I’m trying to teach myself figure drawing. Following Proko’s tutorial, this part in particular struck me as the essence of learning:

Gesture is hard.

Initially we look at the gesture portion, and think that it’s the easiest part. It’s such a simplified version of the drawing that we think it’s too elementary and that we’re beyond that. We’re ready for something more challenging, so we try to make our drawing look more advanced by copying details.

But I give more credit to someone that can simplify beautifully than someone that can copy accurately. Simplifying requires thought. It requires a true understanding of the subject. Copying doesn’t. You just need to be able to see and compare shapes, values and edges.

So please, don’t belittle gesture and simplification! It’s the most important, and the most difficult part to do well. It takes a lot of time to master, and shouldn’t be thought of as a “beginner concept” that is learnt and put aside. It is the fundamental thing that makes everything work. It puts together the big picture.

In chess, programming, drawing, skating… all fields of learning, the most essential knowledge lies not in the details, but in the most elegant and simplified understanding of principles.