Thank you everyone for the kind words,questions ( especially the questions ) and encouragement. I get a lot of questions and even though I'm not able to get back to all of you I'd like to answer one that's asked often. I love teaching knowledge hungry artists because it pushes me to be better and shows me how little I know. I feel very fortunate as my instructors are the same way. Even to this day they pass on new insights they have, and this pushes me to be better.
I'd like to address the question about how to go about drawing as a beginner. Teaching students at College freshman, college seniors, pros etc. has given me much insight as to how to go about explaining things( working at simplifying more and more ) It's the training I went through and continue to go through. Seems everyone has gotten different advice, some good, some bad( but that's my opinion )
Foundation is crucial; there's no way around it. The difficult way is the easy way. I see senior students in school who have somehow managed to tiptoe around this by using tools in photoshop. I hate saying this but if you have any pride as an artists; this should not be acceptable to you. You're letting the tool define you. Artists with strong foundation skills don't care what the material is, as long as it makes marks. Foundation meaning your understanding of working from the 2d aspects of drawing/painting to the 3d aspects ( Not to be mistaken with 3d/modeling;although understanding forms will only help with this discipline ), basic light logic and training your motor skills. I encourage you to work traditionally as much as possible while you're in school. There's things you will learn much faster through traditional media.
All aspects of drawing/painting can be learned from figure drawing and painting. The figure is the hardest subject to master. The more classes you take in other art disciplines like landscape painting, form design, entertainment classes, etc. too many to name. You'll begin to realize that the instructors basically talk about the same stuff with different aspects stressed. Figurative artists don't have that much trouble learning environments and can adapt fairly quickly ( basically they can draw anything ); it doesn't seem to work the other way environment guys to figurative.
Books are not useless. Shame on the instructor that said this. It's only useless if you don't read it or use it as a paper weight. If you don't yet have Andrew Loomis books please acquire them. They're relatively cheap and they were basically text books at Art Center.
Learn base proportions. You're basically memorizing a ruler so you have something to compare the model with. I agree with the train of thought that beginners should learn this and it's okay to lose some gesture as a result. The point is to give you a feel for what makes something look human. This allows you to push gesture and shapes more informatively meaning you will know how much you're exaggerating. Once again, you're in control. There's always room for happy accidents in drawings but you don't want your whole drawing to be based on accidents. This is a really boring but once you learn it; you know it and it becomes second nature. Same with motor skills. Draw straights,ellipses, and circles. At this stage you're learning the tools that will allow you to communicate what you want to say. Learning to walk before running basically. Don't hide behind style. Don't lose your style but develop it through learning things properly. It's easy to break the rules once you know what they are.
Draw from life as much as possible. The great thing about drawing from a live model is that if you don't understand the pose; you have the option of walking around to a different view so you can better understand what's going on. You also have the benefit of drawing in a room full of other artists. Kevin Chen( one of my instructors ) brought up a really good point. If you draw in a room of 8 artists; it's like you've done 8 more drawings. Walk around and observe what others have done and find out what works and what does not work. So technically you're doing 9 drawings. Learn from the mistakes and success of other artists. Speeds up the learning process a bit. Models also move; not matter how good they are. This forces you to make choices; example are you gonna draw the model with his/her arm at the angle you saw at the start of the pose or do you like where the arm is now? He/she started the pose with their head at a side view but looks like there's a slight tilt now. Should I keep the head the way it is or change it? Also when you draw from life; go in with a plan. Don't just mindlessly make marks. This will lead to bad habits. Have a clear goal in mind. Example: Today I'm gonna work on only proportion and gesture. Today I'm gonna work on proportion and shape.
We live in an era where we don't have to go to the library to look up master drawings. The internet is awesome. You can also find books a lot more easily. So many master artists have come and gone that we have a lot of great solutions for drawing problems. Let's say you draw a front view of a torso and realize it's not very good. Look for masters who've drawn a similar view and copy it. How did this particular master solve this problem? How did this other master solve the same problem? Apply this to your drawing now. lol Be like Megaman and absorb the powers of others. That's basically the idea. Mileage and study.
Hope this helps.