Drawing Paper and Photo References
I suggest using a good rag (100% cotton) or a wood based paper that has been buffered. Any other type of paper will yellow in a very short time. I've written reviews of some the paper I've tried that might help you make a choice.
Drawing from Photo References
There are two things about photography that I'd like to share with you. If you want to capture natural lighting, turn off your flash. If the light is very dim, use a tripod to reduce blur. I never use a flash because it's always the beautiful natural lighting that attracts me to a scene. The other trick is to take lots of photos of the subject using different focus points. I do this as often as I can so I won't be stuck with only the focus the camera lens gives me.
Learning How to Draw
I think perspective gives people trouble because of psychology because we tend to draw things that are interesting or important larger than they are. What really helped me learn to see perspective, and to understand how to draw what I was seeing, was drawing on a window. I looked through a window and traced what I saw with a wax pencil. Running a pencil tip over the lines of objects helped me to understand perspective in an intuitive way. This exercise may help you too.
Using Powdered Graphite To Make Value Studies
This is a good technique to help you learn to see things in terms of values. Put down a layer of ground graphite with a brush all over your paper. (You can buy ground graphite at the hardware store or you can grind your own.) Once you have your paper covered to about a medium value, use a kneaded eraser to "draw" your subject lightly into the graphite mist. Pick out all the highlights with a kneaded eraser and darken in the shadows with a soft lead. You can create some lovely three dimensional modeling this way.
Learning to control your tools
Half the battle of learning to draw is being able to make your pencil draw what your eye sees. I have written three lessons intended to teach tool control:
Draw a Smoothie
Draw a Graduation
How to Make and Use Powdered Graphite
Ice, Fur and Other Details
Don't let any subject frighten you. All subjects can be broken down into values if you just take the time to really look at them. Ice, skin, fur, hard and soft textures, they all can be drawn one step at a time.
Try not to get bogged down by including too many details. You'll develop an instinct for knowing how much is too much eventually. If you feel overwhelmed, that's a sign you're adding too much. Most of the time, the big underlying values are more important than the details on the surface.
When you're drawing colors in values of gray, you'll have to make many little adjustments as you draw. Red and green can be the same value for instance, so to draw a red rose surrounded by green you usually have to make the red rose lighter or the green background darker. Let your eyes tell you what you need to do and listen to your intuition.
Slow down. Twenty to thirty minute sessions are about right at first, and you don't have to finish a drawing in one sitting. Then increase work time by about 10 minutes a week until you're at about an hour. You can make amazing art with an hour a day. Just don't try to do it all in one sitting. :)
Don't judge your efforts harshly and don't give up because you think you're not as good as others. You'll never know what unique things you have to say if you don't give yourself enough time to learn how to say them.
Talent is always in development and as it matures earlier work won't seem as good as it did when you first made it. Expect this to happen and when it does congratulate yourself on your growth and move on to the next drawing.
Keep working. Always keep working. Especially through doubting periods. Always. Keep. Working.
Drawing as a Lifestyle
Drawing is an extremely expressive. It can stretch to suit your artistic needs whatever they are, and it's a universal language too. When you learn to draw, you're joining hands with artists across cultures and across time. Drawing is more than making marks on paper. Part of yourself is shared with the world when you draw. Drawing effects every part of your life and in this way it truly is a lifestyle.