Start Drawing: 3 Fun, Freeing Exercises to Spark Your Creativity | Carly Kuhn | Skillshare

Start Drawing: 3 Fun, Freeing Exercises to Spark Your Creativity

Carly Kuhn, Artist & Designer, The Cartorialist

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9 Lessons (43m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:34
    • 2. Getting Started

      4:56
    • 3. Mindset and Materials

      4:42
    • 4. Exercise One: Switching Hands

      6:26
    • 5. Exercise Two: Continuous Line

      6:11
    • 6. Exercise Three: Blind Contour

      8:24
    • 7. The Art of the Aesthetic

      7:34
    • 8. Final Thoughts

      1:54
    • 9. Sneak Peek: Carly's Next Class

      0:58
874 students are watching this class

About This Class

Often the hardest part of being creative is getting started. Overcome that hurdle and let loose in this fun, accessible class from artist Carly Kuhn!

Before gaining Instagram acclaim for her elegant and whimsical line drawings, Carly was an office worker doodling at her desk. While she didn’t think of herself as an artist, she felt compelled to create, often returning to simple line drawing exercises that gave her the freedom to play and experiment without judgement. Today, Carly uses these same exercises whenever she needs an infusion of inspiration or an excuse to start drawing—and you can do the same!

Take 45 minutes to turn off your inner critic and unleash your most creative self, as Carly guides you through easy exercises to create a one-of-a-kind art piece for your home. 

Using just a pen and paper, you’ll explore:

  • Drawing with your non-dominant hand and without looking at your paper
  • Trusting yourself, embracing flaws, and letting go of judgement
  • Mixing and matching exercises to develop your own style

To finish, Carly shares simple steps to incorporate your illustrations into your space, revealing the styling tips and tricks she uses to make her own home more conducive to creativity. 

Whether you’re looking to bust block, explore a new style, or just have some fun, by the end you’ll have a renewed appreciation for your own creative imagination, plus a meaningful daily reminder displayed in your home. Join in and get drawing! 

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Looking for more? Build on these exercises in Carly's next class, where you'll combine illustration, text, and found material to create a one-of-a-kind greeting card for a loved one!

