Craftsy Review: See Better, Draw Better: Exercises for Beginners with Kateri Ewing

See Better, Draw Better: Exercises for Beginners with Kateri Ewing comprises of 6 tutorial lessons on Craftsy whereby you will discover how to draw realistic representations of what you see, using fundamental drawing techniques.

In these lessons, Kateri will introduce some simple exercises to train your hand and eyes to coordinate and work together, so as to build up muscle memory between your eyes, brain and hands. Throughout her lessons, she will be exploring two of the most common mediums for drawing - Graphite and Charcoal.

Lesson 1

Kateri begins by discussing about the fundamentals of drawing (for eg: the importance of learning to see and getting comfortable with a variety of tools and materials for drawing), and how to practise learning how to observe your subjects from different angles.

Kateri will introduce to you some art tools (for eg: the different types/grades of pencils, sharpener, paper and eraser) as she proceeds to demonstrate shading with different types of pencils (for eg: the 4H, HB and 6B pencils).

Kateri also demonstrates how she sharpens her pencils with a precision knife, exposing half to one inch of the pencil lead within! (This allows her pencil tip to remain sharp for a long time.) Interestingly, a sand paper block can also serve as a pencil sharpener - Kateri shows you how to create a very fine and tapered point to your pencil tip with this alternative.

You will learn more about the differences between kneaded erasers and stick erasers, and the kind of erasing they are each ideal for. Kateri recommends using a Japanese Hake Brush to brush off eraser dustings so as to prevent affecting the graphite on your drawing (she explains why you should never use your fingers to brush off eraser dustings on your drawing paper).

Some of the blending tools you will see Kateri use to blend her graphite drawings include cosmetic swabs, cotton ball, blending stumps and a paint brush.

You will understand from Kateri why she recommends using stone henge paper for graphite drawings (while using newsprint or copy paper for practise exercises).

Lastly, Kateri discusses about 'contour drawing' and compares it with 'blind contour drawing'. She ends this lesson with a demonstration on how she does a 'blind contour drawing' of a pear before her.

Lesson 2

In lesson 2, you will learn about 'gesture drawing. Kateri teaches you how to have a proper arm and hand posture while doing 'gesture drawing' with a fluid range of movement (mostly relaxed). She also discusses the differences between 'contour drawing' and 'gesture drawing'.

You will be taught how to add volume and weight to your drawings and use mark-makings to help create realism and unexpected texture in creative ways in your work.

Interestingly, you will see how Kateri shares a method of taping 2 pencils together and doing 'gesture drawing' with these pencils taped together.

Lesson 3

In lesson 3, you will be exploring key techniques for working with charcoal (vine charcoal & willow charcoal), and using contrast to create the illusion of light and form. You will be taught how to identify your light source, and pulling out highlights in your drawing as well as adding shadows and final details to your work.

Kateri will introduce a new drawing technique - called 'reductive drawing' (where you start out with a darker background, then reducing that darkness to bring out the light instead of the conventional drawing method whereby you start from light to dark background). Kateri will demonstrate to you how to prepare your paper for this 'reductive drawing' technique, while discussing about the tools and materials required to draw with this technique (such as using a sharpening block to create charcoal shavings to be blended into the drawing paper for a dark background). Kateri explains why you should avoid using compressed charcoal.

Kateri also demonstrates how she does 'reductive drawing' with a reference image of 2 pears.

Next, you will learn five mark-making techniques (with sharp pencil). They are;

i. hatching marks and cross-hatching marks (which are helpful to show contour and texture details like fur and feathers);

ii. broken lines (Kateri demonstrates drawing a leaf with this technique);

iii. small, circular textural markings (Kateri demonstrates drawing a small walnut shell with this technique);

iv. stippling - which basically is the making of small dots (Kateri demonstrates drawing a small stone with this technique); and

v. gradients - which is the layering of graphite to create gradual transition from light to dark and vice versa (Kateri demonstrates shading a leaf with this technique).

Kateri shares with you a sample drawing she did using all of the five mark-making techniques mentioned above, while explaining her rationale for using each technique. Notably, which mark-making techniques you use will depend on the shape, contour, volume and texture you want to achieve in your drawing.

Lesson 4

In lesson 4, you will learn how to identify shadow shapes and simplify them into smaller, less complicated segments. You will also be taught how to reveal light by adding dark shades and create form and texture with conscious mark-makings.

Kateri will contrast sample drawings with and without shadows to convince you that shadows provide contrast and the illusion of contour and volume to your drawing (which will make it look more realistic).

Kateri continues her drawing demonstration using charcoal, while discussing about tones. You will see how she uses a blending brush to blend the charcoal markings on her drawing into the paper.

Lesson 5

In lesson 5, you will learn the steps to creating a successful, detailed tonal drawing and how to refine forms while losing the lines in your drawing. (Losing the lines while using smooth transitions from light to dark shades and vice versa, will make our subjects look more realistic because in real life, we and the objects around us don't have outlines and we want to mimic that in our drawings.)

You will also be taught how to find the key focal points in your subject and putting them down on paper.

Kateri will be using graphite as her main drawing tool in this lesson whereby she demonstrates how to do a tonal drawing of a chickadee bird perched on a branch. Kateri starts off with a 'gesture drawing' of this bird and later converts it into a 'contour drawing' by erasing off extra lines. She subsequently fills in her contour drawing with tonal hatch-marks and blends these marks with an eraser and blending stick to smooth out the lines, eventually converting her work into a tonal drawing.

Lesson 6

In this final lesson, Kateri discusses the balance between dark and light and the importance of having contrast in our drawings. (Contrast is the result of dark and light shades co-existing)

You will learn how to pull out highlights in your drawing as well as add drama and life-likeness with textural marks and a full tonal range.

As Kateri continues her work on the chickadee (drawn in lesson 5), she shows you techniques on how to create a feather texture, life-life eye and beak. You will understand what a 'catchlight' within an eye is, and how to incorporate it into your drawing.

Lastly, Kateri shares some advice on how to avoid a common pitfall observed with her students - which is the use of a 'heavy hand' while drawing with pencil.


Kateri is very knowledgeable and you will learn a lot about charcoal and graphite art as well as observation and drawing techniques from her.

However, i did at times find that this course is a little fast-paced. Fortunately, the beauty of Craftsy tutorial courses is that you can always play back the videos, allowing you to learn and practise at your own pace.

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