Draw Better: Five Easy Techniques to Improve Your Drawing Confidence and Style. | Emma Woodthorpe | Skillshare

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Draw Better: Five Easy Techniques to Improve Your Drawing Confidence and Style.

teacher avatar Emma Woodthorpe, Illustrator. Author. Artist.

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

8 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Method 1

    • 4. Method 2

    • 5. Method 3

    • 6. Method 4

    • 7. Method 5

    • 8. Conclusion

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About This Class

Hello and welcome to this class where we will be exploring five techniques that will help you to loosen up your approach to a new drawing subject, and will give you new ways to approach a new subject matter.

This class is great for both:

  • accomplished artists who are stuck in a drawing rut, and who are looking for new ways to approach their drawing subject, and
  • beginners who are new to drawing.

We are not going to be creating finished pieces - instead we will be getting over that 'fear of failure' by creating a series of warm up drawings and techniques that will help you approach your finished drawing in a brand new way.

The materials we will need are simple:

  • Something to draw ON
  • Something to draw WITH
  • SOMETHING to draw!

As we are getting over the fear of failure, you may as well grab a pen instead of a pencil - we won't be rubbing these out! These techniques are designed to take you out of your comfort zone - not to create final pieces. In many cases, what we draw won't look a lot like our subject: that's OK! No one else will see these drawings unless you want them to.

See the second class in the series:



Meet Your Teacher

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Emma Woodthorpe

Illustrator. Author. Artist.


Hi I'm Emma Woodthorpe, also known on the internet by my business name Embers & Ink! I'm a freelance artist and illustrator based in Sheffield (UK). Using my background in Art and Literature I'm  currently writing and illustrating children's books!

I work in multiple media and have created a range of art using many mediums ranging from charcoal and pastel through to acrylics and oils to pencils and watercolours - and many more!