Transcripts

1. Introduction: I think the word creative or artist is such a loaded word. Anything that you create can become art. Hi, my name is Carly Kuhn, also known as The Cartorialist and I'm an artist, designer living in Los Angeles, California. In today's class we are going to be doing three of my favorite line drawing exercises. These exercises helped me and continue to help me because we're not trying to create some perfect portrait, we're creating without judgment. We are going to put pen to paper with some obstacles that give you free range to mess up and intentionally not have something look like a face. Then we will finish by styling one of your drawings in your home so that every day you could be reminded of the artist within you. I did not think that I would grow up to become an artist. If you are someone who wants to be an artist, if maybe you doubled in art back in the day and you're looking to spark that creativity again, or if you're just someone who works a regular 9-5 job and you need a little bit of you time. I want to communicate that anyone can be creative and these exercises are a great place to start. So let's get started. 2. Getting Started: Welcome to the class. I'm very happy that you're here, and I'm excited that I get to teach this class because I wish I had this when I was starting out. I think it's very intimidating sometimes when you have this idea of wanting to be an artist and you maybe look to other examples or you came from school and there were things that you were taught that you should do something one way. If you didn't do it that one way, you felt like, "You know what? This isn't for me," and that's how things started out for me. I have a very early memory of being in my first drawing and painting class and not being able to look at a bowl of fruit and draw the bowl of fruit the way the fruit looked. I think when you're younger and you're in some type of school, you feel like you need to do certain things a certain way. But as you dig a little deeper and start to understand that there really isn't one right way to create or to become an artist. I went to school for something completely different. I grew up in New York City. I went to school in Syracuse and I was a television film major, and I graduated and I moved to Los Angeles and I actually worked in television comedy. I was always searching for something else, but I didn't necessarily know what that looked like. I think the way that I found what I'm doing now was just by experimenting and trying new things. At one point, I tried Groundlings, which is an improv school in Los Angeles. Through improv, I actually built some confidence in going for it without rules. I mean, in improv, you are up on a stage, given a scenario, and told to just go. I feel like that really translated later into my style of art. When Instagram came along, a friend recommended, "Start an Instagram and put your art on there." When I started, it started out just like these little characters that I drew and I put it out there. But at the time, when I was drawing, Instagram was mainly just fashion photography, fashion bloggers, editorial. so the subject matter of what I was drawing was what I was seeing on Instagram. I, by accident, fell into this fashion illustration world, and I'd shifted from maybe me just drawing little characters to drawing things that caught my eye and inspired me from Instagram. I did that for a little bit and slowly this person would repost me and that person would repost me, and the powers of Instagram turned it into something greater. I was drawing the fashion world and it became what I was known for. But at the same time, it felt a little paralyzing because I was doing it so much and felt like I had to keep going, and at a certain point, I just felt like my creativity was stifled and it was feeling very forced. I, by accident, found this style. I was like, "What if I just draw without picking up my pen, just like mindless doodling?" This new style came about, which is what we are going to be exploring today, this continuous line contour drawing. It was a really good way to get to be creative without a pressure of it having to end up a certain way. What's interesting and what I hope will happen for you in this class is this simple exercise. You'll do it again and again. You'll discover new things about what you like, what you don't like, and there will be exercises, but it could also birth a new style of art that you discover. I was doing these continuous line drawings and it ended up becoming today what a lot of people know me for, which are these faces, these continuous line drawings, these abstract things which some people today, that's the only thing they know about me. They don't even know why I did the fashion illustration. But what you want to take away from that is taking all of any expectation or goal of what something might be in a finished product, throwing that out the window and just you, pen to paper, having fun, not overthinking it, can lend itself to something that might actually become your style later on. 3. Mindset and Materials: For today's class, all you need is any pen. I like this uni-ball Vision Elite. I discovered it from when I was working at an office. Office pen, but also like sometimes to use a Sharpie. Then, you need some paper, any kind of paper that you have around the house. When you do these exercises, as you'll do them over and over again, you'll probably get a sense of a kind of pen you like. The pen will go differently on the piece of paper, but then depending on what paper you use, it will bleed differently on the page or it will feel a little sleeker and crisper. Right here, for example, this is more of a matte, thicker paper, and when I use a Sharpie on it, versus this pen, and then versus on here, it just has a different feel. It's hard maybe to see, but the more you do the exercises and the more you start to draw and