How To Draw Things

This page will discuss art materials as well as give you tips on developing your skills in how to draw things.

Learning how to draw things doesn't need to be complicated. After years of working in the art field, both as an artist as well as an instructor, I've found one thing to be true. Anyone can learn how to draw. Whether you're a beginner or have been expressing yourself artistically for years, this site will have something to offer you.

Some Thoughts For Beginners

Just like with writing advice that tells you to "write what you know", the best place to begin an art project is to "draw what you know". Start by sketching what you see every day: your coffee pot, a pile of clothes, a vacuum cleaner, whatever catches your eye and offers interesting shapes and textures. Try to keep to simple shapes at first, like circles and squares. If the motorcycle in the driveway is intimidating, maybe you could try a soup can instead. After all, Andy Warhol was famous for his paintings of Campbell soup cans. Anything can be wonderful if entered into it with interest and passion.

The best tool in your drawing kit is your mind. I'll admit that it may be a cliche' comment but it's also true. Your perspective is what makes you unique as an artist. Nobody will have your perspective or talent - these things are yours alone. In this way it's fine to be inspired by other artists, but never intimidated by them. One thing I like to point out is that you never see the worst drawings of the "great" artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo. Everyone has had a beginning. Everyone has had a moment (or more) of questioning their own skill. Allow these questions, but then remember why you create art; it's in your soul to do so. If it gives you joy, you have the answer "why".

So Where to Start?

What's the best approach to learn how to draw things? There are literally hundreds of different kinds of art materials that can be explored. Anything from a piece of charcoal to gold leaf to colored egg whites are open to you and developing basic drawing skills is the foundation for all other art expression.

When I was in college, the first thing I drew was a stick. I had a giant pad of paper and a soft pencil. I thought it would be boring subject matter. I mean, a stick, right? But once I started to work, I actually found enjoyment in creating the various lines and whorls in the wood. And I could see how those same shapes and patterns could be applied to many other subjects. Plus, there's a lot less of that perfection stress when a stick is posing for you.

As a child, one of the best tools I had to learn how to draw things was a piece of tracing paper. There's no shame in taking advantage of such a guide. In fact, at my current job as a graphic designer, I regularly use a digital version of tracing in order to create the right image for my various projects. Even during the Renaissance period of art, various tools were used for creating the perfect painting. During this period, an astronomer named Ptolemy invented the grid, which has been used by artists ever since.

Okay, all well and good, but when do we actually start to draw?

First things first, select your tools. To me, art is a lot like cooking. Just like with the right combination of spices, you can create a delicious meal, with the right combination of tools, you can create wonderful works of art!

Traditional Media

My first art tool was a crayon. According to my mother, I was between 2 and 3 years old when I first attempted how to draw things. I never stopped. Since that early beginning, I've expanded my knowledge of supplies to include pen and ink, paint, clay sculpture, and even wood and stone carving. I'm fascinated by the huge variety of materials that exist and I've even experimented creating my own materials from natural sources such as flowers and grass - grinding down the plant fibers in an attempt to extract pigment. I've always advocated that if you want to learn how to draw things, it's important to find out what you most like to work with. The only way to do that is to try many types of media.

Digital Media

The first time I used a computer for art was in 1990 when I attended Brown Institute. I was assigned a Mac computer, also a novel experience, and I was given my first digital tablet. One more "first", this was also my introduction to Photoshop. And yes, it was a little intimidating trying to learn how to draw things with computer software. A while after I graduated, I was given a personal copy of Photoshop 7 that I used for years on my clunky old Gateway PC. It wasn't until 2009 that I finally discovered Illustrator. I learned how to use the program my first week of work and it has since become one of my favorite software tools.   

What Materials Are the Best Choice?

Being a graphic artist doesn't mean you have to know how to use digital media. If your comfort is with traditional materials, then you should develop your skills along those lines. That said, I do believe in learning how to work with materials you aren't completely comfortable with. If you've never used digital media, start with a free download, of which a number are available. While these programs are pared down compared to expensive products such as Adobe, they are still a wonderful way to break into learning how to draw things. with computer software.

The absolute best advise I can give it to never stop learning. This isn't a tip that's meant to sound patronizing, but is actually serious. I've been learning how to draw things for the past three decades and I don't think there will ever be a time when I won't have something new to explore.

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