Find out about the Children's books I've created on my Author Website and follow my Author Instagram page @emmawoodthorpe for regular updates. You can find me on YouTube where I post weekly videos exploring my art and life as a full time creative. You can also join my exclusive gang over on Patreon where I offer a range of exclusive con... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello I'm Emma and welcome to this class. Draw Better. Five easy techniques to improve your drawing confidence and style. As an artist, I often get asked for advice from people who are trying to improve their drawing ability. My general response is for them to practice, practice and to keep on practicing. But thinking about it more deeply, I realized that there are techniques that I have used in the past that have improved my own drawing ability and that's what I'm going to share with you today. This class is suitable for any artist who feels they are stuck in a drawing rut, as well as being a great starting place for beginners who are approaching drawing for the first time. I will show you a range of techniques which if you practice, will help to loosen up when you're approaching your subject matter. See these techniques as a set of tools for your toolbox, which will not only help you to approach your subject matter in a new way, but will over time help to improve your confidence, ability and your own style. These techniques will help to form part of the foundation that you will build your own style on. From there, the sky's the limit. Let's get going and jump into our materials list. 2. Materials: The materials for these techniques can be as basic as you want. Remember, we're not creating finished pieces, so there's no need to be precious. Something to draw with and something to draw on are all we really need, alongside something that we want to draw. You can use scraps of paper if you want to, but I like to keep all of my work in a sketchbook. It just means that if I go outside to draw, all of my bits of paper aren't going to fly away, but it's completely up to you. My sketchbooks of choice at the moment are hardback sketchbooks, usually the watercolor type, as the paper is strong enough that if you want to experiment with color later on, you can add paint to them without destroying the paper. Parts of the point of the techniques that I'm going to teach you is to stop you being precious about making mistakes and of you to loosen up. You may as well go straight ahead and grab a pen, because we're not going to be rubbing these out. These are warm-up drawings only, and nobody else is going to see them unless you want them to. Don't worry about making mistakes, it's all part of the process. The American cartoonist Scott Adams said of mistakes, "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." Mistakes, as an artist, are essential to developing something good. Very rarely does anyone pick up a pen and do something amazing the first go. 3. Method 1: The first technique that I'm going to show you is really fun and helps you to really look at your subject, and pick out the essential details. This technique is called continuous line drawing. The idea is that you don't take your pen off the paper. This technique is really good for developing your own eye for what makes your subject, your subject. For example, if I sit down to draw my cat, there is the potential for me to get overwhelmed by all of the details that I could draw instead of drawing what is necessary to make him look like him. I could get overwhelmed by his millions of hairs, by the light reflecting off them, the texture of his nose, his fabulous whiskers, I could get so overwhelmed that I don't start the drawing in the first place. When you practice continuous line drawing, you can't get overwhelmed by all of that detail because you're restricted by your pen not leaving the paper, so you just draw what you can. Firstly, take a few minutes to sit and just look at your subjects. Then when you're ready, pick a place that you want to start and just go for it. Your drawing will be wobbly and a bit messy and that's okay. Don't get disheartened. Try to keep going to the end, even if it's not going as you expected it to. But don't stretch yourself out about it, start again next to it if it's really getting to you. But remember, a calm sea, doesn't make a good sailor. No one gets to where they want to be without going out of their comfort zone. If you need to get to another piece of the drawing for shading or for adding detail, you can trace along the lines that you've already drawn. When you finish the picture, sometimes you'll find that your lines won't meet up, but that's okay, you will have learned something about how to divide your attention between your paper and your subject. I use continuous line drawings a lot, before I start to finish piece, just to get my hand-eye coordination warmed up. 4. Method 2: The next technique I'm going to show you is called "Eyes closed drawing". I like this technique because I still feel uncomfortable doing it. I still feel like I'm learning something about myself when I'm doing it. The great thing about this technique is that it stops you worrying about how the drawing is going and just gets you drawing. It also draws your attention to something that a lot of artists have a problem with, which you may not realize you have a problem with. That is that we draw what we think we see instead of drawing what we actually see. When you have a look at your eyes closed drawing afterwards, you'll realize the massive difference between what you think is there, and what is actually there. But mostly, it just takes you out of your comfort zone, and takes the pressure off what your drawing is looking like and just gets you drawing. To do this, dedicate a few minutes to just looking at your subject. Just breathe, stay calm, and look. Try to take in as much as you can. Then, when you're ready, either cover your eyes or close your eyes and just go. Start with something that has a basic shape to get used to the process. When you think you've finished, have a look. As I promised, these aren't going to be finished pieces. Don't get disheartened. You might not be able to see the connection immediately, but by practicing this technique you are learning to loosen up and experiment. This is the key to improving your technique, style, and ability. 5. Method 3: This next technique has so much more direct and obvious implications for improving your drawing, instead of just being a technique for loosening you up. It is shape blocking, and it's really useful for you to get used to gauging the right size and dimensions of the object that you're trying to draw. Once you've chosen something that you want to draw, spend a few moments looking at it, and think about the type of basic shapes that you could use to recreate its form. Again, we're not going to focus too much on the details, but more explore the form of our subject. For example, if I draw this plant, I could do a circle or an oval for the top of the pot. I could do a squashed square for the bottom part of the pot, and for the leaves, I could do some basic triangles. No one is judging you, nor are they marking your work. This is just an exercise for you to improve your drawing, so don't worry if you're drawing isn't looking like a subject. You can use this technique in direct relation to a finished piece. Once you've completed a shape blocking exercise, and you have one of your attempts that you are happy with. You can draw over your warm up drawing onto a fresh piece of paper. This under drawing will provide a framework for the dimensions of the finished drawing. Here's a tip, if you're going to try this, but don't want your finished drawing to be on tracing paper. You can either use a light box or if you don't have one, you can take both of your piece of paper to a window and draw it on there. 6. Method 4: This next technique, I call Focus Looking. It's aim is to train your ability to gather useful information from the time that you spend looking at your subject. You may find that the addition of a timer, such as on your phone is useful for this, but it's not necessary. Firstly, you need to spend about two minutes looking at your subject. Then when the two minutes is over, you need to turn away and spend only 20 seconds drawing as much as you can remember about your drawing. Don't worry about finishing it. Then go back to looking for two minutes. When the timer runs out, start your 20 second drawing on a new piece of paper. We aren't completing our previous drawing, we are starting a new one each time. Do this about five or six times, starting on fresh piece of paper each time. When you're finished, you'll end up with a ragged collection of half finished drawings. But what you will have gained by the end of this exercise is a trained eye and an awareness of how to translate what you see into useful memory. The more you practice this, the better you will get. This skill will be useful particularly when you are drawing or painting outside and often the aspect of things that you want to draw may change, such as clouds lighting, or any moving object. With your trained ability to translate what you see into useful memory, you'll be able to better capture these transient things and add them later using your artistic lessons. 7. Method 5: The final exercise is called opposite hand drawing or non-dominant hand drawing. It uses the other side of your brain. Like the other exercises, it's also good for loosening you up and getting you used to the idea of mark making without worrying about the finished result. Quite obviously for this technique, you're going to be using your non-dominant hand to create your drawings. While I am right-handed, I'm going to be using my left hand to create my drawings. Take as long as you like over your drawings for this exercise. Make sure that you enjoy it. When drawing with your non-dominant hand, there's something familiar, but also quite alien. You will need to slow down and take your time, and actions that you would normally take for granted with your dominant hand, will require much more concentration. It almost allows you to step out of yourself and reassess what you know and perhaps learn something new. Not only that, when you come to draw again with your regular hand, it will all feel so much easier. 8. Conclusion: In conclusion, the techniques that I've shown you in this class will help you on the road to becoming the artist that you want to be. Whether you are approaching drawing for the first time or are an established artist who is stuck in a bit of a roast, these techniques will hopefully help you to overcome your fear of making mistakes and get you having a go. With this new-found freedom from your fear, you can finally have a go at that drawing, those sketches, that painting, that sculpture that you've always wanted to try but were too scared to. Go on, have a go. What's the worst that can happen?