experiment, you'll find your own style, you'll find the pen that feels most comfortable to you, you'll find the paper that you like the most. Those are the materials that you need for the actual drawing. Then, we'll need a subject matter to draw. I have here, a lovely, I think, signed photo of Ann-Margret from Bye Bye Birdie. The subject matter is whatever you feel comfortable using or drawing. If it's a vase of flowers that you want to look at instead, that's fine. I just like to start with faces because I think a face can feel intimidating because you have this idea of drawing a face, it has to look a certain way, there's maybe a connection to what you're drawing. But the whole purpose, again, of these exercises is to get out of your head. We'll break it down to make it feel a little less intimidating than just drawing a face. But you can also, you can use my face, you can have a mirror and look at your face. Once you do them all the way through, I want you to use the same subject matter, but on your own time. If you want to go back and do them again, you can do something completely different, and as you'll see, you'll get a completely different result, and it's the beauty of these exercises. Once you have all the materials that you need for these exercises, another thing to keep in mind is the environment. Whether you're taking these classes to become an artist, or you're taking these classes because you need a little you-time away from your kids, or you just want to meditate in the form of art, the setting is really important. Not to contradict myself, but it's also whatever you can do. So if you are looking to have it be your setup to create and you want to create from a good headspace, I always like to have a generally clean, tidy area, so you're just focusing on that. Music is really important to me, not complete background music, but something that feels a little neutral throughout, nothing just going from really loud to really soft, but a nice, consistent feeling. I love listening to the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack or Vicky Cristina Barcelona. These are movies that take place in Italy or Spain. I like to feel like I'm maybe in a Tuscan villa when I'm drawing. Creating that atmosphere really will lend itself to the kind of energy that you'll have throughout this class. But if you don't have the ability to set up on a desk and put on music, and you're just you and a couch, and maybe you have your family around you or you have roommates or whatever it is, put your headphones on, put on a playlist, and that's fine too. This whole thing, these exercises, this class, is just about being an artist or being creative or just doing these things without any pressure that you have to do it one way. It's whatever works for you, whatever you're able to do, and something great will come out of it no matter what. Pick your materials, your tools, your subject matter, get your setting all set up and ready, and I will see you in the next lesson. 4. Exercise One: Switching Hands: For all of these exercises we are going to do what you can call it a continuous line so you're not picking your pen up for all of them. Now for this first one we're going to use our non-dominant hand. I'm a righty I'm going to use my left hand to draw Ann-Margret face without picking up the pen. You can call it a continuous line. When you're doing these exercises I want you to look at your subject and really focus on the shapes of the face that you're drawing rather than looking at it big picture you have to draw this specific face. It's easier to take it little moments and shapes within the face and letting your eye and hand connect together and taking your time to trace the face with those three things. It's your eyes, your hand, and the pen are tracing the face and then that's being translated onto the page. By breaking down your subject by shapes and having your eyes tracing what you're drawing little by little rather than trying to draw what you think you're seeing will make it a little easier to approach. Really take your time with it and as you'll probably see in my exercises I don't necessarily go in one specific direction by could start drawing up here and then go in here, and that's the beauty of these exercises is the lines can repeat they can crossover it's you're creating abstract art and you'll maybe find a style within these exercises that you love. You might do the exercise again and again decide you like to start up here and be an outliner you start within the face. There's no right or wrong place to start when you're doing these things. For these exercises I'm obviously not going to take the longest amount of time to do them because we don't have all day, but you can always pause this and go back and do things take your time as much time as you want. We're going to get going. There's no right way to draw this face. As you can see I went from the top of her head into her hair, because contour drawing is like you're drawing almost with wire, you're not drawing shadow, you're not filling in any space, and I'm looking at it like it's a shape. Your left hand, your non-dominant hand it's difficult and it's frustrating maybe if it's your first time doing it but as you can see it's not some beautiful drawing of this woman's face that I'm doing but I'm just tracing her face with my eye and having that translate into a drawing. When you have the music and the setting you can have a glass of wine if you want near by if that's your thing, and I'm not picking up my pen and I just think it's a more fun way of doing this exercise because it just even further it gets you out of your head rather than thinking you have to start in one place. If I did this again and again I guarantee you I wouldn't be going the same direction that I'm going now it just varies depending on the day. Hopefully seeing me do this you'll realize I'm putting myself out there creating