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5 Essential Tips for Learning How to Draw

1. Find the Best Drawing Tools for You

The first step of learning to draw is figuring out what drawing tools you want to work with and gaining an awareness of what your chosen drawing medium is capable of. Working with a graphite pencil is quite a different experience and utilizes a completely different process than working with a stick of charcoal, oil pastel, pen and ink or colored pencil. Drawing Secrets Revealed by Sarah Parks and the video download Top 10 Art Techniques can really help you reach your fullest potential by giving you an understanding of the different drawing techniques used with different drawing media. For example, if you want to really work on your mark-making with an emphasis on hatching or cross-hatching, you’ll probably want to work with graphite. For more expressive marks, reach for charcoal.

2. Use Mistakes as a Lesson

When you start to draw the first thing you will want to do is loosen up—literally. You want to draw fluidly and spontaneously, so the first thing I was always taught to do is warm up with exercises like drawing circles or cubes. This gets your hand and eye working in concert and can bring about a certain level of focus that you’ll need as you start to sketch.

Another of our drawing tips that I’d like to share is to be mindful that as you learn to draw you don’t have to erase. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you must. Oftentimes, “incorrect” marks can be guidelines for you as you zero-in on the right way to draw the curved shape of a vase or tilt of the nose. Leaving those marks—known as pentimenti—is something that master draftsmen have done for centuries, so you can too.

3. Use Negative Space

Drawing for beginners also means learning to see and to draw negative space as well as positive space. In other words, spend time drawing the shapes of the space around objects as well as the objects themselves.

It sounds easy, but oftentimes this basic drawing idea is hard to truly understand until you actually do it. But once you capture a few angles, the negative space will take as much prominence in your drawing as the object you are drawing.

4. Practice by Working with Lines Only

Take time as you work through drawing tutorials to work only with line. Create simple drawings using hatchings and crosshatchings alone. Discover how you can layer line, or use different sides of your implement for smooth and crisp marks or smeary strokes. Decent drawing tutorials will tell you the same because drawing basics like this are what allow you to really command the best from the medium, be it graphite, charcoal, pastels, or any other implement you choose to draw with.

5. Don’t Use Symbols

One of the best drawing exercises you can practice involves symbols or, actually, resisting the temptation to use symbols. You see, when you start to learn drawing, there is always the urge to draw objects or figures as shapes, ovals for eyes for example. But in reality, the structure and shape of eyes is nothing like an oval. Instead, you must use light and shadow and proportion to truly capture a person’s eyes in your drawing.

To practice this, sit in front of a mirror with a lamp tilted over your face to create strong light and shadow shapes. Practice creating a basic drawing of the abstract shapes of light and shadow on the features of your face. Creating a drawing step by step in this way frees you to see abstractly and that is the secret to drawing art. You learn to draw what you see, not what you think you see.