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I Wish I Could Draw

Updated on July 21, 2014

Learn To Draw As An Adult

It's easy for children to scribble away at page after page with not a single aspiration, but to have fun. But for an adult, to put a pencil to an open white sheet of paper, and try to create something, can be a daunting task. It can seem like diving into the ocean for a swim from one side to the other. But the truth is, the only thing keeping you from filling that sheet of canvas with all sorts of wonderful squiggles is years and years of neglecting that child-like care-free attitude that allows us to just let go.

The reason I know this, is because I've spent years telling myself I wish I could do what those talented artists can do, but I just can't. But in 2011, I pushed through that barrier that was telling me to just let it go, for all these years. This article represents the first in a series of articles I'd like to write to guide people, who maybe think they're prime years for this type of thing have past, but still want to give it a shot.

This first article isn't so much a drawing article, as much as it's meant to inspire, motivate and break down some of those false fears that are preventing would-be artists from giving it a try. Much of the lessons in this article can be applied to more than just drawing, and it's more about doing it out of joy, rather than out of a determination to succeed.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Shawn Campbell

The Inspiration To Begin

I wish I could draw, but I can't draw at all. I wish I could draw, but I just don't have the talent. I wish I could draw, but I can't even draw a straight line.

This is what people say whenever they see a beautifully drawn picture they wish they could reproduce, but they don't have any idea where to begin or where to find the time. I know, because I have said the same thing, probably a million times.

Take a look at the pictures to the right.

Both of the pictures were drawn by me. I'm not boasting (maybe just a little). The difference is, the one one on the left, I drew sometime in 2011. The one on the right, I drew in July of 2013.

I'm not going to tell you my age, but the day I graduated college is a distant memory, I really can't say I have any natural artistic talent, and I certainly can't draw a straight line.

So, how did I do it? One day I said, I wish to draw. The next day, I decided to learn to draw. I started with some research, and a bit of advice, which I am more than willing to pass along.

Doodle Dude
Doodle Dude

Learn to use your tools

Drawing is a concerted effort between your eyes, hands, pencil and paper. In elementary school, we were all taught to tilt our papers to about 15-degrees, place our pencils or pens on the first line, with elbows and feet flat, and write as legibly as possible. However, when your drawing, that's completely wrong.

Your eyes are the most important part, and most artists work on an angled table, to ensure that their eyes are looking straight down, almost through the pencil.

Sometime ago, I came across a drawing board at a yard sale, that's just a plastic board with some fabric under it. I can sit in front of the TV, with my feet on the coffee table, and the board on my knees, and my paper is directly lined up with my eyes. If you're off to the side, or your askew, your drawing will be askew.

The next step, is you need to get comfortable with what your hand can do with a pencil. Lift your arm, loosen up, flip he paper around, loosen up, make wild circles, try new things, find what works, and did I mention loosen up. Don't sit stiffly and just try to draw. Try everything and find what works best.

I for example can't draw a full circle properly. I'm right-handed, and I can draw a decent arc to the left, but I can't continue it all the way around. And I certainly can't draw an arc to the right. So, when I need a circle, I start my arc to the left, and then with my left-hand, I turn the paper, and the circle comes out fairly decent.

And the final thing is, you can never draw too lightly. You don't want to commit to your lines until you feel them slipping into place. Going back to the decent circles. If I don't like what I've drawn, I can just do it again, and again, and again, and again--until I finally get what I want.

Where To Start - Art Supplies to Get You Started

Pro Art 3078 18-Piece Sketch/Draw Pencil Set
Pro Art 3078 18-Piece Sketch/Draw Pencil Set

Pro Art offers an inexpensive option for sketching pencils that rivals some of the most expensive brands.

