So you want to learn how to draw without taking a single art class?
I may not have a diploma in art, but my education has come from experience. I’ve taken a few art courses in high school that opened my eyes to technical terms and art history–I’ll admit, learning about scale, proportion, the elements and principles of design, etc. did point me in a direction that improved my skills–but I don’t want you to think that art is technical … I mean, yes it can be, but there’s more to art. Art is an expression. It is a language that can be communicated across time and space and people, or it is a secret language that only you know. Art can be one thing or another or both or neither. Art essentially has no rules.
Art is like life. You learn through experience. Sure, you can be taught (just like how you can seek life advice from a parent, an older sibling, a friend or the Internet) but you will never fully learn something if you don’t do it.
(And yes, I too have done the occasional research on what other artists do or use to get an idea or a new technique to practice)
Over the years, I’ve changed up my drawing methods significantly. I’ve gone from drawing on white printing paper using Crayola pencil crayons to investing in my own sketchbook and Prismacolor pencil crayons. I’ve gone from drawing 2D-looking cartoon girls to 3D-looking celebrity portraiture.
Every picture I draw is a test. I never know what it’s going to look like until I finish the project. And when I do finish, I figure out what works best for me, what I’m going to do again next time or what I’m going to change. Every time I draw, I learn something about myself and my abilities.
I’m going to share with you a few tips of my own when it comes to learning how to hone your craft.
1. Practice, practice, PRACTICE!
Nothing happens overnight. You’re not going to wake up one day, pick up a pencil for the first time and draw the Mona Lisa (or maybe you will and prove me wrong). But what you can do is spend an entire day, half a day, a few hours or even a few minutes drawing eyes and tomorrow, you will be better at drawing eyes than you were before.
Drawing is a test. It is a learning experience. The more you do it, the more you learn, the more you improve your skills. So once you’re done reading this post, get your paper and drawing utensils out and start practicing!
2. Draw what you see
I think this might be the number one secret of mine when it comes to drawing. This is where I would tell you to throw out any of your scientific knowledge about art. Sure, it’s cool you know that when drawing a portrait of someone’s face, the eyes should be roughly one eye apart, but if you’re going to draw a portrait of me or you, are you really going to make the eyes one eye apart? My eyes might be more than one eye apart; yours might be less. What about the shape of our eyes?
If you’re drawing something or someone in front of you, the only way you can stay true and keep it real is by drawing exactly what you see.
3. Don’t be afraid to use references
I’ll admit, I don’t like calling myself an artist. I feel like a fraud. I can’t draw something from my mind, or if I try, it looks nothing like what I envisioned. But we all need a little inspiration so I would use a reference at all times. If you want to take the challenge and draw something from your head, I would recommend making a mood board or have some form of references in front of you to look at for inspiration.
This is totally up to you, but if you want to practice drawing something, you might want to start sketching an object in your house and then work your way up to something on the Internet. The reason why I’m saying this is because it’s easier to look at something physical than an image on the screen. You can move the object around and see which side looks cooler. You can get up close and personal to it and see exactly how the light hits or what hidden details your object might have without having to zoom in until your image is nothing but pixels.
4. Invest in art materials
I know, I hate when someone’s advice is to buy something. You’re probably thinking: “I came here for free advice. If I wanted to spend money, I would have paid for art classes.”
But in all seriousness, if you’re serious about learning how to draw, you need materials. Now I’m not saying to go to your local art store and spend hundreds of dollars on art supplies. There are cheaper ways to gather materials, and just like how drawing isn’t an overnight miracle, neither is art supplies. You can collect them overtime.
A lot of my art supplies came from everywhere but art stores. In fact, my art supplies used to be my school supplies (you know, pencils, erasers, pens, sharpener). I even got my first sketchbook from Dollarama. What I’m trying to say is that, if you’re looking to draw but you’re on a budget, I would recommend looking for old school or office supplies around the house. After that, I would recommend checking your local dollar store. Then, at the end of August/beginning of September, you might be able to buy some art supplies at the stores that offer back-to-school deals.
And keep an eye out for any flyers, coupons or deals at your local art store or online (especially around Boxing Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday). If you wait for the right moment, you might be able to snatch some quality supplies at a discounted price.
5. Start small
I know how daunting it might seem to colour or shade in a large canvas-sized drawing. Even I sometimes can’t stand filling up an entire 8.5 inch x 11 inch page. Keep in mind that you’re the artist, so you get to decide how big or small your drawing is. Start small and grow as you go. It’s easier to work on and quicker to finish.
6. Keep yourself entertained
I know drawing can be tiring. Your arms and hands get sore or maybe your eyes, your neck or maybe you just end up getting bored of it. No one’s telling you to finish a drawing in a day. I like to draw in intervals. Sometimes I draw simply to relax and take a break from my schoolwork.
But even I feel like drawing can be just as exhausting as writing an essay.
I’m a multitasker so when I draw, I like to listen to music or watch a movie. That way, I am entertained and distracted. However, if you do find yourself needing to pause and call it a day, please do so and pick up where you left off tomorrow.
7. Keep calm and carry on
If you want your drawings to look realistic and professional, you need patience. A LOT of it. Take your time when you draw. I know once you’re half-way done a drawing or a quarter or three-quarters into the project, you start to grow impatient. You want to finish your drawing up as soon as possible, but resist that rushed mindset. If you rush the process, your finished drawing might not end up looking cohesive all around. Some parts will be really strong and other parts may look … well, rushed. And those rushed parts will devalue the quality of your work.
I mean, haven’t we all been here?
If you have to take a break from drawing or take a few days away from your work before you pick up that pencil again, do it! Come back with a fresh mind and the patience to work.
Drawing is a lengthy and meticulous process, but trust me when I say that every second you spend on your drawing will be worth it.
8. Do what works for you
As counteractive as it sounds, it’s true. You might be reading this and think my tips are complete BS. You might agree with only one or two of them. And that’s okay.
These tips may work for me but they may not work for someone else. The only way you will know is if you try it out. If there’s one thing you should take from this post, it’s that drawing is a learning experience. It is up to you to figure out what works best for you.
Do your own research. Practice, practice, practice. Draw something, make a mistake, repeat. Toss it in the trash. Tear it up and shred it. Burn it. But don’t give up.
Everyone has an artistic bone in their body, you just have to figure out what it is. And hey, if it’s not drawing, it could be painting, sculpting, oil pastels, or even singing, writing, acting, filmmaking, playing an instrument ….
All I’m asking of you is to find your inner artist.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips for someone who wants to learn how to draw or what tip you found useful!