Someone recently asked me if my ocean quilt was being made from a pattern. I told them that it was from a sketch I made from several inspiration photos. I'm not sure they understood, or believed me.
One thing I can say for sure is that I would not be able to do what I'm doing today if I had not taken some basic drawing classes. Here is a recent exercise that I worked on. This little fox figurine was set up on a white surface, with a floor lamp off to one side, so there was a strong light source casting shadows. I did not finish my drawing but I still could, just from this photo. Here's the result of my one hour of sitting, observing and sketching this cute little guy.
It's not perfect but then I don't think it needs to be. The purpose is to really look at something and then put what you see down on the sketch pad. What isn't there is as important as what is there. Personally, I have found that highlights are more important to a drawing than shadow. It seems that the lighter spots, in combination with the shadows, are what really make something look like it has rounded or curved areas, thus making it look three-dimensional.
I highly encourage anyone looking to make art of any kind, to take art classes. Learn basic drawing techniques and art principles to make your work really start to rise to new levels. Look for an art center or community college class that truly starts at the beginner level. You'll be surprised at how fast you can advance with just a small amount of practice.