Here is an image of the original sketch-out of the image. Please note I had to up the contrast level so you could better see the line work. DO NOT DRAW THIS DARK WHILE LAYING OUT. I spent two minutes on this, and it wasn’t meant to be anything other than gestural. There are some lines I had to rework later on when I accounted for shading, which isn’t anything shameful. You’re going to be wrong sometimes. That’s why I encourage you to draw lightly, and quickly. Spending too much time on the sketch-up will make you hesitant to erase and correct later, will cause you to go insane, and will probably ruin your drawing because of those two things and other factors.
As you can see, I try to frame out my drawing sometimes before I finish just so I can keep an accurate edge. Sometimes, when I’m drawing, things tend to get way off track and I find I’ve angled my entire drawing and then there’s nothing I can really do about it but go “I meant to do it that way!” but everyone knows I’m lying and is just too nice to say anything (jerks!) These lines aren’t straight, but they just give me a slight anchor to keep me in line (no pun intended). Also, because the background on this image was just a blurry brick wall and a rocky ground with few details necessary, I really don’t use up any time in trying to get those taken care of in the beginning. If you have something of distinction in the background, now would be the time to get that laid out as well. Or, if you’re doing a still life and don’t really have an obvious foreground and background.
If you are struggling with your layout skills, here are some suggestions I can make:
Try gestural drawings. These drawings can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. They are intended to help you gather as much information as possible, and free up your hands to get used to drawing in line with your eyes. When we are doing “regular” drawings, we are often over-thinking things and trying to rationalize everything (it’s what your brain is made to do, cut it some slack). That is, rather than moving the pencil as we move our eye, we are constantly re-adjusting and going back, and ‘completing’ the picture with what we know is actually there rather than what we physically see. For instance, when you see a person wearing a scarf over their mouth and nose, we feel free to assume they have a mouth and nose (unless you find yourself skiing often with some character similar to Voldemort) even though we can’t see them. In the same way, we might know what a shirt says, or a baseball hat, and impose that knowledge on our drawings even though we really can’t see all of the letters clearly. Gestural drawings allow you to not have enough time, really, to over-think and over-complicate things by getting caught up in the details. They also are done so quickly that you almost EXPECT them to be wrong, and are okay with changing them if you have to. When you spend thirty-three hours laying out a drawing and discover it’s wrong, it pretty much seems like the best option is to throw it away sometimes.
Try NP’s method. I talked about this in a previous post, but basically the concept is to try laying the drawing out at a 1:1 ratio. on regular paper. Then (when you’re completely done laying it out, don’t cheat!), use tracing paper to outline said image straight from the image. When you’ve traced the image, place the tracing paper over your drawing, and try to notice where you may have gone wrong. Are you putting more space between the eyes than you need to? Not enough? Are you assuming a different hair line? Making the nose too big and the lips too small? All of these things happen, and they’re okay. But noticing that there may be a pattern to why you are mis-interpreting sizes/spaces is step one into trying to fix it and improve your skills.
Take a deep breath. Stress never helps you draw better. Sometimes I think I’ll draw better if I just put enough pressure on myself to do so. That’s usually when I end up making one small mistake and crumbling my drawing up and lighting it on fire (literally). It’s honestly okay if you suck at this for awhile. I did; I still do sometimes. Unless you’re drawing an image for someone holding a gun to your head (in which, I recommend you call the cops or something), this really isn’t a life or death thing.