Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Improve Your Drawing Skills

One question that I get asked a lot is "How did you learn to draw?" I also get a lot of aspiring artists who contact me asking them how they can improve their skills and ask for tips and tricks. So I thought I would take some time to give you a little insight into how I improved my drawing skills over the years and also how I continue to improve my drawing skills. I feel that I'm always a work in progress striving to get better and better!

I think some people are under the impression that there's some magic involved with drawing. They think that artists are born with some fantastic talent and just sit down and draw masterpieces. So, when people who want to draw, sit down and try and don't automatically get it, they may become frustrated.They may think that they weren't born with that certain something and they just can't draw!

What those people don't know or don't yet realize is that many artists that they admire started out just like them, frustrated at their drawing table, feeling like they weren't good enough and perhaps thought they should give up their hopes of being able to draw well. But those artists they admire worked through their frustrations and developed their skills over time. They worked tirelessly, read books, studied anatomy and produced many, many, many sketches to get to where they are today.

I firmly believe that anyone can draw if they are dedicated and work at it. Having the desire is the most important part. Will some people take longer to develop their skills than others? Of course! Are some people born with more talent than others? Of course! But drawing is like any other skill. If you practice, practice, practice, you will improve your skills....guaranteed.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

So where to start? Well, I have one book that I highly recommend if you want to learn how to draw. I really love Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards because it takes a different approach to drawing than most other books out there. Most books will tell you what tools you need, teach you about perspective, lighting, value, etc...That's all fine and good, but they don't teach you how to actually draw. The author of this book understands the process and knows how to communicate it to the reader by showing them how to -see- things differently. Sometimes I feel like drawing is getting the logical side of your brain to shut up and allowing the other side of your brain (the more creative side) to do what it knows how to do.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain teaches you how to stop thinking about "how to draw an eye", for instance, but to instead think about the shape and it's proportion to things around it. Most people think that an eye is oval shaped with points on either end, but if you actually study an eye, you will find that it is definitely not shaped like that. There are so many great exercises in the book that will help you to change the way you think and see things.

One of my most favorite exercises is where the author has you draw a line drawing of a horse with a rider upside down. This really forces your logical side of the brain to be quiet, because you can't even really tell what you're drawing when it's upside down. Your brain can't tell you what a horse is supposed to look like because you're not looking at a horse. You're looking at a group of different shapes. This, in my opinion, is what drawing is all about...drawing what you -actually- see, not what you -think- you see.

The drawing process is very hard to put into words, but this author does such a great job. I definitely suggest you check it out! They may even have it at your local library.

Figure Drawing

If you plan on drawing any humanoid figures in your artwork, you must learn how to draw the human figure. Even if you plan on drawing stylized figures with body parts in different proportions to the normal human being (like fairies with elongated legs or arms), you still must learn how to draw the human figure. I truly believe that you have to first know what the human figure is supposed to look like before you can exaggerate certain parts and draw your own stylized humanoid creations. If you try to skip the figure drawing step, I think your creations will run a high risk of looking "off." Perhaps their balance will be wrong or their proportion...something about it just won't look quite right. So I strongly suggest you perfect drawing the human form first.


One good place to start is to learn about anatomy. I went to art school and even though my degree was not in Fine Arts, I was required to take an anatomy class. I feel that this class, more than any other, helped to really improve my figure drawing skills. We had to study many different muscle and bone structures of the body. It helped to teach me what was under the skin and explain why the human body looks the way that it does.

I drew more drawings for this class than any other. Each week we concentrated on a different body part. We had to draw the muscle and bone structure of that body part and complete several finished figure drawings that focused on that body part. For instance, one week we would focus on the hand. We would draw the bones in the hand, the muscles in the hand and do several life drawings of hands in different positions.

While I don't feel it's absolutely necessary for everyone to create extensive anatomy drawings to become good at figure drawing, I do think it helps to have a basic understand about anatomy and the various muscle and bone structures.

Here are some of the drawings I completed for that class:

Fantastic Stock for Figure Drawing

Next, I suggest that you practice drawing actual figures. Many people in the art world think it's super important to draw from life. If this is how you want to go about it, many local colleges have life drawing model sessions occasionally that you may be able to sit in on for a small fee. Personally, I prefer to draw from photos. I can take my time and I don't have to worry about the model moving.

There are many great stock artists on that take pictures with the sole purpose of having artists create their own artwork from them. Make sure to read each individual stock artist's rules, because they are all different. One stock artist that I just love is SenshiStock. I really love this stock because all of the photos are taken with the models in minimal, form fitting clothing. It really allows you to see the human form without elaborate costumes hiding legs, arms, feet, etc...

If you want to improve your figure drawing, why not set a goal to create "x" amount of sketches a day or week? Pick out some of your favorite poses and start drawing! Try to switch it up and spend a smaller amount of time, maybe just a gesture drawing, on some while creating a finished drawing on others. This will help with the burn out factor. Do this for a month and then compare your first drawings with your most recent drawings. I guarantee you will see improvement! Even if it's small, there will definitely be improvement there.

In the end, the best way to get better at drawing is to draw ALL the time. If you struggle with a certain body part, like hands, set a goal to draw 20 pairs of hands in different positions. The more you draw, the better you will get....I promise! =)


  1. Thank you for the information/ drawing lesson!

  2. Of course! I'm glad that you found it helpful. =)