Secrets of Drawing: Three Easy Ways to Improve Your Line Drawings | Catherine Jennifer Charnock | Skillshare

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Secrets of Drawing: Three Easy Ways to Improve Your Line Drawings

teacher avatar Catherine Jennifer Charnock, Artist, Surface Pattern Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (11m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Project

    • 3. Materials

    • 4. Weight and Light

    • 5. The Look Draw Technique

    • 6. Relax Your Hand and Change Your Grip

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

A quick power class teaching three specific ways to improve your line drawings. You'll learn how to:

  • Create sensitive lines by considering ‘weight’ and ‘light’
  • Trust your eyes and use the ‘Look-Draw’ technique
  • Create more playful lines by relaxing your hand and changing your pencil grip.


This is for beginner to intermediate students. You'll be creating three 2-minute drawings to embed your learning of the skills. Once you know the skills, you'll never forget them!

This class is quick and fun, and designed to build your drawing vocabulary. With these skills in your toolkit, you'll find line drawing less scary. With practise you'll be able to produce drawings with a confident, yet sensitive use of line.  

This is like jumping the queue – a fast track to better drawings. Woop woop!

If you enjoy this class, be sure to check out my other class, Drawing Without Fear for a self-care approach to daily creativity, and six fun techniques to try!


Meet Your Teacher

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Catherine Jennifer Charnock

Artist, Surface Pattern Designer


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1. Introduction: A few years ago, a friend told me he wanted to learn how to draw. So he got himself a how-to book and he started making very tentative pencil sketches. It got me thinking that there must be a better, more fun, and more rewarding way to learn how to draw. That's the first problem. The second problem is time. There are so many good classes on Skillshare, I started one the other day, and it was brilliant class but I hadn't even gotten to the meaty stuff before the time I had was up. That got me thinking that what I need, and therefore, possibly what you need is the power class; classes that are short, get straight to the point, and you're done. Welcome to Secrets of Drawing. My name is Catherine Jennifer, I'm an artist and designer living in Oxford in England. I have four boys, the oldest is 10, the youngest are three-year-old twins, who are [inaudible] to training. I'm on a mission to help people learn how to draw and how to access their creativity quickly and easily. Being able to carve out a tiny bit of time each day that's just for you and you produce something satisfying in that time can give you a little buzz that stays with you all day and impacts those around you. For something that is so fundamental to what it is to be human, drawing and creativity is surrounded by an awful lot of fear and mystery, and it doesn't need to be. In this power class, I'm going to share three very specific tips that will improve your drawings. This class focuses on line. This is aimed at beginner to intermediate level students. If you are someone who can't draw or if you feel frustrated by the results you get, then this class will jump you up to the next level. Let's go. 2. Project: There are three video lessons, each lesson teaches one specific tip. The project for the class is to try out a tip right after the video lesson. I want you to pause the class, set a timer for two minutes, and have a go. When two minutes is up, stop drawing, and go on to the next video class. The whole class, including your drawing, will take less than 20 minutes. I chose this for the project, because it means that you can learn and embed your learning by practicing immediately, and gradually build up your vocabulary of drawing skills. You should upload three pictures to the project gallery, each one having taken you less than two minutes. I'd also love to hear any thoughts that you have about the class. The main thing to remember, is that this is about developing your drawing skills, not about creating a masterpiece. Masterpieces can come later. 3. Materials: All you need for this class are a few sheets of book standard printer paper, three pieces of fruit, and a soft pencil. Ideally, about a 4 or 5B, I would avoid using an H pencil because that will be too hard. I'm going to demonstrate with an HB because that overemphasizes the lesson that I'm trying to teach. But you don't need an HB, that medium soft pencil will be fine. I'm going to use a carrot and apple and an aubergine. You can use those same three fruits or whatever you've got. I would just avoid doing something like grapes because that can get a bit complicated. 