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Drawing for Everyone

Updated on November 21, 2016
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Cousins

Charcoal on paper.  This one is a charcoal caricature of my nieces, Kayla and Jessica drawn from photo reference.
Charcoal on paper. This one is a charcoal caricature of my nieces, Kayla and Jessica drawn from photo reference. | Source
My son's idea of Bungie Jumping Ants.
My son's idea of Bungie Jumping Ants. | Source

Drawing is fun and therapeutic for everyone. Here are a few beginner tips.

I find that many people have been "shadow artists" all their lives; that is they follow artists and art shows and trends closely, but think they have no talent themselves until one day when they take a class. They were probably artists all along but didn't know it. Step out of the shadows and explore the creativity within you.

Many people don't mind exploring other aspects of their creativity: cooking, sewing, writing poetry, decorating a room or whole house, choosing colors and carpets to repaint and redo their home, musical instruments, singing, dancing. And still they deny they have any creative gifting. Don't you know it's all interrelated? Drawing lessons will only open up a door to the artsy side of your brain that you may have rarely used till now.

Photo Credit: All artwork is done by myself and photos taken by me unless otherwise noted.


Drawing was done in Photoshop. An illustration of Cinderella and her fairy Godmother when announced she was going to the ball.
Drawing was done in Photoshop. An illustration of Cinderella and her fairy Godmother when announced she was going to the ball. | Source

Sketch all the time

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Artist’s are illusionists.

Line

Think about your subject as being a 3-dimensional object. Say you have a vase of flowers before you. There is no "line" where your vision of the vase ends or one petal ends and another begins. Therefore the “line” you are drawing is not "real" but a representation of that space we cannot see. There is no line where the vase ends and space begins, but to make a 3-dimensional object on a 2-dimensional plane (the paper) we much use a line. Therefore even the most gifted artist is not making a 100 percent realistic representation. All we can hope to do is an image or an illusion of 3-dimensional space.

Don’t worry that your drawings are not perfectly real at first since no art is perfectly real. With practice and some instruction, plus some simple art rules on perspective, you will surely improve the illusion of reality. You are becoming an illusionist today. Happy magic.


Photography

Photography vs. Live Models

Working from photographs is perfectly all right with beginning drawing. Your own photos are best to work from since they are not copyrighted. In fact, if you took the photo yourself, you own the copyright. However, if you see a photo in a magazine or book that inspires you, copying it for experience is fine. But you should never sell it, especially if it still looks very much like the original photo. Those published materials are copyrighted and to sell your drawing from copyrighted material is stealing. The rule of thumb is that you must change the picture/drawing in several (usually 5 to 7) ways to make it your own creation. Change the background, reverse the face or figure, add something significant or take away some key element, etc. As you can see, it would be easier to take your photograph to draw from, or draw from life whenever you can.


Suzy, charcoal on grey paper.
Suzy, charcoal on grey paper. | Source
Louis Sitting-Bull, son of Sitting-Bull.  Pen and ink on paper.
Louis Sitting-Bull, son of Sitting-Bull. Pen and ink on paper. | Source

A Word About Copying Art

Copying the work of the "masters" has been an age-old practice of great artists to expand their skill and increase their knowledge of color and texture. Many of the great artists in history learned from their former generation's work by becoming apprentices under them. Today, we cannot talk to Raphael or Da Vinci, so we must rely on their work to tell us what we want to know about "how they did it." In order to achieve the same effect the masters did, an artist has to discover the way the master layered the colors or positioned the figures or used shadow and light to best effect, sometimes by copying his work. Once the artist has discovered this, he can return to his own work and use that knowledge to make his own project better.

The only harm in copying from other artists is that sometimes people become so good at copying, they refuse to create something that is truly their own. They are tempted to sell works copied so well that someone may think it is original at. This is called forgery or copyright infringement and they put you in jail for that. An artist that can copy Garfield so well that it looks like Jim Davis drew it, should now turn to his own creation and use the skill he learned on his own work.

Drawing done in pen and ink on paper, Louis Sitting-Bull, Sioux, son of Sitting-Bull. Drawn from a very old photo in the public domain.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

— Grant Wood
My Nature Journal I always took with me camping.
My Nature Journal I always took with me camping. | Source
Sketches made while waiting for my flight.  Airports make great model grounds.
Sketches made while waiting for my flight. Airports make great model grounds. | Source
Airports are where people are all sitting around and waiting for something just like you.
Airports are where people are all sitting around and waiting for something just like you. | Source

Sketch kit

Don't leave home without it.

