Drawing Lessons for Beginners - Self-Expression in Art
Drawing lessons for beginners - exploring self-expression in art and creating meaningful drawings…
This page is part of my series of drawing lessons for beginners and developing artists covering techniques and mindset to get you started and keep you going with your drawing.
The objective of this particular drawing lesson is to understand that art is expressive and personal… and NOT an exercise in technical drawing. So that you will feel confident that, actually, you ARE an artist.
This is important because although I am going to show you some tips and techniques for how to draw in this website and accompanying courses, and for how to draw what you might normally term ‘accurately’, we’re not all about drawing ‘properly’ or in a certain way – but it’s about you, as an artist, feeling confident that you can make drawings and art that express you…
And feeling confident that you can make drawings that come out looking how you want them to - so that you have the skills so the marks on the page are where you want them to be.
So the main question for this drawing lesson for beginners is about what art actually is…
What is Art?
Perhaps you already have your own ideas about what constitutes art?
So what does the word ‘art’ mean to you? Do you know?
I’m not sure that there’s actually a definitive answer, but as an artist I’ve naturally spent a lot of time pondering upon this question…
For me, art does not have to be ‘realistic’ (although it can be if that’s what you want and I do think accuracy is important). Art is something personal and expressive…
I think that it’s actually what you put into your artwork of YOU that makes your drawing ART and not a technical drawing – it’s your perspective, your emotion, your comment about the world we live in – and it’s this that makes people love your art and connect with your art in a way that they wouldn’t with a very accurate technical drawing.
Start looking about you, at art you love – on Pinterest, social media, in stores… what is it you, personally, connect with? Is it the subject matter? The colours? Perhaps it’s the subtle emotion that the artist has put into the artwork.
The emotion in an artwork is partly what the artist has put into it – the subject matter intertwined with their own personal thoughts and feelings about that… their way of looking at it and experiencing it.
And the other part is the way that you, as the viewer, responds to it – your emotion as the viewer.
This is why we cannot and must not judge our art by how other people respond to it. Yet it’s so tempting to do so!
Making art is being vulnerable
When we create art in this mindful, meaningful way, we put our emotions into it, part of our being (our soul, if you will). To create art like this is to be vulnerable – if other people reject it or don’t seem to get it or love it like we do, we can feel it like a little puncture… a rejection of our self that we’ve sent out into the world to share with others.
Yet it isn’t a rejection of our self at all. For me, art is a two-way thing. It’s your emotion/message/communication, as the artist – and the other person’s response to that.
Our response to art is so subconscious, so subtle, so truly instinctive, that a particular piece of art is either for you or it’s not – you either love it and connect with it… or you don’t.
Tuning in or tuning out?
Anyone remember tuning in an old TV or radio? (You’ll need to be ‘of a certain age’ I think!)
In the ‘olden days’ we had to twiddle a knob so that the TV or radio receiver ‘tuned in’ to a certain wavelength. The speakers would give a distinctive crackle and then burst into life as you caught the precise wavelength that a particular station was broadcasting on. The position of your radio and its aerial/antennae would determine which radio stations you could connect with.
It’s like your art is broadcasting on a particular wavelength. When we view art, we’re all like the radio aerial. We have our own position and we can only tune into a certain spectrum of wavelengths. We can’t help it. It’s just the way we are.
When your art meets someone who can receive on the exact wavelength that your art is ‘broadcasting’ on, they get it, they love it, they really appreciate it. If your art’s not broadcasting on someone’s ‘wavelength’, they won’t – and it doesn’t need to mean anything about the quality of your art.
So when people don’t appreciate your art in the same way you do, don’t make it mean something it doesn’t. Your art isn’t for everyone. It can’t be. (Just like you don’t want to be best friends with everyone you come across in your daily life.)
If you’re making your art mindfully and with love, whether you’re drawing a simple leaf shape or creating a complicated nature scene, that personal perspective comes through and it’s ‘art’: you’re an artist.
Personal Art is Self-Expression
We don’t need to do anything consciously for our emotions and feelings to come through in our art. It all happens at a subconscious level and seeps into our art through the energy we feel while we’re creating it.
That’s why I feel that it’s so important to cover the mindset work before we even start drawing… so that we turn up mindful, calm, and feeling relaxed and ready to feel connected to what we draw – and so that we can call on that feeling as we draw and we allow our own personal self to come through in our drawing.
It makes for much more personal art and a much more mindful, calming, and enjoyable experience for you while you’re creating it.
I want you to feel confident about your artistic journey – and confident that you can be an artist and that you are an artist.
