Question for the autistic artists on here - struggling with observing details, I see too many


I have been drawing for quite a long time, but recently since letting all my masks down and not suppressing parts of my autism I have begun to struggle with observation skills. 

I see so much detail and it comes in all at the same "volume" and all the time. It has become so distracting that I can't break things down into basic shapes and shadows to build the first steps of my drawings. It is hard to also see the object as an overall thing, I get stuck on the details within in it. It is so overwhelming that I just stare at my paper get really anxious and then give up. 

I have tried things like grid drawing - perhaps my grid squares are too large?

I realise being able to see the detail is a good thing, but is there any methods anyone has worked out to get around it when it is too much. Harness it in a positive way as it were?

I know some of it will be practice but I am going round in circles (actually mostly shading spheres at the moment).

No Data
  • I was told when I was young that I was no good at drawing (including by an art teacher I had first thing in the day and I was often late for school), so I stopped drawing altogether, but I have recently taken it up again. I am in the process of writing a novel, and I find it extremely helpful to draw my characters and scenes in order to bring them to life. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but from a single drawing I have made, I can come up with 5000 words easily, maybe even 10000.

    I'll say right now that I have no formal art training, except from the afforementioned art teacher, but my grandmother did go to art school relatively late in life and earned a degree, and produced several stunning works of art, so perhaps I have inherited some of her talent.

    Anyway, I find I get bogged down in detail sometimes, and my solution is to see the overall shape or line as a detail and sketch it in pencil first. I keep doing that and erasing it and doing it over until I get the "feel" of it right, and then I start the rest of the drawing. I think that art-types call it "gesture". The most basic technique is to just draw the lines, and by lines, I don't mean straight lines (unless you are drawing a building or something), but curves, the way the shapes interact with the other shapes. Sometimes a figure (the human body, for example) can be represented by a single C or S shape, and sometimes two, but usually no more than that.

    If you use a grid, that might be preventing you from seeing the big picture, as that technique, by definition, forces you to focus on minute detail, which we as people on the spectrum don't have any trouble with in the first place. I always really hated the grid method in art class. It just seemed soulless and impersonal to me, and what is the point of doing that if a computer or a photocopier can be used to make pictures bigger or smaller anyway?

    I think you need to start from the basics: silhouettes, for example, then there aren't any details to focus on, only the shape. Once you have that, then you can draw subjects in normal light, but only draw the shape (which is really a combination of spheres, cylinders, blocks, etc.) and most prominent features, and leave out the details. You will find that you will look at your drawing and see that, even without the details, you can see the original subject in what you have drawn. Only after you have the basic shape how you want it, with the main features in the right place, should you fill in the details.

    There are absolutely TONS of websites showing you how to draw faces, animals, landscapes, everything, and also techniques such as shading, drawing animal whiskers, etc. I learned by starting with those examples (some are better than others, of course), and maybe that will help you too. One of my early finds was a website about "how to draw gesture". I think that might help you too.

    I'm not saying that I am some sort of master artist - far from it (I have completely obliterated one eraser in the short time I have been at it and I'm well into my second one), but I do find drawing relaxing. I have found that my drawings almost always end up looking like the thing I'm drawing, and I get better at it with every drawing I do. I hope you find the same kind of enjoyment and personal satisfaction in your own drawing.