My daughter sketched on anything and everything available, often using up, in one week, entire tablets of writing paper I bought for school. Frustrated, I began saving anything that had a black side to sketch on; everything from mail circular advertisements, to used (often ironed) birthday wrapping paper, to paper grocery sacks. These were cut to fit the "sketch box," which amounted to a small 8.5 x 11 inch box.

I found the sketch box to be useful for everyone, including myself. I still have many fast sketches on the back of used paper from the sketch box. The good news is that any scrap of paper and writing implement is an open invitation to sketch at the moments notice.

Today I keep a sketch kit and a watercolor paint kit in my car, just in case the overwhelming desire to sketch or paint hits me. Put together your own sketch kit and keep it with you. A small tablet and mechanical pencil or felt-tip marker is ample, but you may want to include a vinyl eraser, a small colored pencil set, a charcoal pencil or soft #2 pencil and a sharpener. Put all these in a pouch or zip-lock bag so they fit under your car seat for easy access.


Drawing and sketching is fun, personal, intimate, quick, portable, inexpensive and deeply satisfying.

— Cathy Johnson
Source
Bree.  Drawn from a photo.  Charcoal on white paper.
Bree. Drawn from a photo. Charcoal on white paper. | Source
Charcoal on white paper.  Drawn from two photos of myself.
Charcoal on white paper. Drawn from two photos of myself. | Source
Charcoal on newsprint paper.
Charcoal on newsprint paper. | Source

Paper

Buy a small tablet of drawing paper and keep it with you at all times. You never know when you will have a few minutes to spare, or when something inspirational will appear before you. The tablet need not be the most expensive leather-bound 9x12 inch book on the art supply store shelves. A simple ring-bound 5x8 sketchbook will do nicely. Doodle often, sketch constantly. Just as a writer must write everyday to keep in practice, so must an artist draw. These little sketches may be serviceable or future reference in some work of importance.

When working on a piece, you may wish to frame, don’t use the smaller paper, 9 x 12 or less. Force yourself to use larger pieces whenever you can. Use 18 x 24 or better. The larger paper will help you to work on smaller details, as they will be larger. Small details on small paper will be infinitesimal. Also when you finish a piece that you really like, larger pictures look much nicer framed.

Try to use archival quality paper whenever you can. Even the cheaper paper will say if they are archival quality or not. This means that no wood pulp was used in the making of the paper and it will therefore not yellow with age. Newsprint and children’s construction paper are both made with wood pulp and yellow quickly in the sunlight. For fast sketches, newsprint or construction paper is okay, but for finished drawings, they are terrible. I use a grey construction paper when I do my life drawings. The paper is cheap enough to do some fast drawings, plus it is toned so I can use black charcoal and white cont crayon or white pastel stick for highlights. These are nice to transfer to paintings later. I know I will not keep the drawing for long. It is only for practice.

Drawing is charcoal sketch of my friend Bree who posed for me with an umbrella.

Sketchbook drawings from live models.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ruth Dallin posing for our artist's group.Library sketch in Dallas TX while visiting my son.Little restless dogs during a Bible study.Sketches while waiting for our flight in Dallas TX.More Dallas-Fort Worth airport sketches.Starbucks is a good place to sketch.Sketching people walking is the hardest.I love people watching at Starbucks.Extreme poses are fun.  My husband let me sketch him.Another extreme pose.Sketch of an artist painting from a live model.Sketch of Suzy from last year.Another sketch of Suzy from last year.Suzy from September last year.Sketch of Suzy from this year.
Ruth Dallin posing for our artist's group.
Ruth Dallin posing for our artist's group.
Library sketch in Dallas TX while visiting my son.
Library sketch in Dallas TX while visiting my son.
Little restless dogs during a Bible study.
Little restless dogs during a Bible study.
Sketches while waiting for our flight in Dallas TX.
Sketches while waiting for our flight in Dallas TX.
More Dallas-Fort Worth airport sketches.
More Dallas-Fort Worth airport sketches.
Starbucks is a good place to sketch.
Starbucks is a good place to sketch.
Sketching people walking is the hardest.
Sketching people walking is the hardest.
I love people watching at Starbucks.
I love people watching at Starbucks.
Extreme poses are fun.  My husband let me sketch him.
Extreme poses are fun. My husband let me sketch him.
Another extreme pose.
Another extreme pose.
Sketch of an artist painting from a live model.
Sketch of an artist painting from a live model.
Sketch of Suzy from last year.
Sketch of Suzy from last year.
Another sketch of Suzy from last year.
Another sketch of Suzy from last year.
Suzy from September last year.
Suzy from September last year.
Sketch of Suzy from this year.
Sketch of Suzy from this year.
Suzy.  Drawn from a live model.  Charcoal on brown paper.
Suzy. Drawn from a live model. Charcoal on brown paper. | Source
Source
My good friend, Dennis sketching.
My good friend, Dennis sketching. | Source

