As much as drawing is an art that can come naturally to some people, it is also a craft that can be learned and mastered, even by people who are not necessarily artistic. Basically, as with every other thing, if you must improve and boost your artistic skills, then it is necessary that you work on them by practicing regularly. Practice makes perfect right?
However, practicing your drawing skills is only as important as the exercises you do while practicing. If you keep doing the same drawing exercises daily over a long period of time, there is a chance your skills might improve but not by a large degree. To hone your drawing skills, it is in your best interest to try out as many drawing exercises as possible, as frequently as you can. From the simple ones to the complex ones, each drawing exercise targets and develops different aspects of your artistic skills, and as such, the more exercises you do, the better your drawing skills are developed.
That said, in this article we have rounded up 12 useful drawing exercises that can help you improve your artistic skills, regardless of your skill level, whether you are a beginner looking to get started or an expert artist looking to stretch their skills and try out new things.
Now let’s get to the drawing exercises.
- Different Perspective Drawing Exercise
Here’s the thing, when drawing an object or model, especially if it is one you are already familiar with, from a perspective you always draw from, chances are you are not drawing what you see but what your mind thinks it is supposed to look like. Essentially, over familiarity with a particular angle gives you a perceived image of your drawing, preventing you from seeing the object or model for how it actually appears.
So to improve your drawing skills, start by drawing something from a different angle, preferably from an angle you’ve never viewed it from before. This way, your brain has no information to work with, allowing your eyes to process what is to be drawn just as it appears. For instance, if you want to draw a chair, instead of going for the normal side view you are used to, try drawing an aerial or upside-down view of the chair. Do this exercise with as many objects as you draw and watch how your drawing improves when there is no preformed images in your head to influence it.
- Negative Space Drawing Exercise
The essence of drawing is to actually draw an object right? Great. Now, have you ever considered not drawing the actual object but the space around it? This is called negative space drawing and it is one of the exercises that can go a long way in sharpening your drawing skills. The negative space around objects are usually ignored as most artists tend to focus on the object to be drawn. This exercise will help you create the form of an object simply by blocking out the space not occupied by the object.
For this lesson, try to be as realistic as possible if you want to get a good rendition of your object. The more you practice negative space drawing, the closer you will get to achieving a perfect rendition of your object. Just remember to pay as much attention to the drawing as to the object you want to draw.
- Idea Generator and Word Stacks Drawing Exercise
One of the major reasons why artists struggle to draw is as a result of lack of ideas on what to draw. Drawing the same boring and over familiar images will do nothing to improve your skills and nothing to motivate or inspire you as an artist. It becomes a lot easier to draw something when you are working with a fresh idea or inspiration. That is why working with idea generators or word stacks can help you practice your drawings skills.
For idea generators, you can sign up to online art forums where you will receive random drawing prompts on a daily basis (or your preferred frequency) to give you ideas on things to draw. For the word stack exercise, get blank index cards, as many as you like and divide them into 3 equal stacks. For the first stack, write an adjective on every card in the stack. For the second stack, write a noun on every card and for the last stack, write a verb.
Now, every time you run out of ideas on things to draw, randomly select a card from each of the three stacks and draw whatever image you get from the resulting phrase when the 3 cards are joined together. This exercise is great for artists who tend to feel stuck on ideas of things to draw. No matter what the final product of the image you were able to conjure up looks like, this is an exercise that will sharpen your imaginations to help you improve your drawing skills.
- Objects and People in Motion Drawing Exercise
Drawing people in motion can be intimidating and challenging, especially when you are just starting out. This is exactly why you should take up this lesson. Staying within your comfort zone has never helped anyone who wanted to develop their artistic skills. Drawing figures on the go add a narrative to your sketches that only this technique can. The storytelling element makes your drawing more interesting while effectively honing your drawing skills as well.
- Doodling and Noodling Exercise
Doodling and noodling are two simple drawing exercises that come highly recommended for artists who want to work on their draw skills. To doodle, simple take a pencil and draw on the paper, taking the line in any direction you want. The important thing is to ensure that you end the drawing at the point where you started such that whatever shape you sketch forms, is an enclosed one. The shape you draw is not of importance here, just go with the flow and draw whatever comes to mind. Your lines can be straight, curvy or squiggly, anything you draw is a doodle.