4. Weight and Light: It's useful to be aware of the formal elements of drawing. For example, line, tone, value, proportion, scale, shading, perspective. There are a lot of different things that can be involved. Then if you want to go a step further, you start to think about technique, and style, and voice, but the good news is, you don't need to worry about all that stuff. By focusing on just a few things, you can actually produce an expressive drawing that really brings you a lot of satisfaction. Let's think about line. Have a quick look at these amazing examples. Egon Schiele is, in my opinion, one of the great masters of line drawing. There's a confidence and a sensitivity to his lines that is really powerful. On the other end of the spectrum is the children's book illustrator, Oliver Jeffers. This is his book, 'The Hueys in the New Jumper'. He tells the whole story using line drawings. With Oliver Jeffers, it's the confidence and the quirkiness that he brings to his lines that make the drawing so endearing. The first tip with line drawing is to think about weight and light, and when you draw, this corresponds to thick and thin. If we look at this apple, you will see that where the apple is touching the table, I'm going to draw very thick and dark lines and follow it around and then where the light is falling on the apple over here, I'm going to make my line very thin and light, and that's all there is to it. For the stalk, I'll just put a little dark thing there and there we go, an Apple. That's it. This works whether you draw from life or from a photograph. Just ask yourself, where is the weight and where is the light? Then adjust the thickness and darkness of your line accordingly. It really is that simple, but it can make for a much more expressive drawing. Now you have a go, pause the video, grab a piece of fruit, and draw the outline and just think to yourself, where's the weight and where's the light. Time yourself and don't spend more than two minutes on it. Then I'll see you in the next lesson. 5. The Look Draw Technique: Tip number 2 is, trust your eye, not your brain. Your brain thinks it knows what something looks like, and that's where drawing often fails. If you want to learn how to draw, you have to switch off that part of the brain that thinks it knows what something looks like and actually look at the object. Here's the crucial part of the tip, only draw the tiny part of the thing that you just saw. I studied fine art at the University of Cape Town and in our third year live drawing class, our drawing teacher would literally walk around the room shouting, "Look, draw, look, draw, " and we were only allowed to draw exactly what section of the body we had looked at. At first, it can make for quite rigid angular drawings, but the skill she was teaching us was to slow down the hand and trust the eye. A really good way to practice this is continuous line drawing, this is where you don't lift your pen from the paper, which allows you to concentrate on making your hand follow your eye. So when I need to look at the aubergine, I pause my hand without lifting my pencil from the paper, when I've worked out how to draw the next bit, then my hand moves again. Look, draw, look, draw. Often I draw late at night on the couch with just a black pen and learning how to slow down your eye and trust your hand to just follow the form of the thing you're looking at is almost like an artistic form of mindfulness or meditation, it can be very relaxing and rewarding. So now you try, pause the class, take a piece of paper, set your timer to two minutes, and draw a second piece of fruit. This time, try to think, look, draw, look draw, and only draw the section of the fruit that you saw. Don't worry if your lines don't join up or if you end up with a mishmash on the page, this is a skill which can take time to master, but I guarantee that if you practice it, your drawings will gradually become better and better. 6. Relax Your Hand and Change Your Grip: Tip number 3 is, relax your hand and think about your pencil grip. When you first start drawing, you'll probably find that your hand tenses up without you even noticing, and a tense hand makes for tight stiff lines. As you draw, try to be aware of how tightly you're holding your pencil, and try to relax your hand right up to your wrist. You'd be surprised by how much of a difference this makes to the line that comes out. As soon as you relax your hand, you automatically start to make more playful movements, and the line naturally starts to dance. You can also try changing your grip. So the natural way to hold a pencil is like this, the 3-pencil grip. But sometimes, it's useful to change it up and hold it like this. This is harder to control, but just doing this for a little while, can help you shift into a more relaxed way of drawing. This grip, also naturally gives you different marks that tend to be looser and more playful. Once you've got the playful dancing feel, you can switch back to the normal grip, and your lines will be much more relaxed. So now you try. Grab your last piece of fruit, draw the outline, and as you draw make a conscious effort to relax your grip and see how it feels. You could also draw the same piece of fruit a second time, trying the alternative grip. Don't spend more than two minutes on it, and please post your pictures, and your thoughts in the class gallery. I can't wait to see them. 7. Final Thoughts: So that's it. I've shared three tips for line drawing. It might be useful to write them on a sticky note and place it somewhere where you see it because it's really easy to forget about them when you start drawing. The first was to think about weight and light, and make your lines thick and dark, or thin and light accordingly. The second tip was to trust your eye, not your brain, and practice the look draw technique. The third tip was to relax your hand, and try a different pencil grip. I hope you found this power class helpful. If you enjoyed it, I'd be really grateful if you could put a review on Skillshare, it helps other people to find the class. If you share your work on Instagram, please use the hashtag, drawing without fear. While we're on the subject, if you want to learn more about developing a daily drawing practice, if you find it hard to start drawing, then check out my other class, which is called drawing without fear. Look out for part two of this series, which will be coming out soon. Thanks for watching.