this piece that clearly doesn't look like this photo, but it's just so you can get a sense of how these exercises are just a way to get you out your head and show you can create abstract art if you will with just a pen and paper and that's it. You can sign your name it's always good to sign your work. Signing your name with your non-dominant hand is a challenge. That is first exercise. What's interesting is I even just discovered this while I was doing this exercise with you I was going to use this Visionally regular office pen that I use the most but I thought trying out a Sharpie because it's a little boulder, but I use this paper and what I discovered while I was doing it is the Sharpie whatever the material the felt on this type of paper it got stuck a little bit. You can see even in here the ink didn't stick to the paper as well as if I were to have done it with this it moves a lot smoother. If you were doing this first exercise and you found your own self this pen is bleeding all over the place or it doesn't feel smooth you can switch pens and that's fine. Now that you saw me do this first exercise it's your turn to do the non-dominant hand drawing, and you can replay it and watch it back again and draw while I'm drawing or you can just go for it and I'll see you in the next lesson. 5. Exercise Two: Continuous Line: The next lesson we are going to do is a continuous contoured drying. I like starting with the non-dominant hand because it's harder and it forces you even more so to not judge yourself. But then it brings you to the second lesson that, all right, now you've done an exercise. It was a little tricky, but it got you out of out of your head, and so when you do this second continuous line contour drawing, you're feeling a little bit more comfortable, maybe a little more confident, and you're getting to use your dominant hand so it will feel a little easier. Also want to note, as I said in the last lesson, that the paper that I was using didn't really feel good to the Sharpie pen that I was using. So I switched paper. If you find that while you're doing your exercises, that happens as well, feel free to switch it up. So the paper that I switch to is a little thinner. It doesn't have a smooth as finished as the other paper. It allows your pen to flow more easily and not feel so stuck, and same thing. Take your time with it like your eyes. Trace the image that you're looking at and really have the hand-eye coordination connecting while you're drawing the next figure. Now, we'll get to it. Can probably tell I don't always start in the same position, but I probably I'm starting here again. Now I'm seeing here like how it goes in. I'm drawn to the hair right away because there's just a little bit of a flow that's happening there, and now going back. Again, I'm not thinking about if this looking pretty or does this look like her? I'm just letting my hand guide me as I'm looking at the page, and really just focusing on the shapes that I'm seeing. Maybe when you're watching this, you're noticing something that I'm doing, and you'll watch it again or you'll do the exercise again and you'll pick something else up. It's fun because you don't really know what it's going to end up looking like. I think because I've done these exercises a lot, like I take liberties to just go and know that this isn't what looks exactly like the image that I'm looking at, but maybe something that feels a little more fun and interesting. When you're filling in space with contour drawings, you're not shading like moving your hand really fast, but it's still a continuous line. You're elongating the lines. Sometimes too, if you see there is a shadow like muscle cheekbones can play around and exaggerate features rather than having to be a realistic portrayal. See, I didn't even remember that I hadn't gotten to her other eye. See there's a little bit of a shadow here, so I'm going to play into that. I'm like, exaggerate it. Maybe for this one even there's a shadow here. Maybe I'll play into that. Maybe that made it look weird. But who cares? Because this is just about having fun with it, and maybe I'll add her hands this time a little bit just to do something different, and now I'm going to do my signature. Brought it up that time. The intention of these exercises isn't a, do a realistic portrayal of your subject, but just to start to get comfortable with the pen on paper. As we know, the most daunting thing as a blank page, and this allows you to just start without any pressure of creating some big masterpiece. Now it's your turn Switch your dominant hand. Get your pen and paper ready, switch it up if you need to, and I will see you in the next lesson. 6. Exercise Three: Blind Contour: Our next exercise is a blind contour drawing. For this, we will be looking at the subject and doing the same continuous line, but we won't be looking at the paper. Hopefully at this point you're getting into the groove. You understand that it's not supposed to be perfect, just going with the flow. This one as well. I know it seems daunting and you're gonna be tempted to peek at your paper. You can even go like this and do it. You can put it under your desk. It's probably easier to do this and just trust, let's trust each other and know that we're not going to be looking at the piece of paper. Don't worry about feeling like, oh my god, am I at the bottom of the page, at the top of the page, just go and just try it and you'll see me do it. Again, it'll probably be weird. Embrace the weird. It's always more interesting that way. You can even go like this if you want or like whatever you need to do. So it is scary when you're starting, you're like, oh my God, where am I going to start but whatever we're going through it together. I may be going faster, I think, just don't want to take up your entire day, but you could go as slow as you'd like. It probably would get things more accurate. You can