This year, I wanted to dive into a project head first, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I really wanted to do something totally outside my comfort zone. And because my phone keeps reminding me exactly how much time I spend spending staring at it every day, I decided it needed it to be analog. I would learn to draw!

Bill Gates has said that if you have to spend about five hours a week actively learning a new skill in order to get it to stick. With that in mind, I vowed to spend an hour a day with Skillshare and a sketchbook in hand, to see if I could become an artist—or at least draw a picture someone else could recognize—within a week.

Have you ever wondered “can someone learn to draw?” or even “how can I learn to draw?” Even better, if you’ve already decided “I want to learn how to draw,” read along, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to initiate your own week of Skillshare drawing!

Day One: Remembering How to Hold a Pencil

Materials used: Pencil and sketch paper

Skills learned: How to create different types of markings: shading, scribbles, crosshatches, and lines

I should begin with a confession: I have almost no art skills. In fact, I almost failed the only art class I took in college when I dropped my ceramics piece on the floor and cracked it in half. I have always wanted to be one of those people who picks up a pencil and whips out a portrait or cartoon, but on day one, the fear of failure remained.

As I signed on to Skillshare, I worried that I had set myself up to fail. In fact, I worried that most of the Skillshare drawing classes would be designed for people who already knew how to draw and were looking to improve on their skills. But as I scrolled through the available drawing classes, it was clear that many were designed for complete and total beginners like me. It had been years since I’d even held a pencil, so I decided to start with the basics: a quick class about drawing and mark making. I was surprised at how much information this fast class contained.

Even basic mark-making is important when learning to draw.
Even basic mark-making is important when learning to draw.

The instructor, Emily Armstrong, immediately put me at ease with her low-pressure, encouraging teaching style, and before I knew it, I had filled up three pieces of sketch paper with shading, scribbles, crosshatches, and lines. I was surprised at how fun it was to try my hand at creating different types of markings, and before I knew it, my first hour of drawing practice had flown by.

Day Two: Next Steps

Materials used: Pencil, pen, eraser, and sketchbook

Skills learned: Making mandalas using simple shapes and line art

On the second day, I decided to step it up a bit: it was time to use my new pencil skills to attempt actual designs. I suffered no illusions that I would magically turn into Picasso, so I wanted to find a class that wouldn’t overwhelm me. I chose Creative Drawing With Simple Shapes with Jane Snedden Peever, which seemed like the next logical step to turn the previous day’s pencil marks into something a little more refined.

As the class progressed, I was amazed to see that I was able to follow along quite well with the instructor on my sketchpad. The class, which focused on making mandala-type designs using simple shapes, was somewhat meditative, and by the end, I had a sketchbook page filled with flower-like geometric doodles, just like a true artiste!

Day two was spent turning marks into mandalas.
Day two was spent turning marks into mandalas.

Day Three: Attempting to Draw Objects

Materials used: Pens and pencils with various sized points; sketchbook or paper

Skills learned: Line drawing techniques for leaves, wreaths, flowers, and other botanicals in realistic form

Freshly encouraged by the prior day’s success drawing simple shapes, I decided that day three should involve attempting to represent actual objects. I picked a Botanical Line Drawing class because it seemed like a more advanced version of the simple doodles I had made on day one.

Skillshare instructor   Peggy Dean   shows her class how to draw using real flowers as a model.
Skillshare instructor Peggy Dean shows her class how to draw using real flowers as a model.

After just a few days of practice, drawing was already starting to feel like a hobby I wanted to continue. Taking out my sketchbook when I got home and spending some time putting pencil to paper was not only relaxing—I felt more and more accomplished with each new drawing I finished. I was so proud I almost put my beginner sketches up on the fridge…almost.

Day Four: Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

Materials used: Paper, pencil, and eraser

Skills learned: A start-to-finish process for drawing realistic-looking dogs

On day four I took the fantastic Drawing Dogs class with Joshua Johnson and it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the week. The class was introduced by “Pidgeon” the dog, who told us all the things we would learn in the class, which was adorable

Joshua made the entire class super engaging and funny, and I found myself excited to go through the whole series multiple times because of how excellent his instructions were. Plus, it felt great to make a leap into what felt like a more demanding style of drawing. I was apprehensive at first, for sure;  I didn’t think I would be able to achieve anything even remotely close to a realistic looking dog. But with the help of Joshua’s instruction, I was surprised to see actual little doggies taking shape on my page. In fact, drawing dogs with Joshua was so fun that I spent much longer than an hour creating all kinds of new dogs in my sketchbook.

Josh shows his class how to create realistic looking dog drawings by breaking it down into shapes.
Josh shows his class how to create realistic looking dog drawings by breaking it down into shapes.

Day Five: Putting it All Together

On the last day of my experiment, I decided to challenge myself by taking everything that  I had learned from my Skillshare drawing classes and putting it together as an art project for a friend. After the previous day’s amazing dog drawing class, I decided to attempt a portrait of my friend’s dog. I planned to put in an envelope that I decorated with the botanical line drawings I learned on day three.

It was scary at first to try and create something new without the help of a teacher, but as I attempted my sketch, I used the skills that I learned from each of the classes, from shading to creating realistic shapes, and lines. I admit that I got a little lost—my first sketch looked more like a horse than a dachshund—but after I revisited the Drawing Dogs class I got myself back on track. In the end, I had a passable sketch to give my friends of their dachshund. Success!

In addition to feeling like I actually learned some fundamentals about drawing, my week of sketching also showed me how nice it is to unplug from my phone and email and spend some time putting pencil to paper. Using Skillshare to give me the guidance I needed to dip my toes into the art world, I was able to pick up the new skill without getting discouraged or feeling overwhelmed. I may have been an art failure in college, but as they say, past performance is not indicative of future results—at least when it comes to drawing dachshunds. My experiment with drawing made me more confident in my abilities than ever, and I’ll look forward to continuing my new sketching hobby well into the future!  

Ready to Start Your Drawing Journey?

Drawing as Self-Discovery: 5 Ways to Start