I've recently been interested in learning how to sketch and draft. Luckily for me, DaveKern just went through an intro drawing class and had this advice when I asked him how he liked the textbook for Drawing II:

No, not for this one. In my Drawing I class I read Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. She makes some psychologically valid points about how drawing works. To sum up, you need to defeat the logical part of yourself that insists on assigning and then manipulating symbols. As soon as you look at say, a chair, and think "hey that's a chair", you're lost. You end up drawing from memory about what you think a chair should look like, even though the thing is right in front of you. Drawing well all comes down to observing well. As my prof said then, if you can write your name then you already have the manual dexterity. Some specific tricks that help. Try drawing from a photograph or illustration, but turn it upside down and draw what you see. This confuses the left brain enough that it gives up and you start concentration on the patterns of lines and contrast that you are seeing. That of course is the trick: you are never drawing a subject as an object, instead you are merely recording the patterns of light and dark that you are perceiving with your eye. Another trick for complicated shapes is to concentrate on the surrounding "negative space" and draw that. For the chair example, it is easier to draw the openings in the chair legs/back then those structures themselves. Another thing that helps for larger drawings is to draw a grid on the source photo/illustration and then a larger grid lightly on your drawing paper. You can then use that as a bit of a ruler to better judge lengths and angles. Holding a pencil out at arms length does help as well - but you look like more of a dork. Above all... practice. ;-)

Actually, I just had this conversation with my girlfriend this morning. She mentioned that she wanted to learn how to draw, and I suggested "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain". FWIW from a recovering art major... Oh, and "Hi, Patrick" :) -- Liam
Hi Liam, Sometimes my words don't work well enough and I'd like to switch to another medium. Of course, my only other option is to gesticulate wildly, and that never seems to work as well as I want it. ;)