Below are 3 awesome drawing exercises that will improve your drawing skills dramatically. They will help boost your observational skills, accuracy, speed and confidence! Practice them everyday until they become a habit.
1. Break it Down!
Have you ever tried to draw what you thought was a simple object and then after all your hard work, you realize it’s lop sided? Hey, I feel for ‘ya. This exercise can greatly increase your drawing speed by providing you with a structure to build upon from the very start, instead of having to define it each step of the way.
Take Action: Gather together a bunch of uniquely shaped objects. Before you even pick up your pencil, use your imagination to break each object down into basic shapes. Once the shapes solidify themselves in your mind, do a light sketch followed by contour lines to better define the shape of your subject.
Draw your subject on a straight vertical or horizontal line to help with alignment.
2. Observe your Subject
Unless you have photographic memory, drawing something or someone without constantly cross-referencing it to your drawing can turn out to be a really bad idea.
When trying to reproduce an image in your head, your brain will make things up or fill in the blanks to compensate for the missing details.
My portrait drawings are usually made from 80% observation and only 20% of actual drawing time. Sounds crazy? If I start to observe less, my drawings will become at least 50% less accurate. This really matters when it comes to drawing people. It pays to observe!
Take Action: Study your subject closely and try to memorize what you see. But let’s say your memory only lasts for 3 seconds. Give yourself only 3 seconds to jot down what you observed. I usually draw no more than 2 strokes before observing my subject again.
Sounds like a slow process? This exercise isn’t about speed. It’s about increasing your observational skills and weeding out errors caused by laziness and lack of commitment. Imagine how much time you would waste if you had to erase your drawing 4 hours in and do it again from the start!
Measuring is an important skill if you want to produce accurate, realistic and more convincing drawings. If you practice this frequently enough, you may find that your drawings are super accurate even when drawing freehand (no measuring). You can measure anything from length, width and angle (relationships between things on a slant, horizontal, or vertical axis.
1. Determine how long you want the drawing to be and make boundary lines on your paper
2. Hold your drawing as level as possible or use the paper’s straight edges for vertical and horizontal reference.
3. Hold your pencil straight up in front of the subject.
4. Close one eye and use the tip of the pencil and your thumb as a gauge to measure the length of your subject’s head. In the picture below, the subject’s length is equal to 8 heads. (For the sake of this tutorial, the hand/pencil is off to the side. You ideally want to place your hand directly between your eye and the subject).
5. How can you transfer this information to your drawing? In step 1, you made 2 ticks on your paper. What you want to do is separate the area between these ticks into 8 equal sections lengthwise.
** This method can also be applied horizontally to find the correct width. Similar to step 4, measure the head’s length and then turn your pencil horizontally. You can figure out the width of the head, shoulders, waist, etc.
If you were to draw a straight line down the middle of this person’s head, where do you think the line will fall further down the picture? In the gap between his shoes?
The middle of his head is actually vertically aligned with the inner heel of the right shoe. Measuring helps us combat tricky illusions like this!
While drawing, hold your pencil up to your subject vertically, horizontally or even slanted and carefully move it in front of your drawing to determine, correct or validate your strokes. Make sure you have a steady hand and that your drawing is level.
I could go on and on about measuring angles, but I’ll save that for a more in depth tutorial in the future. Perhaps a video tutorial. Happy Drawing!