Pencils

Any soft lead or #2 pencils will work for sketching. But I prefer mechanical pencils with .7 HB or BB lead. The HB is a soft dark lead but not the softest. Even the BB is not the softest lead. The mechanical pencils keep me from having to bother with sharpening my pencil in the middle of a drawing plus they are always thin enough to keep a consistent line.

Pencils are made with different degrees of hardness. The pencil "lead" is no longer made of lead because of the dangers of lead poisoning. (I was fascinated when I learned this!) Pencil lead is made of mixtures of carbon and clay. More carbon makes the lead soft and dark. More clay makes the lead hard and the marks lighter. The letters H and B denotes these. The softest, darkest pencil is 4B or 6B, which means they also break easiest. The hardest, lightest lead is 4H or even 6H, used by architects who need a light fine line, and lead that will not break easily. I usually like a 2B or 4B but often settle for HB, which is right in the middle. Charcoal pencils are designated by the same letters for softness and hardness that the graphite pencils are.

For regular wooden pencils, keep a knife and a small piece of sandpaper or a little pad of sandpaper sheets for keeping a quick point on your pencil. These are sometimes easier to carry than a pencil sharpener. Using a knife can also give you a longer point to the pencil so that you can lay it sideways and get wide as well as fine lines from the same pencil.


Charcoal drawing of a hand, by myself, Denise McGill.
Charcoal drawing of a hand, by myself, Denise McGill. | Source
Marker drawing
Marker drawing | Source

Pens

Almost any fine-point to medium-point black pen or marker will work for your purposes. A Sharpie is a permanent marker and has many advantages, like being able to paint watercolor over it without any lines bleeding. However it has a tendency to bleed through the paper if you are using a thin drawing paper.

I really like the Pilot brand pens since they come in the fine-point and the medium-point, they do not bleed through the paper, and they flow smooth, leaving nice thin lines. However, you cannot paint watercolor over them because they will bleed and run with water.

Choose your own pens. There are too many brands to cover in this space so buy what you like and try them out. Feel free to try a number of brands and styles before you choose your favorite.


My charcoal pencils and my kneaded rubber eraser.
My charcoal pencils and my kneaded rubber eraser. | Source
Drawing waterdrops
Drawing waterdrops | Source
Source

Erasers

What to get and what not to get.

Those pink school erasers we used to use in grammar school are basically useless for drawing. They don't erase lines completely, tend to tear the paper and leave pink marks. Try the new vinyl or white plastic erasers. They leave fewer pebbles to brush away and pick up almost any pencil marks. I introduced a student of mine to these white erasers and she remarked that it was magic. I wouldn't call them magical, just very good!

You may have seen the kneaded gum erasers in artist's kits before and figured that any true artist must have one. The really are not for erasing in the same way you are familiar with. They do pickup some pencil marks but mostly they are for working with soft pencil or charcoal and lifting off sections to make soft white highlights. They have to be pulled like taffy to activate the lifting qualities. I suggest that if you do not have one, don't bother to buy one in the beginning of your artistic journey, unless you plan to use charcoal.


Drawing hands exercise in charcoal.
Drawing hands exercise in charcoal. | Source
Tim Rohrer, choir director.
Tim Rohrer, choir director. | Source
My good friend, Dennis, sketching his son Chris.
My good friend, Dennis, sketching his son Chris. | Source

Set the Stage

Your drawing surface

Find a place where you won't be disturbed or interrupted, including phone calls. Make sure that your drawing surface is flat with good lighting. Keep all your materials within good reach, so you won’t have to jump up to get something you have forgotten, like an eraser or ruler.

