How To Learn To Draw

Why Did I Want To Learn This Skill?

I’ve always been exposed to creativity, but it was of a different kind. Studying graphic design at University, I designed infographics, posters, and flyers. I hardly ever drew and a lot of my work consisted of handling text and images on the computer. Rarely did I put pen to paper, and when I did, it was only to quickly sketch out ideas.

I wanted to change all of that.

I wanted to be confident with generating art, but more specifically kawaii art. There were several reasons why I wanted to learn this specific style:

  • I believed it was a skill that was easy to pick up
  • I’ve always been fond of this style
  • There are no limitations to this style.

Realism never interested me. I never really had the need to draw a realistic landscape or understand the way the light hit a subject. To be honest with you, I always thought to myself, ‘why draw something as realistic as possible when I could take a picture of it in a fraction of the time?’

No, I wanted to be creative, design creatures and environments out of thin air. I wanted to challenge my imagination and be confident with transferring what was in my head and placing it onto paper.

How Much Time Did I Commit To Drawing?

Similar to how I approach every new skill, it was important for me to be exposed to the subject. In order to do that, I had to make time for drawing and every aspect of it.

This meant I had to be realistic with myself and decide on a time when I could sit down and draw. I attempted to commit to a minimum of 1 hour a day. Did I succeed? Hell no. Life happened and other commitments forced my time away from drawing, but I would always find myself coming back to it whenever I could.

As with every skill, I would keep track of my learning time. This helped me be aware of how committed I was to the project. If I could see that I was slacking, I could understand where I was going wrong and make decisions to get me back on track.

Learning how to draw lasted for 18 weeks and within that time I had committed to roughly 36 hours in total. Below is a table that goes into detail about my time spent drawing.

Skill WeekMTWTFSSTotal HoursNotes
11111116
20.50.50.50.513Traveling
30.510.50.750.50.750.754.75
400.750.7500001.5
5010.500.510.53.5Transitioned to the computer
600.750.7500.50.7502.75
710000001
800000000Travelling
900000000Travelling
1000000011Travelling
1100.5000000.5Travelling
1201.51.51.50004.5Started designing my own sketches
130111.50003.5
1400000011
1500000000Travelling
1600000011Travelling
1710.50.500002Travelling
1800000000
Total3.58.575.2533.55.2536

You’ll notice that there were many times that I couldn’t commit to drawing because I was travelling. Note to self, ‘do not start learning a new skill during the summer holidays.’ Travelling was my biggest issue. Making time on the road was difficult for me, I usually find being in a different environment quite distracting.

This shouldn’t be an excuse, but I wasn’t going to beat myself up and be down about it. I had to be realistic with myself and prioritise what was important to me at the time.

Although I didn’t get to practice as much as I had wanted. I did see an improvement with my drawing and I grew confident with putting pen to paper.

How Did I Progress?

Similar to the way I would document my time spent drawing, I would also document all of my drawing progress. This allowed to me reflect on each piece of work and see if there were any progress.

I recommend you do the same. It’s always good to keep track of your progress as it’ll remind you of how far you’ve come. At times we’re so fixated on the end goal that we don’t sit down and reflect on the progress we’ve made, I know I’m always guilty of doing this.

When I did find time to look back, I’d be amazed at my progress and it would spur me on to do more.

Below are few pieces of work that I created throughout the 18 weeks of learning how to draw:

How I Learned To Draw

Although I was learning how to draw in a specific style, this advice is applicable to all genres. From portraits to abstract, as long as you apply the advice listed below, you should have a better understanding of how to draw.

Copy Great Art

Just with every new skill that you want to learn, exposure to the skill is important. From viewing pieces of art that I admired to generating my own, it was important that I surrounded myself in the subject matter.

At first, I knew it was important for me to replicate good pieces of art. The more I would replicate, the more I would understand the shapes and strokes that were being utilised. Constantly copying good pieces of work allowed me to always have a pencil in my hand, the more I copied, the more I grew confident.

Similar to all the skills that we learn, what’s important is putting in the reps.

Analyse

I would always log onto Pinterest and search for art that I’d like. After every piece that I replicated, I would stop to think and analyse what made it a good piece of work, what was it that made it ‘Kawaii’? What was it that made it a good piece of work that I admired? I would constantly look at a piece of artwork and try to break down what basic shapes were being used. How thick each stroke was, what colours were applied.

Analysing great work and work you’ve done is important. You will understand what is needed to develop your drawing skills and it’ll give you direct feedback with what aspect you need to work on. I advise that you take time to look back at what you’ve created and constantly ask questions on how you can improve on your next drawing.

Transition To The Computer

After weeks of replicating pieces of artwork onto my sketchbook and constantly asking questions on how I can improve, I realised in order for my drawings to closely resemble the work that I was copying, I needed to be able to draw using the computer. This was a big transition, there’s a huge difference with using pen and paper compared to stylus and tablet.

