Want to improve your drawing fast? Try these simple drawing exercises that remove the challenges that beginners face. Whether you are a traditional artist or a digital artist, learning a new media can be a challenging road to take. There is so much that is new… it’s all so daunting.
In this post, we cover some of the most basic drawing exercises for artists. Whether you are a professional or beginner you will find some techniques that you could easily add to your daily practice. While this post is directed at digital artists you can easily try these exercises with a pencil, pen, ink or brush.
When I got my first drawing tablet I couldn’t get my head around drawing on a surface that was not paper, canvas or even my laptop screen. I was drawing on my tablet and had to look at my laptop, and it was confusing the first few times. If you have an iPad or a Cintique one of the things you might also have to overcome is parallax (the distance between your pen that touches the glass/plastic surface and the digital canvas). While newer models have promised to reduce that issue, it can still be an issue for new digital artists.
Practice these exercises to improve your hand-eye coordination. I find that when I make time for them, I spend lesser time using the eraser or the undo button. While I encourage you to keep practising traditional media, I also feel you should try out digital media for its wonderful flexibility. The exercises below can be practised with a pencil or pen as well as digitally.
While most of these exercises might not make you feel ‘productive’ they will help your creativity and recharge your artistic batteries.
Doodles and textures
Draw whatever comes to mind, go with the flow. Try edgy, flowy, jagged, furry effects. Let your pen dictate the moves, try not to overthink it. This is often an underrated activity in the creative process. Letting it flow can be deeply relaxing and creative. If you are going through a creative block, this method is a wonderful exercise to get you out of your head. There is a sensuous pleasure that is very relaxing in the movement of your fingers and stylus. It is no different from how you drew as a child – with no expectation of ‘perfection’.
Draw parallel lines
Draw a line from one end of your digital pad to the other. Keep it unbroken and steady. Use your whole arm to draw, not just your wrist; you will have more control over the flow this way. Next, copy the line you just drew. Try drawing another line parallel to the first but maintain the same angle and smoothness. Mistakes and bad lines are okay! Attempt it as many times as it takes to get straight parallel lines.
Dot to dot connection – straight to curvy
Start with two dots across your page, then try to draw a straight line connecting the two. Your first few attempts might not work, but keep at it. Next try a curved line with 3 dots. Connect them by trying to hit every dot as you draw. Want to level up? Try more dots as you get better at this. It starts to be fun and challenging.
Shapes big and small
Yep, you heard me! Draw those shapes you drew in kindergarten. Circles, squares, ovals, triangles, rectangles and diamonds. Cover each page with one shape. When you are done, move on to another one. Focus on your drawing; you are trying to build smooth lines and brush strokes. Keep it consistent and purposeful. The ability to draw shapes will help improve the accuracy of your drawings without having to resort to the eraser. The point is to get it right in a few attempts.
Cubes, cones, boxes, spheres, cylinders
Did you ever think that drawing has a vocabulary too? A larger number of words (in this case lines, shapes and forms) will give you more flexibility. Creating the forms that we see around us is a comprehensive exercise to build the vocabulary to a mental library. With this, you can draw almost anything. Being able to draw cubes, cones, boxes and spheres in space will create the foundation you need to draw most things, including three-dimensional figures. This exercise will help you draw from your imagination with ease. Start by drawing any form, then attempt to spin it around in your mind as you redraw it from a different angle.
Squiggly parallel lines
Draw a few random squiggles and then attempt to draw a parallel line right next to it. Try to use a long smooth motion to draw this line rather than small jagged lines. Try several parallel patterns of squiggles and straight lines. The point of this exercise is to learn to move your hand smoothly and build your hand-eye coordination.
One good way to practise drawing different kinds of lines is to use a copy of a mandala. Choose the straight short lines, then the straight long lines, short curved lines, long curved lines and just draw over them with your pencil or pen. Keep your wrist in a position that is comfortable for the drawing. Short lines usually require only your wrist. Use your forearm for the longer lines. As you practise you will notice that it gets easier and your lines are accurately drawn on the lines on your mandala. Soon you will be able to create these lines smoothly and evenly.
Continuous blind contour drawing
Focus on the subject that you would like to draw. Trace your subject with your eyes. Draw on the paper or tablet on your desk without moving your eyes off the subject. For beginners, this is a bit like learning to use your keyboard. While this method is confusing and difficult initially, it can be fun once you get used to drawing this way. This forces your mind to use only the sense of sight and touch while removing the critical left brain from taking over. This technique was introduced by Kimon Nicolaïdes in the book The Natural Way to Draw.
Experiment with pressure thickness and brush types
I won’t lie. I have a few brushes that I stick with and it takes a big push to get me to use an unfamiliar brush. Experimentation is key to improving and evolving your artistic style. It is so daunting to try one of the thousands of different brushes. But just pick one that is unfamiliar to you! Try any of the exercises given here with a new brush. Vary the pressure and thickness. Make it interesting. Attempt shading a sphere with a new brush. You might find a brush that makes all the difference and incorporate it into your regular practice.
Draw with one line
Try to draw something without moving your hand off the paper or tablet. Attempt to draw in a continuous uninterrupted fashion. If you need to stop, give up. Start again. Draw from top to down and left to right. Change directions while keeping your pencil on the paper in a smooth motion.
Set a timer. Start with one minute. Try sketch a subject as quickly as possible. Attempt to get the essence of it without getting caught in the details. You can increase the time to 3 minutes and then 5 minutes. The point of this exercise is to notice how much your mind captured in those quick moments. What did you miss? What did you draw? What can you improve on?
Set aside time to ‘play’.
While we are building art careers we forget the value of keeping things loose and fun. I think whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner you should be able to find activities here that might be useful to you. Often we get so caught up in what works for us that we forget the importance of the joy in trying new things.
How will you carve out the time and space in your life to achieve your creative goals? What will you create today? While success as an artist is elusive it is important to enjoy the journey and have fun with it.
Which drawing exercise will be added to your current repertoire? Consider visiting my shop. It helps me keep creating valuable content for those who want to build a career in art.
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