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}. I didn't start with the intention of building my skills - I started drawing to pass the time when my kids were at swimming lessons and gymnastics classes and dentist appointments. If I drew a row of circles, they resembled eggs. Unintentionally wacky triangles. Wobbly lines. The pen would veer at an odd angle as if it had a mind of its own. I constantly turned the page around to get the right angle to draw. The doodles were wonky yet engaging.

And what I learned from years and years of drawing is that if you draw a lot, you get better. The more variety in your practice, the more you'll build fine motor skills and the more confident you'll be with a pen in hand.


So I drew patterns; lots of them! I didn't use a ruler because I figured that I wouldn't learn how to draw if I used a ruler. I also didn't want to get perfectionistic - rulers are just that. What did I draw? "Found" stuff from my backpack, gum labels, receipts, book covers, UPC codes. I never considered that my style would evolve -- I was simply into the process. Waiting time FLEW by. I liked drawing. After being lost for 20 years in the world of accounting and analysis, it was refreshing to do art! It was like I was in high school again, drawing patterns in my room late at night with Jackson Browne or The Stones playing on the radio.

Progress is gradual. If you compare your work today with your work from a month ago, you probably won't see the subtle differences. But if you look at your work a year ago vs. now, you'll see that you have more control over your lines. Progress is measured not in hours, but in months and years. The more you draw, the better you will get. 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 an Eclectic Mark-Defining Experience in Venice or the Mystical Drawing Secrets Revealed e-book. 

After drawing consistently, almost every day, for 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!!!

Fifteen (15) things to draw to improve your line work.

1. Draw ordinary things. 

Look around your room and focus on one ordinary everyday item. Sketch it. Document what you drew, the weather, your thoughts about the day, anything to make the page more memorable.

Swiss preserves, ink and watercolor by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com

2. Draw repeating patterns. 

Look around the room for patterns and collections of like objects, then add spice and detail to those repeating things. 


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? I find vehicles difficult, so as I waited for my brother to arrive at the airport, I drew the taxis as they swooshed into the taxi stand.


5. Draw circles.

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


6. Draw letters.

Invent fonts and write letters in the invented fonts. Heres' a tutorial for these groovy doodle letters.


7a. Test pens. 7b. Draw on different surfaces. 

You can draw on the slick surface of a paint chip with a white Uniball UM-153, a Sakura Gellyroll, and a Sharpie poster paint pen!


8. 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. 


9. Take your journal with you and draw everyday life.


10. Draw mandalas.

Start in the middle with a circle or star and build outward. They do not need to be absolutely symmetrical, go for sort-of-symmetrical. These mandalas are drawn with a dip pen and J. Herbin ink on a background of gouache paint. 


11. Draw with charcoal, pastels & Neocolors. 

Why limit your drawing escapades to pens & pencils? Drawing with different tools changes the experience and allows you to adjust, fine-tune & otherwise refine your approach. Try a less precise drawing tool — how expressive can you make those lines? When you go back to a pencil or pen you'll have new ideas and perspectives. I drew this gigantic mandala with Caran D'Ache Neocolor Wax Crayons in an altered children’s book. The background was painted first with black gesso. The colors really pop!


12. Draw with all sorts of brushes.

Painting with a brush does improve your drawing skills! This is a Japanese brush + ink {soft and flowy} on bristol paper.


13. Go to a botanical garden and quickly sketch organic shapes.

I like to walk around our garden and do rough sketches to try to capture or understand the different shapes. Relax your shoulders and clear your mind before you start drawing, then try to capture the essence of each shape rather than the exact shape. You do not have to KNOW how to draw in order to draw. Just keep trying until something looks sort of something like what you want to draw.

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14. Draw faces.

Draw faces on index cards or draw a grid of small to medium boxes in your journal and fill each box with a tiny face. Experiment with hair styles and expressions. How many little faces can you fit on a page in your journal? Try not to evaluate the goodness or badness or anythingness of your faces. Just keep drawing! These are faces I drew several years ago.


15. Draw from magazines and photographs.

I drew the grid first, then filled it with little images, patterns & snapshots that I found in a stack of magazines. Then I embellished with ink.


16. Draw the alphabet with a dip pen & india ink. 

Hand-lettering with a dip pen and a flex-nib is all about pressure and fine motor skills. When you apply downward pressure, your lines are wider. When you apply less pressure, your lines are thinner. Try writing the alphabet as many ways as you can! 

Now go fill your journals!

A few of my favorite pens?

  • My go-to pen is the PITT artist pen, extra superfine nib. It has a fiber nib and india ink.

  • Another great drawing pen is the Sakura Micron. Many artists use Micron in an 01 nib, this is the second smallest nib they offer; I also like the 005 for detail work. It has a more fiber nib and india ink. If you press really hard with your drawing hand, this is probably not the pen for you; the nib will bend.

  • For a super sturdy drawing pen, try the Sakura Gelly Roll in black. This is a gel-ink pen with a metallic nib.