How to learn drawing: A step by step guide

Discover how to learn drawing inside this article.

Learning how to draw is best accomplished in stages.

Without taking it one step at a time, learning how to draw can quickly become frustrating.

Most of the time, I see beginning drawing students try to draw things photo-realistically right away. A big mistake. We're not Xerox machines.

Drawing is about filtering your observations from life around you and translating them on paper in your own unique vision and style. In fact, most great drawing ideas come from things we observe and draw around us. Such as observing real-life animals when you draw animals. Or a scene when you're urban sketching out in the real world.

As you're learning how to improve your drawings, take your time in growing your drawing skills from the basic exercises in this course. These basic lessons can be enjoyable to work on and enhance how you express your ideas onto paper.

Anyone can use these basic drawing lessons to build an arsenal of skills that can be used every time you sit down to draw.

Bottom line, anyone can draw.

It's just a matter of practice and knowing how to see as you make marks on paper.

Basic stages to learning how to draw

Here is the path we're going to take to learn how to draw:

  1. Tools: Essential drawing supplies to make drawing fast and easy.
  2. Seeing vs. Knowing: The art of drawing is a strange communication between our eyes, mind, and hands. Getting all three of these to work together in harmony can be tricky. This is what makes drawing a challenge. This lesson is about navigating between the two worlds of what you see and what you know. Drawing with 100% confidence and trust from the information we gather with our eyes. Taking and copying what we observe in the real world and not pulling from what we have stored in our mind. This is essential to creating natural and life-like drawings.
  3. Lines: We're going to keep your first drawings basic by only using lines. To get control of the way your eyes and hands communicate with each other.
  4. Shapes: Drawing shapes is easier – much easier – than drawing “things”. The beauty of focusing on shapes is that it bypasses conscious thinking and the critical mindset often encountered as we draw. Rather than thinking, “I can’t draw faces”, You’re instead adopting a perspective of, “Does the shape of the shadow under the lips taper in or out?”, “How does the overall shape the shadow on the side of the face compare with the shape of the model's long hair?”. Understanding the language of shapes (square, tapered, rounded, etc.) takes us out of the language of “things” so that we can draw anything.
  5. Values and textures: Let's start applying what we learned about the language of shapes in the previous lesson and start creating more atmospheric and moody drawings. By focusing not only on the shapes that make up the structure of our subject, but also the shapes created by light and shadow.
  6. Exploring themes: In the final project, we'll bring all the lessons together into one drawing project.

Also, each of these lessons builds upon the previous lesson. So it helps to go through the lessons in order.

Drawing is observation

First, there isn't one perfect way to learn how to draw. However, if I had to recommend one, this is what I’d tell you to go walk outside.

One of my first ever drawing teachers told me, “Before you want to learn how to draw, you have to learn how to see.”

I didn't get this at first, but over time I started to understand. For example, if you tell a kid to draw an eye. They would draw a classic looking cartoon eyeball.

But if I sat down with you and asked you to draw my eye, you would probably look at my eye and draw it. Noticing all the intricacies and details.

Knowing how to see is an essential part of learning how to draw. From this point on, strive to base all of your drawings should be based on observations. Don't draw what you think something looks like, draw what they are. Draw what you see.

Forget everything you know about whatever you’re looking at.

That tree, for example, is not a trunk with branches and leaves. Instead, it's a completely unique collection of light, shadows, and textures. Completely unique from any other tree you’ve seen before.

Essentially, drawing is one of those skills where you need to jump in and learn by doing.

Seriously, stop reading this and go draw.

Make carrying a sketchbook on you a part of who you are. Draw whenever you have free time. Sketch anything that is interesting do you. Find a drawing theme to explore.  It can be anything interesting to you. Spend a day learning how to draw a rose. Practice all the basic drawing techniques you can think of. Spend time observing and drawing textures.

What you draw doesn't have to be good, it has to be you. Every page in your sketchbook doesn't have to be a masterpiece. Most of the time you're drawing you're problem-solving on the page.

Of course, your drawing isn't going to look so great at first. Don't give up. Keep your pen to the paper and you'll soon start to see visible improvements. Eventually, you'll grow and develop your way of drawing.

Get exclusive content about sketching animals. Learn how to draw wildlife, find your drawing style, and fill your sketchbooks. Animal sketching lessons sent to your inbox:

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit