Mixed media art journaling, tutorials, altered books, creative prompts, creativity and the index-card-a-day ICAD challenge.

15 Tips to Improve Your Drawing Skills

People are born with innate drawing talent or they are not.
{Fact? Fiction? Urban Legend? Fairy Tale?}

Drawing is making marks on paper. To draw well, you've got to practice. That's the secret. The only secret.

When I started drawing 8 years ago, it didn't occur to me that I would {or could} get better. I didn't view learning-to-draw in terms of a learning curve {no pun intended}. My work for many years had involved data, accounting, process design... not drawing! But I was looking for something to do while the kids were taking swimming lessons. Drawing kept me busy, feeling productive! I drew in the car, in the carpool line. I got hooked on developing patterns & doodles. 

15 things to draw to improve your line work.

If drawing skills are important to you, then you've got to do the work. Progress is measured not in hours, not in weeks, but in months and years. Progress is gradual. As I look back through my journals, I see that every time I challenged myself to try a new idea {a zillion times}, I made a leap forward. 

The magic formula is simply a dose of curiosity, perseverance, focus and a lot of time at the page.

When I started drawing, my focus was to invent patterns. So my first tip is to simply draw what you find intriguing or amusing. You might get into drawing fairies or clocks or sail boats. You can start with any subject. After drawing mostly abstract stuff for years & years, I've gradually started drawing real things. 

Stay with it. Draw every chance you get. You don’t need Eclectic Mark-Defining Experience in Venice or the Mystical Drawing Secrets Revealed e-book.

After drawing consistently {most days} over a period of years, I have more control over the pen and feel more comfortable drawing what I see around me. I love exploring papers and pens and inks and nibs. Draw every day. It will absolutely make a difference.


1. Draw repeating patterns. 

Think of patterns and like objects. Then add spice/details to those repeating things. I keep several different pens in my pen case. This is done in one of my favorites, the PITT artist pen, extra superfine nib. This fiber-nibbed pen has india ink and draws a darned fine line {pun intended}. Another fab fiber-nibbed pen is the Sakura Micron which has a nib just a touch more delicate so if you tend to press hard, get the PITT pen. Many artists use the 01 which is the second smallest nib they offer; I also like the 005 for detail work. The PITT pens and the Microns have fiber nibs and india ink. For a super sturdy drawing pen with a metal tip, try the Sakura black Gelly Roll, a gel-ink pen. All great doodling pens.


2. Draw ordinary things. 

Danny Gregory, author of The Creative License, has a list of 300+ Every Day Matters Prompts. This is EDM #25: Draw a Glass.


3. Doodle without a ruler, free-hand.

You can work on a page over the course of a week, just keep adding details and experimenting with lines and patterns. Your pages do not have to make any sense whatsoever! 

4. Draw one shape, over and over again. 

What's the most challenging shape for you to draw? For me it was a paisley. So I drew a zillion paisleys. 


5. Draw circles.

They will look wonky at first. Just keep drawing them, even on top of each other.  Draw circles on an index card. Put circles inside the circles. Now put circles around the circles. 


6. Write pangram sentences.

27 letter pangram: Big fjords vex quick waltz nymph.
50 letter pangramThe wizard quickly jinxed the gnomes before they vaporized.

Write a few pangrams {sentences using each letter of the alphabet at least once} on an index card.  Put it in your backpack for reference. When you have a few moments each day, hand-letter the sentence in your journal in any style you wish. 

7. Draw letters.

Invent fonts and write letters in the invented fonts. You'll find a bunch of video tutorials in the Draw Your Words hand-lettering workshop

8a & 8b. Test pens. Draw on different surfaces. 

Here's a Uniball UM-153, a Sakura Gellyroll, and a Sharpie poster paint pen . On paint chips. The Uniball has a slightly wider nib than the Gelly Roll. Here's a video called Beauty: The Blue Page where I draw with both of these pens on a mixed media art journal page. Also? Investigate Prompt60 #50: Paint Chips.

9. Draw knots. 

Knots are a great mental and creative challenge to draw. Invent a knot, or tie a rope in a knot and draw it. 


10. Draw everyday life.

As I waited for my brother's flight to arrive, I quickly drew taxis as they drove in and out of the airport arrival area. This a PITT pen in a 5x8"moleskine drawing journal. There are a lot of great books about drawing, but I prefer books that motivate you to see - really see - and draw the world. 

1. An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory
2. The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabby Campanero. I'm reading this now; it's inspiring me to draw more architectural things
3. Let's Draw a Story by Sachiko Umoto.

11. Draw mandalas.

Start in the middle with a circle or star and build outward. They do not need to be absolutely symmetrical, shoot for sort-of-symmetrical. 

12. Draw with charcoal, pastels & Neocolors. 

There's no reason to limit your drawing escapades to pens & pencils! These are Caran D'Ache Neocolor Wax Crayons on a background of black gesso. 

13. Draw with all  sorts of brushes.

Move your entire arm as you paint shapes with ink or watercolor. This is a Japanese brush and ink, very soft and flowy on bristol paper.

14. Go to a botanical garden and draw as many organic shapes as you can.

Go to a garden, or sit on your back porch and sketch your container garden. Relax your shoulders. Clear your mind. Try to capture the "essence" of the shape rather than the exact shape. You do not have to "KNOW" how to draw in order to draw. And keep trying until something looks sort of something like what you want to draw.

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15. Draw faces.

Try drawing different hair styles and expressions. How many little faces can you fit on a page in your journal?



Bonus: Draw at every opportunity. Take the free Draw Your Words Hand-Lettering Workshop. With videos & ideas galore.