Perhaps you’ve been put off drawing in the past if someone laughed at your efforts, mocked you, or said unkind words. Perhaps they had a different view of what art was all about. Let’s just forgive them for their clumsy efforts and start fresh now.
Perhaps you’ve put yourself off drawing at some point by some unkind thoughts towards yourself, comparing yourself with others? (Yes, I have, too!) Some wise words by motivational speaker, writer, and former NFL star, Tim Hiller:
“Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle, or your middle to someone else's end.
Don't compare the start of your second quarter of life to someone else's third quarter.”
You can be an artist. I don’t believe that there’s any such thing as ‘natural talent’. Like any other skill in life, it’s practice, pure and simple… and some people have put in a lot more hours of practice than others.
You must not compare your artwork to others’. It’s a sure way to knock your confidence. Every creative feels this way. We can use our admiration for others’ art to get inspired and learn (without copying!) and not get downhearted that we’re not in that place yet! (It might be that that exact place is not for us - we can go our own way!)
For now, just know that it does take practice and it does take many, many tiny steps to get where you want to go. But it’s all definitely do-able and it will all come together quicker than you might think!
Art is a journey
Art is your own personal journey. It’s a process and not a destination.
That artist that you think looks so accomplished is on their own journey. They, too, feel like they’re still learning and taking their own tiny steps, too.
It’s so important that we start to treat art as a journey – a process and not a destination. It’s not about the final drawing, the completed artwork. It’s about the joy of learning a new skill, the feeling of achievement and accomplishment, the meditative calm while we’re creating, and the mindful state that brings us balance, meaning, and happiness.
We create art for ourselves – because it makes us happy and it makes us who we are – and we enjoy where we are on our journey (looking out of the car windows and enjoying the scenery as we travel).
We create art that’s mindful, expressive, and fun. It doesn’t have to be hard-work, technical, precise, or stern.
We’re going to take little steps on our artistic journey together - because it’s always best to learn the dance steps and practise them lots before you attempt to dance a whole ballet!
In the same way, we’re going to learn how to draw basic shapes, make our drawings more accurate, add light/shade, add texture, form, detail, and finally colour, practising flexing our artistic muscles before progressing onto full artworks or creating complex scenes and compositions.
Using my drawing lessons for beginners
There’s a lot of information here on this website in the drawing lessons for beginners, as well as in the sections for developing artists and in my associated drawing courses, as it’s something that I hope that you will be able to refer back to again and again for guidance and inspiration throughout your whole artistic journey, however long that might last.
Some ideas and techniques won’t quite suit you. Some you won’t quite be ready for right now.
I’d encourage you to feel comfortable at one stage before moving onto the next – but please, please, please, don’t feel like you have to be perfect before moving on.
You will learn as you go and I’ve given you information in the drawing lessons for beginners to take you through all the elements that make up a complete drawing. I’m going to share lots of drawing techniques and ideas. These are to inspire you and to encourage you to try out lots of different things, to uncover for yourself what’s right for you (and this can change as your art and drawing style develops).
You are not expected to use all of these techniques, or even most of them. They’re here for you to experiment with and pick what feels good for you. So please, don’t feel intimidated, overwhelmed, or like you’re falling behind.
Consider it simply as a smorgasbord of artistic inspiration. Try some, leave some, follow a path and stick with it for a while… or abandon it and come back to the table and try some more.
Art is a journey. It’s your journey and there’s plenty of opportunity to try what feels interesting, or challenging, or inspiring… and leave the rest.
This is how you make art yours – make it personal, make it enjoyable, make it about you.
Art doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ll let you into a little secret: art will never be ‘perfect’ – it can’t happen – and the imperfections are what makes it unique and beautiful. So don’t even try to go down that road!
We’re all learning and whatever our stage, we can all be artists, put our personal vibe into our art, enjoy the process and reap the benefits of feeling balanced, happy, and calm.
Where to go next
Do you want to find out more about collecting your own meaningful and personal inspiration from nature? Learn about that here…
You can also:
I also have a full online drawing course - the Start Drawing Your Way Essential Drawing Skills Course - which is carefully designed to help you build your drawing skills with practical techniques for accurate drawing…
But also has lots of creative exercises to inspire your inner artist, develop your artistic confidence and get you feeling free to ditch drawing ‘properly’ and create your own personal, expressive drawing style and make art that feels meaningful and fulfilling to you… if this sounds like your kind of thing, click here to find out all about it…
Stay updated when new drawing resources are added and also get news and updates from my own art…
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