Learn to Draw by expressing yourself

Honey Bear and Apples
oil painting on 6"X6" Gessobord
What is art? It is doing anything well. It is self expression and exploration. From the very second you were aware of your environment through any of your senses, you needed to express yourself. Self expression is rewarding and freeing. Get to know yourself better. Pick up a pencil and make marks on paper. Scribble and play. It feels good.
"Express Yourself, Don't Repress Yourself."
MADONNA, Human Nature


How to Draw

Creamer cups,
drawn while hanging out in a restaurant, waiting for an appointment.

How to Draw
(2 simple steps)
  1. Carry a sketch book with you and practice drawing everything, everywhere. Draw, draw, draw.
  2. Repeat step one with passion until you become expert. We do well what we do most often. The End.

And while you are learning to draw, here are some pointers.
  • You must be looking at your object. Otherwise you are cartooning. You cannot draw what you cannot see, unless you have a totally photographic memory.
  • Tracing objects from photos will quickly put you in touch with the abstract shapes of reality.
  • Working from the actual object is the best practice. Especially if it is human.
  • The more you know an object, the harder it is to draw because objects are 3 dimensional. The curves and angles are frustrating to think about. Instead you must force yourself to look upon your object as a flat shape. Tracing from photos lets you see things as simple shapes. Look upon your object with your eyes almost closed and out of focus. It is called,"Squinting." Squint till you almost cannot see and concentrate on simple shapes. This is training the eye. It takes lots of practice.
  • Compare the size of one shape to another. Appearances are deceiving. The diameter of the top of the drinking glass might look like a shorter distance than the height of the glass, however, it might be the same or greater distance.
  • The size and shape of the space in between objects (negative space) is just as important as the objects themselves. Draw the negative space as if it is an important object.
  • Take drawing classes from more than one teacher. Pretend to be the most inexperienced person in the class and you will get the most help, not only from the teacher, but the other students. The student with the best drawing skill is the least popular.
  • Learn to draw by drawing often. Practice, practice, parctice.
Cherries 'N Heels, oil, 6"X6"
My friend, Lauri, found these crazy shoes at the Salvation Army. We are looking for someone who can fit into a size 5 to model them for us.


Draw Garbage

Cough Drop Package

Draw Garbage to shake loose the fear of producing perfection.
Keep a drawing journal. Draw something, anything, everyday.
Commit to something you love. Practice often. Do not neglect your own desire. Give yourself this gift.
Draw the things you see lying about. Don't waste time looking for perfection. Practice now.

I took an oil painting workshop in Sedona from Carol Marine. I highly recommend Carol's workshops. I feel that I can die happy now. It was that good. These eight pears were 7 minute studies, 7 minutes per pear. We were allowed to choose our own subject.
Pears 1, oil  6"X6"
Pears 2, oil 6"X6"

 The next painting is from an exercise where the goal was to mix a different color for each brush stroke. I really enjoyed it. Very good practice.
Pear, oil 8"X10"
 Pair of Shoes, oil 6"X6"
 Pear and Bottles, oil 6"X6"
Something Doesn't Belong, oil 6"X6"


Sketch & Play, Do It Today

Chocolate Bar Wrapper
Draw things that do not matter on paper that doesn't matter so you will just practice. Make your sketch book a place to play. Put a little dirt on it so you will get over the preciousness of it. Scribble it up and practice, practice, practice . . .
2 Bowls of Cherries, oil 6"X6"
Sunflower, watercolor 14X20


Learn to draw by drawing a series of things

Learn to draw by playing. If you stopped drawing, I mean really drawing with enjoyment, with abandon, without harshly judging yourself, when you were a child, then your art ability is still a child. Be kind to your art spirit. Let it play. Treat yourself to a new box of crayons and play with blank paper. Draw things that only matter to you. Make designs from your imagination. Take a deep breath, let out a happy sigh of relief. You are relieved that no one is judging your marks on paper.
Playing with crayons, or some other fun color something that will make sparkling, delightful marks on paper is a good warm up exercise.
Now study an item of interest. Draw it with your eyes first. Compare the negative shapes (the area that is not the object) to the positive shapes (the object.) Get into a comfortable position. Make sure your legs are comfortable.  After you have studied the object, draw while you smile and breath deeply, relaxing your shoulders.
Draw a series
Get to know your subject matter.
Practice drawing the same thing from different angles or draw another of the same kind of thing, such as 4 different banana peelings.


