Our first assignment in perspective class this year was 100 impeccable cubes, freehand. You don't usually think of perspective class as a place for freehand drawing, but it really should be. Being able to work out a complex perspective problem with a ruler is important but let's face it, most of the time drawing with a ruler is a drag. Rulers are a tool for finished drawings, not for sketching. But sketching is where all the design happens. I can only speak for myself, but I want to have the sort of draftsmanship skills that I can draw what I want to long before I have to get the ruler out. As with any hand skills, the only way to build them is muscle memory inducing repetition. So I started drawing cubes. 100 isn't that many, right?
The first hurdle to get over is to realize that what you think is a cube in your head isn't. It took me about 45 cubes to realize this. When I started drawing my cubes I did them out of my imagination. They were awful. To help things along we were encourage to build a model to draw from. Here's mine:
It's made from foam core board, 4 inches on a side, with some geometric printouts pasted on each face. Drawing from the model was a big help. I also taped a knitting needle to the end of my pencil to use as a measuring guide while I worked. I did the next 90 or so cubes this way.
It get's a little monotonous. Especially when you realize that there are really only 9 views of a cube (think about it). Everything else is just some slight variation of one of those nine.
One drawback to the cube model is that you're always about the same distance away from it, so the amount of foreshortening and wideangleness is always the same. A good alternative I found was to draw up a cube in a 3D program on my computer and then move the camera around at different focal lengths for variety. This is also nice because you can set it to wireframe and see where the back faces are too. It's super important to draw the cubes through to the back side to make sure you understand the structure.
By the end of the assignment I had drawn 227 cubes, but quite a few of them were less than impeccable. We were asked to submit 20 of our best. Here are mine (in no particular order):
You can see they've got a little of that hand drawn wobble to them, but that's fine. It just gives them a little class. The point is that my hands have the experience of drawing 227 cubes (and about 20 good ones), and my eyes can recognize a good cube from a bad one.