RECOMMENDED DRAWING EXERCISES
Some of these drawing exercises are fun, some can be a little tedious at times, some may appear to be a bit bonkers … but do at least one of these every day, even if you don’t feel like it, and you’ll soon see an improvement in your skills.
Gesture Drawings are a fun exercise, you will need quite a bit of paper, which is why I use cheap paper when gesture drawing. I also use large sheets of paper, as with gesture drawing you want to really get into it and let your arms go crazy. You’re not trying to produce works of art, it’s more about trying to capture the feeling of the thing you’re seeing, usually a nude model. These drawings are normally quick 30 – 120 second sketches. I use the excellent QuickPoses.com website (my preferred settings are 20 minute sessions of 60 second poses). It’s a lovely feeling when you finish a session and go over your sketches, only to see one that is oozing the feeling you were trying to capture. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it inspires you to do more and more!
Good for – FREEING YOURSELF UP | FINDING YOUR ARTISTIC VOICE
SKETCHING PEOPLE IN PUBLIC
An exercise I was a bit afraid to do at first. I didn’t like the thought of people coming over to me as I drew, but I soon got over that by just sticking some trance music on and getting lost in the moment. People sketching is a really good way to practice your gesture drawing skills too, as people are walking so fast, you sometimes have literally 5 seconds before they vanish out of view. Can you capture their essence before they’re gone for good? Can you store their motion in your mind long enough to keep drawing them when you can no longer see them? Nine times out of ten, I can’t, but when I do … it’s highly rewarding. Just be prepared for pages and pages of horrible looking sketches. At least, that’s been my experience so far. If you can get over the fact you won’t be producing works of art, there is so much to gain from this exercise!
Good for – LOOSENING YOURSELF UP | GETTING SOME FRESH AIR | PRACTISING YOUR GESTURE DRAWING SKILLS
Life Drawing is the act of drawing a female/male model whose physically in front of you, usually nude. It has been the most beneficial thing I ever started, you will be out of your comfort zone somewhat. You can’t really control 100% the lighting, and so things will keep changing. Giving over control to your surroundings means you have more opportunity to learn. If you can get to a life drawing class with nude models, I would say go for it! Don’t be afraid of feeling uncomfortable, everyone’s there for one reason – to improve their drawing skills :) You’ll be amazed how much your skills will improve over time.
Good for – GETTING OUT THE HOUSE | IMPROVING YOUR MEASUREMENTS | OVERALL DRAWING SKILLS
UPSIDE DOWN DRAWING
This is an exercise you’ll want to try and make a habit when drawing from photos. Every single realistic drawing and segment drawing I do, I always do the initial sketch with the reference image turned upside down. It stops your mind from trying to make sense of what your drawing, instead, you can concentrate on drawing what you see, not what you know.
Good for – IMPROVING YOUR PROPORTIONS | HELPS YOU DRAW WHAT YOU SEE, INSTEAD OF WHAT YOU KNOW
BLIND CONTOUR DRAWING
I will be honest, of all my recommended drawing exercises, this is the one I sometimes find hardest to start. It can at times feel slightly tedious, but once you get started it almost becomes like a trance and quite therapeutic. It’s just getting over that initial ‘do I have to’ feeling. The aim here, is to get something of intricate detail, like the lines on the palm of your hand, or a scrunched up piece of paper. Once you have the item in your hands, you start a 5 minute timer and just stare at all the intricate details of the object, and without looking at your paper, or removing your pencil from the paper’s surface, just start drawing until the timer goes off. I believe this exercise has helped me the most of all the exercises, so while it might be tough at times to get it started, it really is worth it!
Good for – IMPROVING YOUR HAND – EYE COORDINATION
My favourite drawing exercise. I was first introduced to Segment Drawings via Lee Hammond’s How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from photographs book in 2013. It’s now nearly 2017 and I still adore doing them. They are so satisfying, it’s basically like doing a mini realistic drawing for fun, but you’re improving your skills. They are powerful as you learn a lot, you’re practising your skills, and you may end up with a nice little drawing at the end of it … if you’re lucky. Did I also mention they’re fun? :) Especially helpful if teamed up with the ‘drawing upside down’ exercise from above. A 2.5″ squared segment drawing takes on average an hour to finish; a lot less than doing a full on realistic drawing.
Good for – IMPROVING PROPORTIONS | BYTE SIZED REALISTIC DRAWING SATISFACTION | FUN
This is an exercise you can do whenever you have a spare minute or two. I tend to do these at the start of life drawing class while waiting for everyone to turn up, I always get there early. You just take a sheet of paper and draw a circle. Than another one. Than another one. Than another one, and another one, until you have a page of circles. The aim is to improve the muscle memory in your hand, so that you can draw a near perfect circle without even thinking about it. I find this drawing exercise strangely satisfying.
Good for – IMPROVING YOUR CIRCLES
Like drawing circles, this is another drawing exercise I find myself doing without even realising it. Sitting on the train to one of my gender clinic visits, sat on the bus to work, or while waiting for life drawing class to start, I will always end up with pages of little speheres. You just draw a circle, decide where the light source is, and than try to recreate the five elements of shading. That is, capture the light side, shadow side, catch light, mid tone and cast shadow. I love doing these, I find them so rewarding, and years later I haven’t tired of them.
Good for – UNDERSTANDING LIGHT AND SHADOW | IMPROVING SHADING SKILLS
“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.”