Failure is a good start

Garbage: Tea Bag Envelope
If you think your drawing is a failure, this is a good beginning. You have taught yourself what it is you do not want to be doing. Keep drawing and that failed attempt goes away.

If, on the other hand, you dwell on the drawing you did not like and do not continue to draw, you are letting it eat you. You are giving failure all the power. Keep drawing and take back the power.

I think this plastic cup sketch, from and earlier post, is a failure because it is very boring. I wondered about it, now I realize, it is two separate drawings of one cup and nothing fun is happening. The cup is transparent but who would know.

That 2 cup drawing is a very poor composition. Uh-Oh, the 'C' word. Composition, one of the words that makes How-To-Draw books scary. Composition just means how you arrange things. A good composition attracts the viewer, the listener, the reader . . .
Transparent Cups #2
And, BTW, an uneven number of objects makes a better composition. I have to keep reminding myself.

Observing parrots at the hotel on Maui
The moving subject again. I hope you are practicing the moving subject. It helps you simplify your shapes.

We all have failures, no matter how advanced we are. This is how we learn. The seamstress cuts in the wrong place and ruins the expensive cloth. Whatever the practice, we stumble. 

Failing does not indicate you should terminate doing the things you love or need to do. It is your opportunity to start over and do it differently.

Draw something poorly, on purpose. Study it. Think of why it is awful then draw the thing again, and again.


Learn to Draw by drawing as if you are a young child

Squeezed out Tea Bag
Draw garbage cause it just doesn't matter.

I am hoping that you might know a young child and can watch him or her go at it with a crayon or marker with no inhibitions. Children draw things from images they have inside their head. Try to remember how that felt, when you were age 3-5, before your peers broke you down, before you cared what the world would think of the marks you made on paper and your simple efforts were praised.

For a warm up exercise, draw as if you are a very young child. Art is therapeutic. Drawing helps you meditate and think less of bothersome things. Warm up exercises help you relax so you are not intimidated by the objects you really want to draw.
Here is a drawing exercise that is about drawing something in motion. Say What!? Oh Yeah. You heard me. If you have cats, and I suspect you do. They wake up once in a while to eat and clean themselves, two very good actions to draw. The cat sits in one place to clean and eat, but yet is in motion. 

If you do not have pets, draw a person while he or she sits in one place to do a project.

This is gesture drawing at it's finest. Drawing is not so much about training your hand to do something. It is about teaching your eyes to observe better.

Why draw something in motion? Because it forces you to look harder and draw more quickly, look for the basic shape of the whole. It forces you to improve your drawing skill.

Why draw quickly? You will stop noodling with the details and simplify your lines. You will outline your entire object before it gets away from you. It alleviates the pressure of creating a masterpiece. Your drawings will look more alive with no time for erasing, you will have to restate your lines. Drawing quickly forces you to improve your drawing skill.

You don't have a live animal or person to draw? Draw from TV, or youtube. Draw Dianne Sawyer while she gives you the news or Steven Cobert or Regis and Kelly or John Stewart or . . .
Practicing drawing is not about the finished work. It is about the practice. It is always good to keep all your efforts in an unlined, spiral bound journal and look back at them later. It will prove to you how much you have improved. However, if your practice efforts are worrying you, maybe you need to work on scratch paper, put them in a wadded pile and burn them so you can let go. 

I always compare learning to draw to learning a musical instrument. You have to practice constantly to improve. Whether you are a child or an adult, you learn the same things, go through the same frustrations and enjoy the same reward from your efforts. The big difference is the sound of practicing a musical instrument is heard then gone. However, the practice drawing sits there looking back at you till you close your journal. Hide it or throw it away if you need to, just keep practicing.

Repeating something, over time, will give you power over that something. After a month of drawing practice, your brain will have changed. Just as a good exercise routine will change the shape of your body.


Draw Garbage means, "Draw anything, just draw!"

Empty Candy Box (Garbage)

The cliche', "Take time to smell the roses." Doesn't literally mean you have to smell roses to relax and enjoy your world. Likewise, my insistence to draw garbage does not mean you must draw actual garbage to learn to draw. Draw garbage is my way of saying, "Draw anything, just draw."

