Wondering how to get started with drawing?

Drawing without purpose.

Some of the best drawings can come from just messing about and letting your mind run free. There’s something about not having a rigid outcome in mind that allows you to produce work that is free and looks loose. Elise Hurst talks about the joy of creating works not attached to a brief. It’s just as important for established artists as it is for those starting out.

Fun exercises to get you started

Blobs and fingerprint characters

We often place far too much significance on creating something fabulous. Creativity needs to be fun, even childlike. You may surprise yourself with what you come up with, or you may think it’s rubbish. It doesn’t matter.

Put some ink on your fingers and make some fingerprint characters. Or just draw a random blob or scribble. Walk away from those random shapes and then have another look later to see if you can turn them into drawings of things, animals or characters.

The scribble game

Extend this idea by asking someone to scribble on a page for you and turn their scribble into something. Who knows where this could take you? I found these fabulous images drawn by Ryan Ottley, the American cartoon artist, from his son’s scribbles.

Exercises that don’t involve thinking.

It’s tricky to turn your brain off from wanting to create something groundbreaking and brilliant. I teach young people who have often started creating art by copying artists on their phones. They have a fixed idea of how they want their work to look because it’s right in front of them. This can be a great access point and it’s good to get you started. But eventually, you need to find your own way of working.

Continual line drawing

This exercise is best if you have an object, person or scene in front of you. Really look at what’s there and keep your pen on the paper. It encourages you to really look at the subject rather than the paper. It also takes you away from being overly concerned about the quality of the lines you are producing. The outcomes may be surprising. It’s certainly fun.

Dumpy, Bright, Droopy and Long

This has to be one of my favourite exercises to get into drawing characters. Again, for absolutely no reason other than to start drawing. Many years ago I bought the book Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy The exercises in this book are wonderfully freeing. I’ve used this one in my classes for years and it’s always a winner. You can start with inanimate objects like candles or brooms. Some of the characters below have gone on to appear in picture books.

It’s just a piece of paper.

It sounds simple, but it is worth keeping in mind. The other day a student reminded me that I had told her ‘It’s ok, it’s just a piece of paper. There’s another one if you don’t like what you did on this one.’ It’s something I keep in mind if I find myself being over significant about creating something groundbreakingly brilliant.


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