 
Canson Artist Series Universal Paper Sketch Pad, for Pencil and Charcoal, Micro-Perforated, Side Wire Bound, 65 Pound, 9 x 12 Inch, 100 Sheets
Canson Artist Series Universal Paper Sketch Pad, for Pencil and Charcoal, Micro-Perforated, Side Wire Bound, 65 Pound, 9 x 12 Inch, 100 Sheets

A sketchbook is a must have for any practicing artist, and Canson makes sturdy books that can stand up to all sorts of weather.

 
X-ACTO 1770LMR SharpX Portable Battery Pencil Sharpener, Black
X-ACTO 1770LMR SharpX Portable Battery Pencil Sharpener, Black

A portable pocket sized battery powered pencil sharpener to keep the points as sharp as nails.

 

Develop Your Vision

The most important tool in drawing is your eyes, and it's likely the most difficult one to develop. But anyone who draws for any length of time, has taken some time to develop an ability to look at an object or a person, and immediately begin to break it down into pencil lines or shades of color. In fact, once this skill starts to develop, it will begin to amaze you. You'll be in the middle of a conversation, and the person in front of you will slowly develop into a picture--the lines around their eyes, the shadows, the edges of their skin, and the strands of their hair will all begin to resemble something you can reproduce on paper.

This is a skill that takes time, and there's no easy way to develop it other than to see and draw. One way most people do this is to take something called a life drawing class, so that they're forced to try and find the lines that resemble a human being. However, if a class isn't an option, one of the things I did was to find pictures I liked on the internet or in magazines, and just try to reproduce them as best I could.

Hyper Critical
Hyper Critical

Leave Your Ego At the Door

Criticism can be helpful, but it can also be a detriment, especially at the beginning of the process. I started drawing as a tandem, it was both my wife and I, together. One day, she showed me a picture she'd done of Alice in Wonderland as a zombie. A few days later, I saw her holding the picture and making a sour face, so I asked her what the problem was.

She said, "I like what I've come up with, but it looks like something a child would have drawn."

I didn't say anything, but I felt the same way about my own drawings at the time, and it stung. We were adults, and we should be able to draw like adults, right? WRONG!

Why is it, children are allowed to begin with their ABC's and 123's, but adults are expected to jump right to Calculus and Physics? You can't just dive into the 10-foot end of the pool and butterfly like Michael Phelps. You have to start slow, learn to tread-water, and work your way up to it. In fact, you will never be Michael Phelps, and you shouldn't be Michael Phelps. That job has been filled.

You have to keep working at it, stop listening to those critics (especially those in your own head), and try the drawing again in six-months. That critic in your head, I know him or her, and he or she is really mean.

Take the Poll

Here's a clue
Here's a clue

What's the most Important tool to an artist?

See results
Woman in Profile
Woman in Profile

Draw Every Day, and Enjoy It

The real truth about wanting to draw well is, you have to want it--you have to enjoy it. Don't force it, don't fight it and try to have fun with it. You have to practice, but you shouldn't make it a chore. If you want to get good, you have to spend a little time everyday doodling, and love doing it.

Keep a pencil and a scrap of paper or sketch book with you almost everywhere you go. You never know when you might get the urge or a few spare moments to doodle something up. I've spent weeks drawing one little picture just doodling one fraction of an inch at a time. Keep your practice sketches private, and don't show anything your not proud of.

Drawing is fun, and it can be even more fun when the pictures start to look like what's in your head. And what's even more fun, is when they begin to explode off the page, and look like more than what was in your head.

This is the first of a series of articles I'd like to write on how to draw. Now, if you were to ask if I was an artist, I would probably cock my head, and make a face, because I don't really consider myself to be one. I'm more on the level of a controlled doodler, but I don't want anyone to call me a doodler, because that might get me on one of those lists that anger parents, and I'd have to move out of my neighborhood in shame and live in the woods.

