Want to fill your sketchbook? Drawing themes will help you.
Even if you're still exploring basic drawing techniques or drawing styles, having a theme to draw is a great way to accelerate your drawing skills. Also, the more you draw, the more easily you'll come up with easy drawing ideas.
So if you find yourself in a drawing slump, not knowing what to draw, these themes should spark some creativity.
Dedicating just one or two sketchbooks to a specific theme is a great practice. It will give you a specific place for your theme to live. For example, you could dedicate a sketchbook to just travel drawings. Or you could dedicate one sketchbook to just drawing faces.
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Exploring drawing themes with a series of drawings is one of the best ways to advance your artistic vision.
Drawing themes help you take the focus off just one drawing. Helping you stay loose and active as you move through each of your drawings.
Drawing as this moves you away from “things”. Instead, you're exploring ideas with your drawings.
With a single drawing you’re barely getting warmed up, but when you’re drawing in a series, you can get more in-depth from drawing to drawing.
One drawing will shine a light on the next drawing.
But what makes a theme worth exploring?
Let me break this down into two parts.
First, it must drive your curiosity. Grabbing your interest so much that it acts as an engine for your drawings. I'm curious about nature and wildlife, it's why I draw animals.
Second, your theme selection should have boundaries and limitations.
A theme is a thread that holds everything together – a powerful enough idea that is seen throughout the body of your work. The number of ways you explore as you draw can be indefinite. Meaning, your theme should act as the core mission statement. For example, you may explore your idea in a dozen or so drawings in an hour, or you may spend years doing thousands of drawings on just a singular theme.
Whichever you prefer, having a drawing theme will help you deliver a new focus in your work.
Every creative thought and imaginative idea involves putting together at least two elements in a unique way.
Juxtaposing the two core elements of your theme in as many visually interesting ways possible.
As you search for a theme to explore, it will help to merge two interesting elements together. Making it easier to get started on your first new series of drawings.
Here are some theme idea samples:
- Astronauts and moons
- Self-portraits and the morning
- Nude figures and mythology
- Cafe drawings created with your opposite drawing hand
- Succulents and birds
Are you starting to see how simply merging two elements, sometimes weird elements can give you a push into a new drawing theme to explore?
When you combine two of anything in a drawing, an “interesting“ idea is created. Propelling you to continue your creative play as you explore your unique theme.
TIP #1: Remember to keep a loose and exploratory attitude as you’re drawing. Just because you have a theme doesn’t mean you have to have a plan for each drawing. Keep the curious and exploratory attitude.
TIP #2: It helps to choose a theme you have a lot of reference images of or access to the actual subject. For example, if you have an actual astronaut space helmet and a bunch of succulents in your house. Why not explore them as a theme. Constantly changing the light and angles to create different interesting still lifes to draw.
There is a unique relationship between an artist and the themes they’re exploring. Awesome themes will give the energy to create each drawing.
As you finish one drawing you are should have excitement to start the next.
Everyone has a unique set of interests and experiences to draw from. Resulting in unique perspectives and voices. Twenty artists could all have the same theme, but each will explore it in a truly original way. It's your mission as an artist to bring to life the themes you choose to explore.
Drawing is one of the best ways to discover yourself. By doing things we didn’t think we knew we could do. Or by expressing ourselves in ways through subjects we don’t fully understand.
When you start to develop your drawing themes it’s okay if you don’t know what the outcome will be. Let curiosity and exploration drive your drawings.
Picking drawing themes to get you drawing more
The best way to choose your theme is to draw what you’re naturally interested in. Drawing what you like. You’ll discover that the subjects that interest you, may not interest others, but that’s okay. I want you to draw what excites you.
The best themes are the ones with the most possibility for image-heavy explorations – subjects with countless interpretations but still fall into a controlled foundation.
Below I've listed some basic drawing themes that might spark more creativity inside your sketchbooks. Perhaps even take your work in a new direction.
Rooms: Sometimes it's a challenge to find time for making art. When you do have time to finally sit down to draw in your sketchbook you might find yourself looking for something to draw. The most immediate theme for drawing is the room you're in. Challenge yourself to draw at least 50 objects in the room you're in. Paying attention to perspective, people, and all the random objects.
Drawing People: The next drawing theme you can easily tackle are people. They're everywhere! For example, when you find yourself in a public space, find a comfy place to sit and draw the people around you. Observe people sitting, walking, standing, and interacting with each other. Don't worry about drawing too much detail, just give yourself no more than a minute to quickly sketch each person.
Animals: Animals are a great drawing theme to study. If you can, whenever you draw, find a way to draw from life. For drawing animals try to get a pass to your local zoo so you have the ability to draw animals anytime you want. When you're drawing animals from life, stick to quick gestures.
Urban: More challenging is the drawing theme of urban sketching. Urban sketching is where you draw streetscapes. Including, people, buildings, trees, and anything else in a street scene. Even though you're drawing complicated structures and other elements. Remember, stay loose and gestural as you're drawing. Focusing on the larger shapes and to not get bogged down with every little detail.
Fashion: Drawing from life or making up your own fashion ideas is a great theme to draw if you're interested in fashion. Some of the most interesting fashion drawings to look at are the loose, quick sketch ones. You can also take the drawing theme of people to a new level and capture what people are wearing on the street.
Travel: Dedicating an entire sketchbook to a trip can record some of your best memories. With the drawing theme of travel, you can incorporate everything you encounter on your trip. Drawing people in the airport, drawing your food, drawing urban environments, and more. You could include many drawing themes within the overarching theme of travel.
Patterns: Sometimes you just don't want to look at something to draw. Drawing patterns or doodles is a great way to exercise your drawing muscles without committing to something you're looking at.
Foliage: Personally, I enjoy drawing foliage a lot. Drawing dense foliage in a garden or outdoor environment is a great way to practice capturing negative shapes, light, and shadow in your drawings. For instance, when you're drawing foliage, try not to get bogged down by trying to draw every little detail. Give yourself a creative license to add your own plants and shapes to your drawing.
Movie Studies: If you love movies, you'll love to make them a part of your drawing process. For example, drawing sequences and scenes from a movie is a great way to practice composition. Essentially, cinematographers and directors make some of the most dynamic compositions to tell stories. At first draw, some of your favorite scenes on pause, then later without pausing them. Sketching movie scenes fast is a productive challenge to up your drawing skills.
Characters: Drawing characters pulls from your imagination. Characters are a great theme to draw because it merges a variety of drawing skills into one drawing theme.
Action steps for drawing themes
- Come up with a theme by merging two unique subjects or ideas together. Make sure it’s something that’s going to hold your interest over time. Also, make sure it's something you have a reference image of. Or even better, actual objects. This can be as simple as a bowl of lemons and pineapple.
- Create 12 drawings exploring your theme. Making sure you relate to each drawing has a different composition.
- As you’re creating drawings for your theme, put them up on a wall so you can see all of your work together. Seeing your work develop over time and altogether like this will help you create a cohesive body of work.
Final thoughts on drawing themes
Drawing themes are a great way to push your drawing away from the boring academic look and feel. Secondly, drawing is meant to capture your perspective of the world around you. You're also interjecting your imagination drawings.
Ultimately, these themes are just the start. If you want to push your drawings further, try coming up with your own theme. Or even better, start mixing ant two of the themes above into one.
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