How to learn drawing

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 draw, take your time in growing your drawing skills from the basic exercises. 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.

Drawing is observation

There isn’t one perfect way to learn how to draw.

However, if I had to give you one recommendation, I’d tell you to go outside and draw.

Get away from the computer. Don’t look at your favorite artists and try to replicate their style. Especially, don’t try to draw photo-realistically.

Before you 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 you sat across from someone and drew their eyes in real life, you would probably look at their eyes and draw all it’s unique details. Noticing and drawing all the intricacies and characteristics of the eyes.

Knowing how to see is an essential part of learning how to draw. Strive to base all of your drawings on observations.

Don’t draw an idea of something, draw what you see.

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

For example if you’re looking at a bird. It’s not just a bunch of feathers. Instead, it’s a completely unique collection of light, shadows, and textures. Completely unique from any other bird you’ve seen before.

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

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 or perfect, it has to be you. Every page in your sketchbook doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Most of the time as 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.

Eventually, you’ll grow and develop your own way of drawing.

Draw what you see, not what you know

The more you sketch, you’ll often get caught up between two worlds – what you see and what you know.

Remember, we should be looking at our subjects 80% of the time and in our paper 20% of the time.

The root of sketching is recording what we see from observations in the real world. The core of observation is about capturing the richness and variety of our visual experiences.

Sketching 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 sketches.

Even if we’re sketching from our imaginations, we can still use observation – more on this later.

More often than not, you’ve heard the question or questioned yourself:

“Can you sketch – hands – animals – etc….???”

The truth is, we don’t sketch “things”. There’s no language of things. sketching is a language of lines. A language we use to capture shapes created by form, light, space, and shadow.

Forget about rules of perspective, measurement, and foreshortening. Knowing how to SEE comes first.

All these other “rules” are just a natural side-effect of knowing how to see and speak the language of sketching. Instead of a language made up of words, it’s a language made up of lines. If you find yourself getting caught up in rules and they end up constricting your sketches, ditch the rules.

Focus on seeing first.

Curiosity and exploration are the foundation of seeing

Look at your subjects as if you’re looking at them for the first time in your life. Don’t assume anything about how it should look.

For example, a lot of my beginning sketching students in life sketching will sketch female models as if they’re all some superhero femme fatale.

Making the mistake of sketching the “idea” of what a female should look like instead of sketching what they’re actually seeing from the model.

They’re ignoring a wealth of unique attributes, characteristics, and personal quirks of the model.

Resulting in a sketch of an idea, and not what’s right in front of them.

TIP: If you ever feel stuck at any part of your sketching, just ask yourself, “What do I see?”. It sounds too simple to be effective, but it’s one of the most effective tactics for creating interesting sketches.

Learn to concentrate on your subject rather than your sketch. Or else you’ll fall back on sketching from a formula in your head instead of what you see.

We carry around with us a mental bank of images we’ve collected throughout our lives. A library of images of how we think they’re supposed to look. We easily imagine what lips or eyes look like. When in reality, no two look similar.

We feel the images in our mental bank are exact representations. But don’t be fooled. When you try to sketch from your head, you’ll quickly realize you don’t have enough vital information about shape, proportion, contour, or texture to create natural-looking sketches.

We shouldn’t rely on our minds to store all of this interesting information anyways. the art of seeing is a job for our eyes. Observing all the interesting things like light, shadow, imperfections, characteristics, and more. Our eyes are the only things that can provide us with this information.

Here’s a sketch of sunflowers in a vase by E. Michael Mitchell. Notice how he’s capturing and focusing on the interesting shapes created by the shadows and light as they hit the petals.

Our minds are inadequate when compared to the richness of details we observe with out eyes.

TIP: Try to break old seeing habits by assuming nothing about your subject. Look at your subject with less logic and more curiosity. sketching is an exploration. Override your mental library of images and LOOK at the subject.

Be inquisitive as you’re sketching.

Shift away from sketching things you know, move into the realms of observing and recording shape, light, shadow, and form.

Capturing these individual and unique qualities of your subject will give your sketches a new depth.