So, if I'm not an artist, and I have less than a few years of experience drawing, why would I feel comfortable teaching this to anyone? Well that's exactly why I think I'm more equipped than someone that's had decades of experience. Have you ever followed along a lesson, and at the end what you had and what the teacher had looked nothing alike? The teacher's work resembled a master-piece, while yours looked more like a mud-pie. That's because your teacher has had decades of experience tucked into the deep recesses of his or her mind that weren't a part of the lesson. But with me, everything I know, I still know, and I'm ready to tell you, in detail.

So, all you have to do is ask yourself, "Do I REALLY wish I could draw?" Well, do ya? LET'S GO FOR IT! And if people could draw straight lines, then why'd they invent rulers?

Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Pad, Medium Surface, 9"x12" Wire Bound, 50 Sheets
Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Pad, Medium Surface, 9"x12" Wire Bound, 50 Sheets

This is a drawing notebook, with perforated edges that's spiral bound at the top to be flipped up, for those who feel more comfortable working that way.

 
KEEP CALM and LEARN TO DRAW
KEEP CALM and LEARN TO DRAW

Check Out What I've Done

If you'd like to see what else I've drawn, please stop by Boneworld on DeviantArt. And if you like what you see, feel free to buy and download prints.

Or, maybe you'd like to check out Boneworld's Zazzle store to see what I've drawn on a T-Shirt, or possibly something else.

Are you feeling that urge to draw? Let me know.

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    • J - R - Fr13m9n profile image

      Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman 

      3 years ago from Morris County, New Jersey

      Yesterday you visited my article about scrap art and using it in your hubs and today I am here writing commentary. Your doodling and art are interesting I must say. I can perceive the slightly different perspective due to the fact in you bio you claim to be a nerd. I kept picturing in my mind the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" when reading your article. My perspective is creative and spiritual. I was the kid who did not fit in. I am not mainstream. Anyway our worlds collided in a positive way resulting in the brightest stars the universe has ever seen!

    • milesamos profile image

      James Bailey 

      4 years ago

      I agree. Seems the older we get, the further our imagination gets.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @milesamos Thanks for the kind words. And it's true, we all need a little boost sometimes, especially when it comes to things that once upon a time came so fluently, and now are more of a struggle. Thanks again!

    • milesamos profile image

      James Bailey 

      4 years ago

      Nice article. Good motivation

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @ideadesigns You got it! It's a great passion to dive into, and clear out the cobwebs on the right side of your brain. It's not the only way, but it's probably one of the easiest to just pick up a pencil and go.

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 

      4 years ago

      I like to draw and I'm glad to see another passionate artist!

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @invictus95: Couldn't have said it better! It's a hobby worth the effort. I think baby steps are the way to go. Don't expect too much all at once, and you'll get there. It's good to hear from someone else who's been there. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      invictus95 

      4 years ago

      Nice article! Drawing definitely takes practice and dedication to get better at, but it's worth it.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @AlanJC321: Hey, you bet! It's really advice for just about anything.

    • AlanJC321 profile image

      AlanJC321 

      4 years ago

      I love what you said about "The real truth about wanting to draw well is, you have to want itâyou have to enjoy it" - so true for anything we want in life. Thanks so much for the inspiring lens.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Seasons Greetings: That sounds great! I mean, drawing for me was about doing something that I was really interested in. If I didn't have the drive, I wouldn't have done it, and that's really the point. It's really about finding something that appeals to you, and putting the time into it to learn it, and it sounds like Ascii art has done that for you. But if you can add sketching to your resume, all the better.

    • BodyHairRemoval profile image

      BodyHairRemoval 

      4 years ago

      One day I'm going to sit down and really learn to draw. It seems very peaceful.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I always wished I could draw too. I started learning, teaching myself, as an adult too. But first I began making ASCII art. I still like text art, it gives it's own set of limitations to work with. But, from there I began sketching ideas which were just for me to keep track of an idea. One day I realized my sketches were actually starting to look recognizable (to someone other than myself).