Using the Wacom Intuos S I was able to transition over to the computer. It was a huge learning curve, not only was I getting to grips drawing on a slippery texture of a tablet, but I also needed to understand the software. Fortunately, I’ve had experience with it as I had studied graphic design and was exposed to the programs all throughout University.

In order to get my reps in, I committed to replicating artwork again, but this time doing it on the computer. I did find this method a lot easier on my posture. Since I was already referring to the computer for inspirational artwork, I no longer had to keep looking down to draw in my sketchbook, I just had to switch the window on the computer and continue drawing.

Start Generating My Own Work

The more I copied, the more I grew confident drawing, but I knew it would eventually be time for me to start generating my own artwork. This part of the process became a little frustrating for me. Since there are no right or wrong with creativity, it was difficult to know when to stop or if the drawing worked or not.

Nobody could answer this question and I realised nobody ever could. I had to be confident in myself and be content with the drawings that I had created. There were times that I did and other times where I struggled, but I think this is a battle that all artists go through.

Just Start Already

There are many occasions where we’re fixated on how to start or what tools we need, that we never start at all. What really needs to be done is that you just begin drawing. It’s that simple. Just. Start. Drawing.

The more I drew, the more I realised what was needed of me to progress. I would research areas where I was lacking and try to implement it into my next piece of work. Then I repeat the process.

Just with every skill that I’ve attempted to learn, I try to get stuck in as quickly as possible. Don’t overthink the situation, just start drawing. If not, you’re just wasting precious drawing time and you won’t be putting in the reps.

The Tools I used

Drawing Kit

The essential tools that I needed in my arsenal were the sketchbook & pencil. I didn’t need anything fancy, I didn’t want to waste time looking for the best pencil that would give me the cleanest stroke. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to get stuck in as quickly as possible.

As for the sketchbook, it was something simple. I could have even drawn on separate sheets of A4 paper and I would have been fine with it. I opted for a sketchbook as I wanted to keep all of my drawings in one place.

Along with the sketchbook and pencil, I also purchased the following:

My gear wasn’t fancy nor was it expensive. It was important for me to spend as little as possible and start as quickly as I could.

Pinterest

I had to find a resource that allowed me to refer to good art, this is where the website Pinterest came into play. I would constantly log onto this site and search for relevant art that I admired. I would create a board and save all of my favourite pieces there.

After a while, Pinterest would recognise my search patterns and start recommending other pieces of work that it thought I would admire. It was usually right.

Wacom Intuos S

Once I started to become comfortable with both pencil & pen, I knew in order for me to take my drawings to the next level I had to be able to recreate them on the computer. In order for me to do that I knew I had to purchase a tablet and stylus that would recreate the drawing experience. There was no way I’d be able to draw art using just a mouse and keyboard, it’s possible, but it’s cumbersome.

Fortunately, I was gifted a Wacom Intuos S a year before on my birthday. I loved it. It connected via Bluetooth so I didn’t need to worry about wires, it was relatively small so it didn’t take up too much space in my bag, and the pen was responsive that it made it a seamless transition from paper to tablet.

If you’re starting out and don’t want to spend too much, I’d highly recommended purchasing a Wacom Intuos S. They’re relatively cheap and it’s enough to get you started drawing on the computer. Plus, it came with free drawing software, but I didn’t make use of it since I had another piece of software that I preferred.

Adobe Illustrator

As I studied graphic design during University, I was well-versed with the Adobe Suite. Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, you name it and I probably had a good idea on how to use the program, however, I had never used those programs to draw with a stylus and pen before.

When I made the transition to the computer I wasn’t sure which program to use. Photoshop or Illustrator. After much experimentation between the two, I finally came to the conclusion with which one I preferred. There’s much debate between the two software’s, but in the end, I chose Adobe Illustrator.

Both programs would do just fine and you’d be able to recreate the same drawings using both programs (you’ll probably go about it slightly differently). Since I was well-versed with Illustrator, I thought I’d save a lot of time and effort if I used a program that I was more confident in.

When you’re starting out it doesn’t really matter what software you decide to use. All of the basic programs will be enough, all you’ll be doing is practising your drawing skill on the computer. It’s only when you start to generate complicated pieces of work, that’s when you should start investing in a program that’ll make the drawing process easier for you.

How It Helped Me In My Career

Learning how to draw has added a new aspect to my graphic design skills. Instead of using the mouse and keyboard to design, I’m able to have more freedom and generate better strokes with a stylus.

It has diversified my portfolio and I feel confident tackling different projects with this new skill.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I don’t plan on deliberately working on drawing anymore as there are so many other skills that I wish to explore. Since it’s a skill that I can take full advantage of in my work, I’ll still be using it. Just with every skill, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it, but since I’ve added another aspect to my graphic design with a drawing element I’m able to still keep the skill alive.