Once you are done doodling, you can then begin to noodle. Noodling simply involves designing your doodle. While doodling is more spontaneous and free, noodling has to be controlled and purposeful. To decorate your doodle, you can use straight or curvy lines, regular or irregular shapes, shading, dotting or any pattern you like. The important thing is to be methodical about your designs, following a clear and precise pattern. These techniques will allow you to experiment with different ideas without trying too hard.
- Value Drawing Exercise
Generally, the first step to drawing is to create an outline of the object to be drawn using simple lines. For this value drawing exercise, you will have to sketch your object without drawing a line. So how do you draw then? Simple. You shade. Just shade out the form of the object until you’ve built up your drawing on the paper or whatever drawing medium you are making use of. Don’t forget to pay attention to your drawing as well as the object to ensure that the shape is coming out perfectly. And if your shading gets too dark, you can always erase out some of it until you get the shade you want.
- Non-Dominant Hand Drawing Exercise
You are probably wondering how drawing with your non dominant hand is going to make you a better artist when you are still trying to perfect your drawing skills with your dominant hand. Well, the thing is that with your dominant hand, you have more control over how you draw. Switching the pencil to your non dominant hand takes the control away from you. This exercise allows you to be more loose and free with your lines and drawing in general. It is definitely going to be awkward and you should not expect the final product to be one of your finer works. Nonetheless, practice this exercise as often as you can and whenever you return to your dominant hand, you’ll be surprised at how easier and less restricted drawing will be for you.
- Blind Contour Drawing Exercise
As an artist, your hand-eye coordination is extremely important. This refers to your ability to sketch an object on paper without taking your eyes off it. Your eyes feed the brain with information which is then recorded, processed and passed on to the hands to guide them on how to move. The blind contour exercise can help you train your eyes and hands to work in unison so you can draw without looking at your paper. This isn’t the easiest exercise so we recommend that you start out with simple objects. As you progress, you can then move on to more complex images.
- Five Minute Burn Drawing Exercise
The five-minute burn is a drawing exercise designed to boost your instinctive skills as an artist. As the name implies, this exercise takes just 5 minutes. To perform this exercise, take out exactly five minutes to draw anything you see in front of you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect rendition of the object in view, just capture the basics and forget the details, remember you have only five minutes. This exercise is best when it’s spontaneous, that way, you don’t have to actively search for simple objects. Just draw whatever is there in 5 minutes whenever you feel like and watch how your drawing skills improve.
- Wire Drawing Exercise
The essence of this drawing exercise is to bring your focus to the different lines and shapes that make up a drawing instead of viewing the drawing as a whole. While it is a drawing lesson, you will technically not be doing any drawing with this exercise. Simply bend your wire into any shape and line you like, trace out the shapes and lines using your pencil and use them to create the image you want. It might be difficult to get some shapes with the wire but that’s the thing with this wire drawing exercise. The wire is supposed to influence your drawing and not the other way round. This will train you to process shapes and lines to see how they can fit into your drawing.
- Continuous Contour Line Drawing Exercise
Like the name implies, in continuous contour line drawing, you draw continuously, without lifting your pencil (or the drawing tool you are using) from the paper you are drawing on. Basically, your drawing will just be one continuous line bent into various shapes. And even if you make mistakes along the way, keep going, erasing out anything takes away from the artistic process. Try to pay as much attention as you can to the object you are drawing so you can guide your hand to follow their curves and angles without taking your pencil off the paper.
- Recognizable Shapes Drawing Exercise
All drawings are basically made out of many different shapes put together. So for this exercise, instead of using various shapes to create your drawing, take out one shape you like and create your drawing with it. Be it blocks, strips, circles or any shape you like. Just keep building on the shapes until it forms the image you have in mind. This exercise will unlock your imagination while also offering inspiration on new ways to create images.
If you want to improve on your drawing skills, then the above mentioned 12 drawing exercises will go a long way to improve your skills and boost your confidence as an artist. These lessons are pretty easy and will not take up a lot of time or resources, all you have to do is practice them as often as you can and you will begin to see improvements in your drawing in no time.