the paper but focusing on your subject instead).

If you are keen to learn how to draw on tracing paper and/or transfer your sketches from tracing to drawing paper, this is the course for you! Because throughout the 7 lesson of this course, you will find that Kathleen frequently uses tracing paper as one of her drawing materials, and you get to see how she uses different techniques of drawing and transferring her sketches on tracing paper.

Kathleen briefly introduces the 3 methods of transferring sketches using tracing paper, namely: the 'Graphite Tracing Transfer method', the 'Double Transfer method' and the 'Double Tracing method'. Lesson 1 is when Kathleen discusses the 'Graphite Tracing Transfer method' at length (which basically involves tracing over tracing paper that is shaded with graphite).

Lesson 2

In this lesson, Kathleen uses a leaf as an example to discuss the features of a leaf while demonstrating how to use the 'Leaf Rubbing method' to draw its veins and jagged edges (basically using tracing paper to trace and rub over the leaf). You will also be taught how to draw more complex shapes and develop greater control of your pencil lines.

Model sketch of leaf-subject from lesson 2

Lesson 2 is also when Kathleen discusses the'Double Transfer method' to transfer sketches on tracing paper to good drawing paper.

Lesson 3

In lesson 3, through Kathleen's drawing demonstration of a mushroom with rounded cap, you will learn how to do gesture sketching (ie: quick drawing), measure and sketch round subjects as well as explore using sensitive lines to show the roundness of rounded subjects.

Model sketch of mushroom-subject from lesson 3

Kathleen will explain and show you how to use light and dark lines to show the depths and contours of subjects, while also discussing the 'Double Tracing method' at length.

Lesson 4

Lesson 4 focuses on the topics of creating form with shading, and using 'lights effect' to make your subject show its 3-dimensional form (whereby Kathleen discusses how light and shadow can be used to explain the depths, directions and contours of your subject).

Kathleen will be using a glossy white onion as an example in this lesson, while she introduces to you several shading methods such as the 'Parallel Line shading' and 'Layering' methods.

Model sketch of onion-subject from lesson 4

Kathleen will explain to you why is texture of the paper you are using important in getting as many varying shades of lightness and darkness of your pencil lines, as well as recommend you the types of paper and pencils to use.

Lesson 5

This is a lesson on shading shiny subjects whereby Kathleen will be using a glossy, bright green pepper as an example to teach you how to develop strong highlights, make effective use of shades of lightness and darkness on richly coloured subjects, as well as creating 'cast shadows'.

Model sketch of green pepper-subject from lesson 5

Kathleen will show you how to use different shading techniques such as the 'Continuous Toning' and 'Stippling' methods.

You will gain an understanding of why a harder, sharp-tipped pencil is a better than a dull, softer pencil when shading. And Kathleen also provides a useful tip on how you could add on more graphite to your paper even though you think you may have gotten all the graphite on the paper (but yet you still want more on it).

You will see and learn how Kathleen uses a stomp (or a tortillon) to blend pencil shading for a smooth finish when creating cast shadows.

Lesson 6

In lesson 6, you will be taught how to discover ways to create and add surface texture (through cross hatching, dotting or continuous toning methods) as well as include fine details to your drawing through Kathleen's use of a rough-textured beet as an example. Kathleen also discusses various posing possibilities for your subject (eg: leaving them vertical, horizontal or suspended etc).

Model sketch of beet-subject from lesson 6

Kathleen also demonstrates how to use kneaded eraser to lift off graphite from your drawing, in order to create a lighter shade for texture effect.

Lesson 7

In this final lesson (which is the shortest), Kathleen teaches you how to draw delicate subjects in 3-dimension through her use of a single rose petal as an example. You will be taught how to pick a simple pose for your flower petal (as a subject) and use careful shading to show its delicate texture, veins and reveal its subtle curves with shadows and lines.

Model sketch of rose petal-subject from lesson 7

Which do you think is easier to draw - a concave or convex subject? Kathleen explains to you the answer here.

Kathleen will provide you with tips on which pencils to use when shading the dark and light areas of the petal's veins.

You will gain an understanding of how to create and read shades (shadows and light) to portray your subject as either being in concave or convex form.


Overall i think 'Drawing Essentials' is a pretty interesting tutorial course, although i do at times wish that Kathleen could show examples of how to draw on a good drawing paper directly without using tracing papers (all of her drawing demonstrations involve the use of tracing paper).

If you are seeking to learn how to draw 3-D subjects more convincingly, this course is certainly helpful.

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Thanks for this review. I did not know she has a Craftsy class. She teaches here in Seattle at a couple locations. I want to take her workshop in person but so far my schedule has fit it in.

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