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9 Exercises to Improve Drawing

9 Exercises to Improve Drawing

August 28, 2021

 By Emily Becker

We all know that practice makes perfect. I’m not an advocate for our drawing needing to be “perfect” so to speak, but our ability to draw what we see in our minds can definitely enhance our creativity and make us truer artists.

That said, there are many ways to improve our drawing technique and grow our skills. The best part is that you do not need many materials or a lot of time to get started. These are just a few different ways that you can get into the habit of practicing your drawing:

1. Daily Sketching

The frequency that you practice drawing will determine how quickly you can improve. This exercise will not only provide you with the consistent practice you need to improve, but will allow you to track your progress over time.

First, dedicate a notebook or sketchbook to your daily sketching practice. Then, decide which part of the day will be your practice time. Perhaps you’ll want to do a sketch in the morning with your coffee, or at night before bed. Choose a time that you know you can stick to so that you can begin building your daily sketching habit.

Make sure to write the date at the top of the page. Sketch whatever comes to mind. It can be a sketch of your breakfast, your pet, the view outside your window, or whatever comes to your imagination. 

Try to sketch something different every day. Watch how your skills slowly improve over time!

2. Sketch Challenge

This is much like daily sketching, except you assign yourself a subject to sketch each day. Follow the instructions for Daily Sketching above. Now, on each page of your sketchbook, write what your subject will be. When you turn to a page, that will be your subject for that day.

Subjects can be anything you can think of. They can be objects, scenes, people, or really anything that comes to mind.

3. Continuous Line

This exercise is a fun one. Basically, this exercise involves drawing a picture with one continuous line, without lifting your pen or pencil.

First, choose your subject. What will you draw with your continuous line? If it’s your first time doing this exercise, consider choosing something simple without too many details. As you improve, try choosing subjects that are more complex.

Observe your subject and map out in your mind how you will draw this object with just one line. Where will you start, where will the line go from there, and where will it end?

Draw. Place your pencil on the sheet of paper, and begin your long, continuous line. Do not pick up the pencil until you finish drawing your subject.

Observe. How did your drawing turn out? What was your approach? Did you start with the outline and go inward, or begin in the center and work outward? Try to observe your finished drawing without judgment. It’s all about practice, remember!

4. A Collection of Shapes

In essence, any subject that you draw is made up of various shapes that come together to make a larger shape.

Think about a dog, for example. The shape of a cat is really just a collection of triangles, rectangles, circles, and other shapes that are put together, often overlapping, to create a shape that we recognize as a cat.

For this exercise, you will choose a subject to draw and break it down by shapes. First, choose your subject. Objects with neat lines work well for beginners, such as chairs and other household items.

Then, observe your subject. Begin by considering its outline. What is its general shape? Then, begin to search for the shapes that make up the object. Where do you see squares? Triangles? Rectangles?

Begin to draw, with accuracy, the shapes that make up the object. Begin with the larger shapes that overlap, then go to smaller shapes. Watch as you begin to sketch your object with greater accuracy.

5. Non-Dominant Hand Sketch

Drawing with your non-dominant hand is certainly a challenge. However, it is the perfect way to change things up and see your drawing from a fresh perspective. This exercise is especially suitable for your practice if you feel like you are in a creative slump.

First, choose a sketch that you have already created with your dominant hand. It can be an old sketch or a recent one. Then, on a fresh sheet of paper, try drawing the same subject with your non-dominant hand.

Observe your lines. They will not be as accurate as your original drawing, unless you are ambidextrous, of course. This is totally okay! By now in your drawing practice, you have probably noticed that you have your own particular style of drawing. As you draw with your non-dominant hand, you’ll see that your drawing is far from being exactly the same as the original. This allows you to see your drawing in a new way. Perhaps you’ll want to adapt some style choices from your non-dominant hand sketch!

6. Quick Sketch

This exercise is intended to refine your creative intuition. It involves sketching a subject within a certain amount of time, usually five to ten minutes.

First, write the names of different items you might want to sketch on small pieces of paper. Fold up the pieces of paper and place them in a container.

Then, prep your space. Have your paper and pencil ready to sketch. Set your timer for the desired amount of time. I recommend starting with 10 minutes.

Choose a piece of folded paper and read which item you picked. Now, start your timer and begin quickly sketching that item.

When the timer is up, put down your pencil. Observe what you have drawn. With such little time, it’s possible that you will not have finished your sketch, but that is okay!

The more you practice this exercise, the quicker your hand will be. You will see that your instincts will sharpen and your hand will become much more sure.

7. Word Stacks

This is a creative activity that will definitely change up your usual sketching practice. You’ll start by jotting down 20 nouns (names of objects you will draw) and 20 adjectives. On index cards, write one noun on each and place them in a stack and repeat for the adjectives.

Then, you’ll draw a noun card and an adjective. That noun and adjective combination will be the subject of your next sketch. For example, you might draw a “jolly kangaroo” or a “slippery jacket” during the exercise.

You will find that your noun and adjective combinations will get sillier and stranger over time as your creativity expands. Soon you will have a sketchbook full of all kinds of wacky creations!

8. Growing Doodle

This exercise involves drawing simple shapes that build upon one another to create a larger pattern. You may have heard about mandalas and this exercise is essentially creating a mandala.

To begin, draw a small circle in the center of the paper. Then, begin making shapes connecting to the smaller circle. You can make the same shape all the way around the circle, or you can create different shapes.

From there, continue to add shapes spreading from the initial circle that you drew. Make sure they are closed shapes, not only lines.

Once you fill the paper with your shapes, go back and add details such as dots, lines, shading, or even color.

You’ll find that this exercise is very relaxing and helps you practice making shapes. Remember to keep your hand nice and relaxed as you draw.

9. Graphomania

This is a great exercise for practicing making straight lines and geometric shapes. It can also help you get in touch with your more logical and mathematical side.

Start with a blank sheet of paper, a black marker, and a pen or pencil. Begin to make dots all over the sheet of paper. Some of them can be closer together than others and the pattern should be random.

Then, use your pencil or pen to connect the dots, making sure every dot has a line connected to it. You can connect the dots however you’d like, but avoid simply following one single line through every dot. Try adding lines from one dot to many others and doing the same for other dots.

What you’ll have as a result is a graph-like sketch. Do not worry too much about creating perfectly straight lines. After all, the objective is to practice your linework.

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As you practice these exercises, your drawing skills will not only improve, but you will also become more creative. For all of these exercises, consistency is key! Remember that dedicating time to honing your craft through these exercises is an act of self-love. The best part of all of these exercises is that they require very few materials and some of them do not even require much time at all. 

Do you have any awesome drawing exercises we should know about? Let us know in the comments. Happy drawing!