Learn how to draw anything by seeking out shapes - basic drawing skills to help beginners get started drawing quickly and easily...
Drawing Skills for Beginners - Making Shapes
I want to get you started drawing by sketching nature. The objective of the drawing lesson in this blog post is to understand how to sketch out the basic shapes of your drawing so that your drawing is recognisable and accurate.
This is important because although art doesn’t have to look ‘realistic’ you do want your drawing to look recognisable (unless you choose to play with the shapes and proportions for style and effect)…
It’s important not to give your viewer the sensation that “there’s just something wrong about it” which can often be the case when we get things even subtly wrong.
Accuracy is something even experienced artists still need to work hard to achieve! So do accept that this will need practice and however hard you practice you will still get it wrong sometimes…
But I’m going to show you the little drawing tricks and techniques that make it easier...
What we're going to learn...
The drawing techniques I’m going to share with you will build your skills to help you to feel confident to draw whatever you want.
I’m not actually teaching you how to draw leaves (although that’s what we’re going to practice on) – I’m giving you the skills to learn how to draw anything…. but we’re starting very simply with a basic leaf.
You will be able to apply these basic steps to anything you want to draw with a little practice!
Ideally, you would draw from leaves and flowers you’ve collected yourself, as I believe that that’s more motivating and interesting for you – but I have also provided some reference photos in the Free Start Drawing - Learn to Draw Mini Course PDF download that you can use too, so that you can get started from these photos if you don’t yet have your own ready.
Starting out, it’s much more fun and you can start to look, learn, and understand about what you’re drawing far more easily when you have your subject right in front of you and can easily take a closer look and understand how it ‘works’.
Nature art is a wonderful place to start with your drawing, as in addition to that wonderful and calming sense of connection to nature, organic shapes are easy to draw and very forgiving of any little lapses of proportion or perspective so that you can get a good-looking and characterful artwork without too much practice...
No wonder nature is such a popular subject matter for artists!
Learning how to draw anything
In these first drawing lessons, we’re going to look at how to start to portray the shape and form of what you’re drawing.
Let’s start with a basic leaf shape. Choose a simple one this time. We’ll look at something more complex later. Remember, we’re learning drawing techniques for how to draw anything in this lesson, not learning how to draw a leaf.
What's your leaf's basic shape?
These photos are available for you in the Start Drawing - Learn to Draw Mini Course PDF if you'd like to use them to draw from.
We’re going to draw this basic shape out, loosely, with our pencil, right on our page...
Now let’s look at the extra shapes that actually make your leaf a leaf and not a circle, square or oval.
Let’s draw in the points and the stalk, just very lightly and roughly with our pencils. Each point or stalk goes about at the centre point, top and bottom, so just ‘guesstimate’ where this is.
Above: Rounded leaf -
Above: Oval-shaped leaf -
Above: Squared leaf -
Are you happy with it? Does it look like your leaf? If not, rub it out and try again, or start on another sheet of paper.
Now, your pencil drawing should look rough and quite scribbly, but still very light. This is perfect.
Now, we’re going to swap pencils or use our drawing pen so that we can put a firmer line in, because now we know where we want that to be and we’ve also got a guide to help us with it.
In this part of the drawing, we want a firmer, stronger, confident line. We’re going to use one of our thicker pencils for this (the ‘soft’ pencils: HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B) or our black fineliner pen.
This is also the part of the drawing where we don’t need to worry about getting it right or accurate, as we’ve already done the prep-work for that with our guidelines – and we know that they’re in the right place. We just need to use these and take advantage of the hard work we’ve already done.
In the first part of the drawing, we were doing the ‘technical’ bit, the ‘accurate’ bit. In this next part of the drawing, we’re allowing ourselves to come through in the art – it doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be an expression of you…
And luckily, there’s no effort involved in getting that bit right. Relax, and that bit will happen naturally and your drawing will become more and more distinctive and beautiful with practice.
All we need is a firm, confident line – so make sure that your music is playing something you love and you’re nicely topped up with tea, coffee, whatever… and take your pen or pencil in your hand.
Rounded leaf (above):
Oval-shaped leaf (above):
Squared leaf (above):
There! Your first basic leaf shape. How did yours go?
Here are a couple more leaf drawing demonstrations for you to look at to start understanding how to imagine basic shapes with what you’re drawing and how to build on that…
Again, you can access these in larger size to draw from at the end of the Start Drawing free mini-course PDF.
What shape would you make these leaves?
A heart-shaped leaf
This leaf looks heart-shaped but I think I will make the shape even more simple than that and turn it into a square for ease of drawing...
Sketching in the leaf shape (below): I sketch in the way the leaf would fit into a square box to get the basic outline. It doesn’t matter if you would’ve picked a different shape. What works for you is right!
Adding detail (below):
I use my soft 4B pencil to add the firmer lines - this is a bold and sketchy style for my leaf!
Using a triangle to create the overall shape of the leaf
The overall shape of the whole leaf is an inverted triangle, so I sketch it in very lightly...
Sketching the outline (below):
I lightly and roughly sketch in the outline of the three different leaves that make up this leaf thinking about how they fit into the triangle shape
Adding detail and the permanent line (below):
I add the outline in with my drawing pen and add detail to the leaves. I could now rub out my guidelines if I wished.
Learning how to draw anything in simple steps - studying how to draw a leaf step by step can be applied to any subject matter you want… it might just be a bit more complex!
I’d love you to practice with drawing a few more simple leaves. Experiment with making your hand move faster or slower as you draw. How does it feel? What does your leaf look like?
What about if you change your music?
Remember, this simple leaf is just the first very simple step in a more complex ballet. But understanding this idea is the one basic step that allows you to use this technique of looking for shapes and using them in your drawing so that you can start drawing absolutely anything in this same way.
So soon, and with practice drawing more simple and then complex shapes, we’ll have you knowing just how to draw anything beautifully, confidently, and in your own unique style.
This blog post is an extract from my free Learn to Draw mini-course 'Start Drawing' - the next topic in there is how to think about angles and proportions in your drawing - it also covers understanding light and shade in your drawing plus drawing texture and detail - get the free 'Start Drawing' PDF download here... (part of my Free Drawing Resources collection - here...)
If you're currently learning to draw, I think you'll love my complete self-study drawing course, which takes you from seeing these sorts of shapes, through light and shade, form, texture, detail, finding your drawing style and staying inspired - and all the way developing your own personal drawing style, the Start Drawing your Way Essential Drawing Skills course...
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