Draw baby, draw!

by Patsyfox on April 2, 2020


This morning on 3RRR radio I’m going to be chatting with Richard Watts on his Smart Arts program  about how you can get started drawing with no experience at all. Honestly I couldn’t think of anything better for isolation times like we’re in. OK maybe wine, but this is better for your liver, amongst other things..

Why draw? DRAWING IS A WONDERFUL THING TO DO! It is relaxing and has a meditative effect on the body, mainly because it engages the right side of the brain, which is the creative side that is wordless, timeless, intuitive and non-judgemental. Ever been doing a task and lost all track of time, only to realise an hour had gone by? Yep, you’ve experienced the right side of the brain. Times like we’re in with nothing but scary bad news, a break from thinking and listening to it all will have incredible benefits for you – the mind chatter will slow and fade. There is a very famous and fabulous book called Drawing On The Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. Full of exercises and information. You can check it out on Booko here.

Drawing will also develop your observation skills which is useful for many things (drawing is taught in medicine to help observation skills in diagnosis).

Now listen to this because I mean it – YES, YOU CAN DRAW. I hear the most horrific stories from people who come to my  classes, about things they’ve been told at some point in their life (usually school) about how they can’t draw and have no artistic talent – seriously. What a load of bullshit. Usually these comments have been made by miserable uptight people who have let their own artistic freedom stay locked in a box and have no idea how to teach. True, like athletic skills, some people are born with natural leanings towards certain skills but be sure, you can reach the same points through practice and preferably some guidance. End. Of. Story. For some reason people think if they pick up a pencil for the first time in their life they should either be able to draw already or they simply aren’t artistic. We would never expect that of a sporting skill!

So what are you going to do first?

Find a space that you can ideally make your drawing space. Not too many distractions if possible. Put some music on – preferably instrumental because language and words are “left brain” so can draw you out of the flow, although if you’re really familiar with the song it has less of that effect. Not TV! As delightful as it might seem, television will keep engaging your left brain so leave it off.

You don’t need any fancy equipment:

  • A 2B pencil, or simply any pencil you have in the house. No pencils? A ballpoint pen then – not a problem.
  • Cheap paper, any kind will do if you don’t have a sketchbook. Draw on the back of envelopes, shopping bags, brown paper bags are great.
  • Colour pencils can be great to add colour – Woolworths sells a 24 set of faber castell for $4.50!
  • Charcoal would be great if you have it.
  • A cheap set of watercolours and the cheapest brush would be great but just use what you have.


Find something to draw: Keep it simple, something you love: Wine bottle and glass, shoes, a plant, fruit (I love drawing pears), or be outside in nature if you have a garden, or maybe a corner of the room.

Warming up – get into the zone by doing some sketching to loosen up.

1.Blind contour drawing: Looking at your subject, choose a point to start drawing and put pencil to paper. Without looking at the paper, move the pencil as your eye follows the lines of your subject, slowly but in a flowing line, notice the shapes and angles. One continuous line ideally. No judgement, this will look weird, that is great. This exercise immediately engages the right side of the brain. Draw for 5 minutes or the length of one song.

2.Drawing upside down: Take a photo or picture ( a classic exercise is to use another artist’s drawing) and turn it upside down. Now draw it like this. Drawing upside down immediately engages the right side of the brain and forces you to notice shapes etc as the familiarity of the subject is removed – remember, learning to draw is learning to see, and this exercise will prevent you drawing what you think something looks like (symbols), and force you to draw what you actually see. Gold! Pretty much every time when you draw the same thing both upside down and right way up, the upside down version is better.

3.Try drawing with your non-dominant hand! You’ll have to try much harder to observe your subject. Immediately you realise how developed your hand-to-eye coordination skills are on your regular hand..

Then just draw. Think of the elements of drawing – line, tone, shape. Notice the overall shape/s of what you’re drawing and just go for it without judgement. Know that you’re building neural pathways as you draw so your skills will get stronger and stronger the more you do it.

Draw the subject with line only – try to make it descriptive. Then draw it with only tone – instead of edges you’re noticing volume. What do you like about each? Now maybe combine them.

And think about these things:

  • Don’t be judgemental or attached to the outcome – just the act of drawing is good enough! You are already winning.
  • Try to do a bit of drawing every day – you’ll be amazed at the improvement, not that it’s about that as such!
  • If you’re drawing on separate bits of paper, stick the drawings up on a wall so you can see them accumulate and admire your work. Be your own fan! Date the drawings so you can keep track of the progress. Never forget you’re a bloody champion.
  • Try doing artist studies of other artists’ work – draw their drawing, then do a drawing of your own in their style.
  • Got any blackboard paint? Paint a door or piece of wall with it and draw on it every day then wash it off (take a photo first of course.)
  • Look at the many free tutorials on YouTube. Here are some to start with:
  • Many art galleries are adding tours and classes to their websites – MOMA in New York is a great one.
  • Check out the Instagram page @isolationartschool

And remember, JUST DRAW.

And wash your hands.