Especially at first, don't do any talking while you are drawing. The experts think that talking uses the other side of the brain and therefore makes your creative side go "blind" temporarily. At first the silence will feel awkward to you and you will want to fill it with music or other noise. Resist. (Music without words is okay but try it without anything at first.) After a few sessions, you will find that the silence will be a pleasant retreat and you will grow to look forward to it. What is more your drawings will show the benefit of concentration without distraction.

Many people learn to block out the world and all noise when they are "in the zone" but at first this may not be easy. I have learned to do it and even yelling, my husband can't seem to get my attention when I am in the art zone. It's a lovely place with peace and color and harmony. You will like your zone too.

Drawings of the Choir Director while at a rehearsal. It was difficult to capture him, naturally, because his hand was constantly moving.

grass
grass

Rushing

To rush or not to rush... that is the question.

Take your time. This is not a race. No one is going to be standing over your shoulder making you hurry up. Art is the process of carful planning and preparation. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the ride without feeling the need for speed. Relax. Set up a picture or objects you wish to draw from and have a good light on your set up as well as on your paper. Have all your materials nearby. You are set.

Drawing of grass textures.

It is better to paint from memory, for thus your work will be your own; your sensation, your intelligence, and your soul will triumph over the eye of the amateur… Do not finish your work too much.

— Paul Gauguin

Pen and ink drawings

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The shepherdess.Eagle head inked with dots.Monterey Pine from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.Chief Plenty Coups drawn from a very old photo.Father and son.
The shepherdess.
The shepherdess. | Source
Eagle head inked with dots.
Eagle head inked with dots. | Source
Monterey Pine from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Monterey Pine from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. | Source
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Chief Plenty Coups drawn from a very old photo.
Chief Plenty Coups drawn from a very old photo.
Father and son.
Father and son.

Great Video Instructions

Mark Crilley is an author of several art books on Manga but makes some of the best drawing instructional videos. Here are a couple.

Pen and ink.
Pen and ink. | Source
Colored pencil on toned paper.
Colored pencil on toned paper. | Source
Black marker pen.
Black marker pen. | Source

Shading

Shading is usually done with the side of the pencil or charcoal because you can get darks and lights better by applying different pressures. Pens won’t work that way unless you use cross-hatching or stippling.

Merely drawing outlines of an object is not enough to be successful in finished drawing. You must carefully see the light and dark values, the shadows and highlights, the reflected light and subtle grey-tones. In actuality, we separate these into 5 values. The highest light (highlight), the lowest light/darkest shadow, the middle value and two more between the highlight and the reflected light, which is darker than the middle value and lighter than the darkest shadow. The eye must be trained to see these variations. It is sometimes helpful to use a sheet of clear red plastic. The red plastic eliminates color from a photo and allows you to see the lights and darks without the distractions of color. As you train your eye, you will not need the red plastic tool.

Many professional artists say to squint your eyes. The lines and details become blurred and you are aware of the values, the lights and dark shapes. It is called a value pattern. This is important to capture because many amateurs see the local color and don’t recognize the deep shadows are really another color and value. And the same with the highlights. Train yourself to see the wide range of values in a subject.

The values achieved in the drawing of the Rain Man are done with cross hatching.

Source

Drawing Comments Welcome - Let me know what you think about drawing.

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
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      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      CorneliaMladenova,

      Thank you so much for checking it out. I love drawing and do it at least once everyday. I've improved at shading only because I work at practicing everyday. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Thank you for this informative hub, Denise. The advice about sketch kit is really precious and of course, about shading. I am very bad at shading and should do my best to improve it :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      thank you everyone for the comments on my drawings.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      @chrins: Perfect. Thank you.

    • chrins profile image

      chrins 3 years ago

      Very informative! I'll share this to my daughter she's fond of drawing, these will give her more idea! Love it!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      @boneworld: Thank you so much. I'm so happy you got something out of it.

    • boneworld profile image

      Jackson Thom 4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      Wow, this is some great instruction. I like to scribble draw, and then use my eraser to clean it up. This is some great info!

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