wish you were drawing more? here are some ideas

Note: This post was originally an Artnote. If you’d like to receive letters like this in your inbox twice a month, you can sign up at the end of the post.


“I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body.”
Barbara Hepworth


Do you draw a lot?

Seems like kind of an odd question to ask an artist – surely we draw all the time?! Isn’t that what artists do?

Only, apparently not.

In recent months, my lack of a drawing practice has been nagging at me with increasing intensity.

It’s commonly said that drawing underpins painting – that you need drawing skills {and therefore a drawing practice of some kind} to make more sophisticated, nuanced, ‘mature’ art, even if it’s abstract.

I’ve been noticing more and more the truth in this.

I’ve always ‘been able’ to draw – not brilliantly but well enough to create a reasonable likeness of something.

During a month long stay in Florence in my gap year I even studied sight size drawing – which if you’re not familiar is about drawing accurately and to scale. {And is not for the short of patience!}

It just didn’t really interest me, to try to recreate something exactly.

For me the whole point of art is to express what’s within.

And what’s within is not a carbon copy of what our eyes see.

But recently I’ve been starting to more fully understand that drawing doesn’t have to be about ‘being good at drawing’ or ‘getting a likeness’ in order to support and develop your painting.

You don’t even have to draw in your sketchbook what you’d paint on the canvas.

Actually, it’s partly the repeated practice of observing and connecting those observations to your hand that’s important, and partly the simple fact of doing it repeatedly.

Like anything done over and over, you get more proficient the more you do.

So I started a new sketchbook.

It’s just a small spiral bound book {similar here}, and I have one tool – a Uni Pin fine liner pen {0.3 if you’re wondering, because that’s what I had!} – and I decided that I’d simply start doing more drawing.

The first one is the one you see in the photo above – very simple, and I made conscious choices about what to leave out of the scene I was drawing.

There were three reasons for this.

  1. because drawing foliage bores me to tears
  2. because I knew my interest level would drop before I’d done the entire view
  3. and because I am more interested in what I can leave out than what I can cram in.

We work with our strengths guys. 😊

I shared it on Instagram, and it turns out I’m very much not alone in continually wanting to draw more and somehow consistently avoiding it!

I think it’s something to do with the repetitive aspect – something creative minds typically resist – and perhaps something to do with not feeling inspired to draw what’s in front of us, or not feeling we’re ‘good enough’ at drawing, even though no one has to see.

The key, I’m finding so far, is to trick yourself by whatever means necessary – our brains are wily rogues and will talk us out of pretty much anything.

So we have to use stealth and cunning.

Here are a few pointers I’ve discovered in my fledgling drawing practice that might help you if you’ve been thinking along similar lines recently:

• Don’t tell yourself – or anyone else! – that you’ll draw every day.

After my first day I left it another two before my next drawing, and I decided that would be ok. So it was. 🙂

• Create specific limits and leave everything else open.

My limits are one sketchbook and one pen.

No colour or mixed media at this point. Beyond that I can draw whatever I like, and adapt what’s in front of me as much as I like.

• Allow your drawing to be nothing to do with – and nothing like – your painting.

As soon as I realised I could do that, the desire to draw grew exponentially.

Yes my drawing is ultimately about making better paintings {for me}, but I can draw in a style and medium that is not connected with them, and may never be used directly in them.

{As revealed in the photo – my sketch is much more ‘realistic’ than my paintings.}

My drawing is simply another way to do something creative in a way I enjoy, with no strings attached. So freeing!

• Do whatever it takes to remove barriers to entry.

I keep my sketchbook by the door, so I can take it wherever I go.

I still keep forgetting, but will get into the habit if I keep at it.

Also keeping my materials to one small sketchbook and one pen keeps decision making {and thus dithering and procrastinating} to a minimum.


I hope this helps if you’ve been thinking about drawing more. A little bit of structure and a lot of freedom and permission makes it all a lot easier to keep going.

{Once again art teaches us about life.}

Happy creative week to you!