Scrumhalf wrote in post #18129313
If I try to draw a dog or a bird, it looks like a 2nd grader drew it. I can't get the paws right, the head is too big or too small, the joints are all messed up.
Many adults draw like second-graders because they stopped drawing soon after the second grade. In the 19th century, natural scientists, engineers, and young ladies of "good breeding" were expected to be able to draw, and they were trained in it. Ability to draw adequately was understood as something that could be acquired.
If your dog's or bird's head is too big, it's because you didn't start by observing the proportions of the whole animal and transferring them, with marks or mentally, to the paper. I was among the best art students throughout school and the art editor of the high-school yearbook. Later, my first real job included illustration, mapmaking, and design of ads and books. I'm not the fine artist you may be looking for, but I do have some experience. I think I drew well in elementary school because I'd already done it at home for many hours (started school at age 8 1/2). I'd had no instruction and hadn't been corrupted by being given coloring books. When drawing a real object, as opposed to creating an imagined scene, I began by looking at the thing to get a sense of its whole appearance–basically, its shape and the proportions among its elements. (The handle of the pitcher starts there and curves out like that . . . ) This is a special kind of seeing. It feels different from just looking.
Another good habit is to check your work often, review what you've done. Block in a line quickly with light pencil and a relaxed arm, compare this approximation with the real object, make corrections. At this stage, you don't have to erase successive tries; just keep going. Start with major elements, not details. In fact, start with objects simpler than birds and dogs.
Contour drawing has given some people good results. The classic book explaining it is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.