go as fast or as slow as you want and you'll get a different result every time. It's almost like a different exercise, when you change up the time. You don't have to feel like you need to be as detailed for this one if you want to on the first try. I probably won't be as detailed as I was on the last one just because this is new. I don't remember if I've done both eyes yet and you may end up with one eye and that's fine. It's very Picasso, just embrace it. Now the reveal, whoa, yeah, that's bizarre, but I think it's more interesting maybe than the other ones. I did an eye over here, the nose I guess ended up over here. The hands mixed in with the signature in the middle. I don't know. That's something, it's of cool and that might be something that I end up liking and then trying to replicate in a cool way on a piece that I actually plan and sit down and work on. So now that you've created your gorgeous blind contour, continuous line drawing, I thought a fun little addition we can do to the blind contour is allowing you to pick up your pen, just because I want to show you that there are iterations of these exercises that you can do. We started out the non-dominant hand was one obstacle, but you had your sight, you had the ability to look back and forth, but it still was the beginning. Then went to, all right, we can look, continue the line. We'll use our dominant hand. Then I took away the sight of looking at your subject and the paper at the same time. Now we'll just put all of those back, but we'll just add in a different kind of obstacle just to show you how many iterations you can create, so take that piece of paper off. Also, I want to do this just because I think it's important to note that you don't have to always start from a blank piece of paper, if you are limited. I have more, but don't be afraid to use scrap paper or use whatever you have. Maybe it's a little less daunting than just like a blank piece of paper. Now we're going to do the same thing where we're not going to be looking at the page, but you can pick your pen up. I weirdly find the continuous line a little easier, but we'll see where this goes. Maybe I'm going to start somewhere different. When you pick up your pen, sometimes it's even harder to remember where on the page you are, which will breed another set of happy accidents. I still probably tend to not pick up my pen in certain areas. I think when you're starting these exercises, I really wanted to emphasize that, take your time looking at the shape of the face and going there, but I think as you get more comfortable in doing these exercises, its like let that go a little bit. You don't have to be so accurate. We get what we're doing and more just do it to have fun with it and trust that your hand will create something fun. I'm just going forward. I'm almost like maybe I'm exaggerating what I think is there and that's okay. You can start with a little bit of rules and then throw some of them the window as you get more into these exercises. I'm going to do like exaggerated eyelashes here because, why not? I'm not trying to replicate these exact fingers, but I see that there are three and because we're at the end of these exercises, I'm going to have a little bit more fun with it and just exaggerate and then let's see, I'm going to sign it. Should we look up and be completed? I like her. So that's fun, interesting. Again, I don't think I had done these exercises in a while and there's something really cool that I feel like I just discovered even from doing this exercise with you that, I don't know, it gave a little cheeky character from doing this. Now it's your turn and as you can see, like just have fun with it, exaggerate. I'm giving you permission to wipe away some of the rules that I said at the beginning and just exaggerate, play, and see what you come up with. I will see you for the next phase. 7. The Art of the Aesthetic: We've created our masterpieces. I think it's fun to lay them all out and see what you created. It's cool to see how four different exercises can produce something different from the same image. I guarantee you if you were to do all these exercises again, it won't necessarily look the same. I think the reason I like these exercises, like the weirder and more bizarre something looks, is usually what I gravitate towards. I'm going to put these two away. I would say I'm deciding between these two guys. I'm going to pick this lady. For a little bonus add, you just created your piece of art, space and home is like an additional form of expression and creativity in art. What's really cool and special is when you create something yourself, how can you then display it in your own home to make it part of the design of your space? I figured you've been staring at this thing behind me. I could show you a little bit how to style little moment within your home that you can incorporate your art, bringing another layer to the whole creative process. I like to call it the art of the aesthetic because I think your home is another version of expressing yourself creatively. I think with interior design or whatever you want to call it, home decoration, the same notion of like there's no right or wrong way to go about doing it, create and design what you think looks good. I know for me I definitely have spent hours on Pinterest and Instagram, and I loved that because I think it started to inform my style and what am I gravitating towards? Why do I like this? Then you can translate that into your own home. I think starting in a small place, like a little vignette behind me, a little corner could end up inspiring the whole space. I thought we could start by doing the little cabinet behind me. I'll clear it off, and then we'll do a little styling moment. As you can see, we have cleared the area that you are looking at for the class to give you a blank slate, not dissimilar to a blank piece of paper. The first thing I did