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @BodyHairRemoval: Drawing can be great fun if you keep the right mind set. All you need is a pencil, a scrap of paper and a little time each day. Not even a whole lot. Just enough to doodle out a few lines. It can be great for the mind and soul. And after a little bit of time, you'll be amazed at how you can progress.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @asereht1970: That's the spirit! You don't need any special abilities, just the will to do it.

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 

      4 years ago

      I have always wanted to draw. But like the others, I am not gifted with the ability to draw. Still, that doesn't take away the joy of just drawing anything that comes to mind. Great lens.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @tazzytamar: It says something about your mind, and how it's always trying to create something. I think it's great. Doodling is a dying art form.

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 

      4 years ago from chichester

      I always love doodling away - especially when I'm on the phone for some reason... Doesn't say much for my conversations does it? Great lens :)

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @John Dyhouse: Great comment, and absolutely true! It's really about enjoying it, and not stopping for the rough patches. Just do it, and have fun, and the rest will fall into place.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      4 years ago from UK

      Good advice, start simple and enjoy it. Practice and you will improve, Go for what you see - NOT what you think is there. very difficult for adults with preconceived ideas.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @delia-delia: I think you are absolutely right. I have Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain on my list of books to it, but I just haven't had the time, yet. Thanks for stopping by!

    • MaggieTee profile image

      MaggieTee 

      4 years ago

      To all the naysayers who are so sure they cannot draw, I say if there is any interest, get Betty Edwards' book, do the exercises, and you will learn to draw! I didn't know I was an artist till I was 50 years old. Now I love to draw and paint in watercolors.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 

      4 years ago

      I believe everyone can draw if shown by their desire. I had a student once, she drew stick figures and within a couple of weeks she could draw with shading and dimension...her first piece of art won first place. I love using the book "Drawing on the Right side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, it's been most helpful to me and my students.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @AntonioM23: Thanks so much. I appreciate it, but I'm going to have to disagree with you, if you say you have no skill. If you drew that icon, it's pretty cool. Even over the top characters are part of the process. It takes some skill to pull that off. There are people on the boardwalks in New Jersey making a living by doing just that. So, I'm thinking you're already way ahead of the curve. Way to go. Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.

    • AntonioM23 profile image

      AntonioM23 

      4 years ago

      I have no skill in drawing.Great lens

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      4 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @LizzieCracked: That's great! I'm glad you got back into it, and glad your kids are to. It sounds like you've been very encouraging, and with the right attitude to. That's nice to hear. Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by.

    • LizzieCracked profile image

      Lizzie 

      4 years ago from Arizona

      Great Lens on drawing - I too always wished I had the talent - thing is I did I think I was too boxed into the left brain thinking of doing what I was supposed to and I never could get my people or things or whatever to look like they were supposed to. I went back to art as a way of therapy kind of and discovered how I considered it when I was younger was..so narrow. In the last year I have sold prints, and done cover art for a few published works.. I have been encouraging my kids who all love to draw and color outside the lines (encouraged) to enter the drawing contests that I enter as a way of getting over the 'I'm not good enough" thoughts and putting it out there.. its all viewer voted so I explain its only partly about the art (their votes and placing in the contest itself) and mostly about them - believing that what they draw is how they see the world. It's all about perspective and light/ dark and color.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Mobley5: I couldn't agree more. It's about enjoying it, and not worrying about the end result. I think more people would draw if they just ignored the finished result, and after a while everyone will get better. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Mobley5 

      5 years ago

      Drawing is a lovely hobby which I have no skill in, but I do think it's worth learning. There's something about the process that makes it really enjoyable even when the end result isn't so good.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @mel-kav: Awesome! I'm glad to hear it. Thanks for the kind words, and for stopping by.