If you want to draw, you will stop making excuses and draw. The more you draw, the more able you will be to see the world as interesting shapes you can put on a 2 dimensional piece of paper. Most how-to books on the subject of drawing have lots of perfect logic, explaining how to draw in correct perspective. Logic is left brain thinking. The logical approach to drawing is intimidating, non-creative and frustrating. Start looking at the basic shape of your subject matter. Drawing well is about looking hard.

Look at the object before you. Let your eyes relax, droop your eye lids half closed and look at the object out of focus. Trace the shapes with your eyes. Close one eye and point at the object with your index finger and trace the object using the air before you as the drawing paper. Imagine your finger is making a line, as a pencil. Watch for long and short lines. Watch for straight and curved lines. Practice tracing the object with your finger and imaginary lines several times. Touch the object with your forefinger, redrawing all the lines then actually draw the object in your drawing journal.

Stop thinking of the object you want to draw as 3 dimensional. Because when you make lines on your paper to represent that object, it is no longer 3 dimensional. If you haven't already, purchase a pad of tracing paper. Take photos of the objects you want to draw. Trace the photos from your computer screen or print them out to trace.

There is a new drawing tool on the market. Colored pencils for drawing on glass. Find them in the supermarket or drug store next to crayons. When you draw on your window you can trace objects you see on the other side. Look outside, through your windows, and trace your car, gardening tools, your neighbors house, or your walkway. Go outside the glass and trace shapes of things you see inside. Or tape photos on the opposite side of the glass to trace. It is fun drawing on glass.

If you are worried you will fill up your drawing journal, good. Always have more on hand. Do not draw in journals with lines for writing. Lines are interference and not condusive to creativity.

If you want to learn to draw well, you will practice often.


Draw fruit peelings from the garbage.

Mandarin Orange Peel
As I was saying in the last post, the topic of figure drawing has popped up. I know it is scary, but inevitable, because it is the most important practice to increase your drawing skills, ever. You may choose to avoid the human form, but I encourage you to try. "Creativity takes courage."

Here is another quote for your journal:
"Artists should remember that being able to draw the human form is the acid test of ones capabilities."

Makes it sound even more scary, huh? Just the opposite of all the things I have been telling you so far, "Draw garbage, things that don't matter." Don't let your mind set your limits too low.

Lets start with your own hands and feet. Your head is in a good place to view them, literally.
Your right hand might be too hard, if you are right handed because your right hand is in motion during your drawing exercise. Motion will be your next assignment.

 Get comfortable, have your favorite beverage at hand, relax your shoulders, breath deeply for a few seconds, clear your mind of busy junk, scribble around for a warm up exercise. Maybe do your garbage sketch first, something simple and fast. Start by putting your hand on the paper and tracing it, because you know that is what you want to do. Now turn the page and get real. Try many different poses.
Don't just draw your hands and feet one time and think you are done. You will need to draw them hundreds of times over the next few years.  Many cities have a group that meets once a week for figure drawing. Anyone can drop in, for a fee to pay a nude model, no instruction, bring art materials of your choice. You should eventually look for this and give it a try. In Sacramento, there is one at S12 Gallery.


Learn to Draw By Tracing

What is this item of garbage?
Leave a comment to make your guess.

Did you know that the reason it is harder to draw some things is because you know too much about them? You are letting your knowledge of the real world get in your way and scare you. When hearing that I am an artist, people ask me what things I draw and paint. I tell them everything. Everyone and everything inspires me. The whole world can be put down on a piece of paper in a series of shapes.

Get yourself some tracing paper and trace items from your photos, magazines and books. You will be surprised to see the simple shape of complicated things. Do some tracings where you only draw the outline of the object and no inner details. Get used to mapping out your drawings this way.

 All 2 dimensional art is abstract. You are not creating a human when you draw a person, you are making some shapes on a piece of paper that look like a human. Train your eye to see people as a series of shapes by tracing models from clothing mail order catalogs. And most importantly, do not forget the negative space, the area around the figure.

After you trace from photos, practice your real life drawing of garbage, things that just don't matter.

Yes, the dreaded topic of drawing "The Figure," the human, has arrived. Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, here is an interesting quote which I came across in one of my old drawing journals:
"At one time I thought that art was something of beauty. Over the years I've learned that it's really something that creates emotion, something you haven't seen or thought about before."