that you can do is you picked your favorite piece that you created, and first step is you can put your art into a frame or you can do what I did, a quick little fix. This is obviously going to be our focal point because we want to display what we just created. Again, I like to keep things easy and not try to stress you out with having to necessarily hammering your walls or whatever. What we're going to just do is lay the piece up against your dresser. I'm going to put it for now right here off to the side. I am not necessarily about symmetry and having things be too perfect if you can tell. Then we're really just going to use what's around your house, now you may have obviously completely different items. I like to also start with books are a great way to fill the space. So I'm going to pull up some books here. Sometimes it's fine to put the books together that have similar color but again, it's just whatever you think looks good. I'm doing this in the same way that I do a lot of my stuff, I'm improvising. I'm doing this with you, in the moment I didn't plan this out. I'm going to actually layer these on here. Just to start to put what we have, I have another piece of art. I'm just going to start putting these pieces up against the wall. Another great way to make a space more interesting is layering pieces and also not having them be on one equal plane. I think it becomes more interesting if you have play with depth and perspective. I put this piece here, and then layer it. Candles are also a nice little accessory. Put that maybe up there. Playing around with color. I have this really pretty, like burnt orange maybe. I don't really know. All I'm doing is just throwing some things together. You have the candle here, maybe I'll place the smaller objects a little bit in front. I don't necessarily always have flowers around, but I like getting things that dry well, this is I think dry lavender and it stays for months and months and months. Looks pretty. So putting that there. Let me see, do I want to put this piece here? I think Coco Chanel said, "When you leave the house, take off one item and you're good to go." My mom says, "More is more." I don't know, it's whatever floats your boat. Everyone has their own taste and aesthetic. Even here, I put this up here and I'm thinking, especially because we're focused on the piece we just created. I'm going to take this piece away. What you can do is step back, look at it and see what's going on, and then adjust accordingly, like maybe switch something up, see what you like better. Step back. I do this with my art as well, when I'm painting a mural, I'll do a little bit step back to see it from the perspective of the audience or whatever, and playing around and seeing what you like. I think I like this. I don't know, there's two hands here. Maybe I'll take this hand away, make it more simple. I like this. We didn't hang anything on the wall. This was a good first step. I did this and I'm like, "Okay, there's some golds here, some red. Maybe that will carry throughout the rest of your home." I have a vintage piece of art here mixed in with the art we just created. I think that's also really cool. You may look at this piece of paper that you created by itself and judge it, or maybe you don't love it. Then you build a whole design story around it and it gives it new life. You put some piece of art on a blank wall by itself. It has a different impact that if you put it next to this beautiful sofas. So just playing around and that's the creation. Now, you've got to create your own little vignette in your home and when you're done, take a photo of it and share it in the project gallery. Excited to see what you create. 8. Final Thoughts: Well, congratulations, you made it through the whole class. Now, it's your turn to play around with these exercises. Try timing yourself. Maybe you do each exercise, give yourself 30 seconds to do it, then you do it for 45 seconds, and then you build up to a minute. You can also try doing different pens, different pieces of paper. You can layer on top of paper, try to incorporate color at the end. I mean, something as simple as what I usually do a lot of my pieces of art, I'll just add like a pop of color for like lips. Something so simple as adding lip color can make the piece feel a little different. This isn't even just the exercises, but just something you can do afterwards. You see I had a marker here. I have a little pastel here. Adding that in, changes the color again. You can do a little more abstract and change it up. Anything you really want to do to just have fun with it. Maybe you're someone that also didn't even think of yourself as an artist or a creative, and after doing this, something inside you sparked this whole new creative part of you that just wants to explore that. I can't wait to see all the different creations that you come up with. Style them individually. Just have fun with it. It's an accomplishment that you've got through all this. I know it can seem really intimidating to do exercises, especially that seem like it's a class which makes it feel like there's all you've got to get through this, do it this way. Hopefully, what I've taught you is that there's no wrong way to go about being creative. Just enjoy, have fun. Congrats. I just can't wait to see what you've created. 9. Sneak Peek: Carly's Next Class: If you want to keep going and continue the creative journey, if you will, I have another class. We'll say it's expanding your creativity. The first class was about unleashing the creative inside of you, finding that confidence to create and now we're going to take it a step further and learn different ways to use different materials, found objects, repurpose things, recycle things, and maybe create something for someone else in your life, someone special, and hopefully, you'll want to keep going because I'm excited to see what more you create. Check it out.