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 

      5 years ago

      I love to draw. As far back as I can remember, I loved drawing. And I must say, I was really good at it. But somewhere along the way during my adult years, I forgot to take the time to let loose with a pencil and sketchbook. When I try to draw now - I really do not do so well. I think I will have to take a little time each day to play in my sketchbook. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @The_Storyteller: You bet. Practice, and the will is all it really takes. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      The_Storyteller 

      5 years ago

      I love drawing, and I have been drawing since I was a kid! Particularly manga, stick people, and pencil sketches of what I see. It really is incredible how much practice helps; I doodle all the time, and it often doesn't look great, but over the coarse of a few years my drawing has improved drastically!

      Thanks for sharing this lens; I agree with a lot of what you wrote, and better yet it was very well-written and easy/fun to read!

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @anonymous: Thanks so much. I appreciate it. It's good to hear. I'd love to hear your take on something like this. I hope to see you around.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Awesome lense:) I enjoy drawing as well and thought about putting up a lense on this subject last week!:) You are brave to show the world your work and you are good:)

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @anonymous: Thank you for both. I appreciate it.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @rhubarba: You bet. They're coming right up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      OK, now I can repeat myself (I left a comment on your bio) and say congratulations!

    • rhubarba profile image

      rhubarba 

      5 years ago

      @boneworld: Strange, I can't find anywhere to write/post a comment, I can reply though... Really good lens, I'd love to have great drawing skills and to learn more about it. Got some sketching pencils and pads for christmas but the inspiration have been lacking. So go ahead and create more inspirational lenses for me now :-)

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @oddobjective: Thank you. I appreciate it. Glad you stopped by.

    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 

      5 years ago

      Great story. I can totally relate.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @ChocolateLily: Yep, I get you. That's why I don't really like the term artist at all. It sounds kind of over the top. And I also have the feeling that everything needs to be perfect. I feel like I'm always fighting some kind of inner critic that's telling me what I'm doing isn't good enough. That's why I keep reminding myself, I'm drawing for fun, and not for any other reason. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 

      5 years ago

      I've always loved to draw and have always been good at it. That being said, I struggle with the feeling that everything I draw should be perfect. Therefore, I don't draw as much as I want to. I feel that's my biggest problem. I'm so glad you wrote this lens. I've tried so many times to tell people that they CAN draw well if they just TRY! I hate being singled out as "the artist" when I know others have so much potential! (I'm not trying to toot my own horn, by the way.)

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @FrancesWrites: That is a great idea. I actually have that book somewhere, but I've never read it. I'll have to dig it up, and give that a try. Thanks for that. I have been thinking about some books that helped me along that I'd like to recommend. So, you read that, and it helped you a lot? I'd be interested to hear more about it.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @anonymous: I'm sure you have it in there somewhere, you just have to tap into it. Someone as finely dressed as you has to be as creative as they come.

    • FrancesWrites profile image

      FrancesWrites 

      5 years ago

      My mum was an artist, so I have childhood memories of sitting around the dining room table on rainy days, just sketching. It's something I gave up for years but began playing with again not too long ago. You might like to check out Betty Edward's book 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' and maybe do a lens with before and after shots of the exercises in it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      How I wish I could draw, unfortunately I didn't get any of our family's artistic talents LOL

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @Susan Zutautas: That's awesome. That's how it all starts.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I doodle a lot, my youngest son is the artist in our family.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @MarathonRunning: Thanks, MarathonRunning. I couldn't agree more. It's about building up the mind's eye, and letting it go. Thanks for stopping by.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @flinnie lm: Hi flinnie, you and me are on the same page. Thanks for stopping by.

    • boneworld profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackson Thom 

      5 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @PaigSr: I'm sure your daughter is great, and whatever makes the two of you happy is the way to go. Thanks for stopping by.

    • MarathonRunning profile image

      Martina 

      5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      You presented some interesting facts and ideas there, thanks.

      I always look at drawing as an thing that firstly came from inspiration and as a wish to make something creative. Love to draw :)

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I enjoy drawing, it's a fun hobby.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 

      5 years ago from State of Confusion

      The daughter is the artist in this house. I can take the pictures but drawing them is not my thing.

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