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Drawing for Everyone

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Beginner Tips

Drawing is fun and therapeutic for everyone. Here are a few beginner tips.

I find that many people have been "shadow artists" all their lives; that is they follow artists and art shows and trends closely but think they have no talent themselves until one day when they take a class. They were probably artists all along but didn't know it. Step out of the shadows and explore the creativity within you.

Many people don't mind exploring other aspects of their creativity: cooking, sewing, writing poetry, decorating a room or whole house, choosing colors and carpets to repaint and redo their home, musical instruments, singing, dancing. And still, they deny they have any creative gifting. Don't you know it's all interrelated? Drawing lessons will only open up a door to the artsy side of your brain that you may have rarely used till now.

Photo Credit: All artwork is done by myself and photos taken by me unless otherwise noted.

Drawing was done in Photoshop. An illustration of Cinderella and her fairy Godmother when announced she was going to the ball.

Drawing was done in Photoshop. An illustration of Cinderella and her fairy Godmother when announced she was going to the ball.

Artist’s Are Illusionists


Think about your subject as being a 3-dimensional object. Say you have a vase of flowers before you. There is no "line" where your vision of the vase ends or one petal ends and another begins. Therefore the “line” you are drawing is not "real" but a representation of that space we cannot see. There is no line where the vase ends and space begins, but to make a 3-dimensional object on a 2-dimensional plane (the paper) we much use a line. Therefore even the most gifted artist is not making a 100 percent realistic representation. All we can hope to do is an image or an illusion of 3-dimensional space.

Don’t worry that your drawings are not perfectly real at first since no art is perfectly real. With practice and some instruction, plus some simple art rules on perspective, you will surely improve the illusion of reality. You are becoming an illusionist today. Happy magic.

Suzy, charcoal on grey paper.  Quick sketch of live model done in 20 minutes.

Suzy, charcoal on grey paper. Quick sketch of live model done in 20 minutes.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

— Grant Wood

My Nature Journal I always took with me camping.

My Nature Journal I always took with me camping.

Sketch Kit

Don't leave home without it.

My daughter sketched on anything and everything available, often using up, in one week, entire tablets of writing paper I bought for school. Frustrated, I began saving anything that had a black side to sketch on; everything from mail circular advertisements, to used (often ironed) birthday wrapping paper, to paper grocery sacks. These were cut to fit the "sketch box," which amounted to a small 8.5 x 11-inch box.

I found the sketch box to be useful for everyone, including myself. I still have many fast sketches on the back of used paper from the sketch box. The good news is that any scrap of paper and writing implement is an open invitation to sketch at the moments notice.

Today I keep a sketch kit and a watercolor paint kit in my car, just in case the overwhelming desire to sketch or paint hits me. Put together your own sketch kit and keep it with you. A small tablet and mechanical pencil or felt-tip marker are ample, but you may want to include a vinyl eraser, a small colored pencil set, a charcoal pencil or soft #2 pencil and a sharpener. Put all these in a pouch or zip-lock bag so they fit under your car seat for easy access.

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Drawing and sketching is fun, personal, intimate, quick, portable, inexpensive and deeply satisfying.

— Cathy Johnson


Buy a good quality drawing tablet and keep it with you at all times. I keep one in my home and one in my car for surprise drawing opportunities.


Any soft lead or #2 pencils will work for sketching. I prefer a mechanical pencil so I have no worries about carrying a pencil sharpener with me on the go. With the pencil, get a nice white vinyl eraser. It works so much better than the erasers that come with pencils.

My charcoal pencils and my kneaded rubber eraser.

My charcoal pencils and my kneaded rubber eraser.

Drawing hands exercise in charcoal.

Drawing hands exercise in charcoal.

It is better to paint from memory, for thus your work will be your own; your sensation, your intelligence, and your soul will triumph over the eye of the amateur… Do not finish your work too much.

— Paul Gauguin


To rush or not to rush... that is the question.

Take your time. This is not a race. No one is going to be standing over your shoulder making you hurry up. Art is the process of careful planning and preparation. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the ride without feeling the need for speed. Relax. Set up a picture or objects you wish to draw from and have a good light on your set up as well as on your paper. Have all your materials nearby. You are set.

Drawing of grass textures.


Shading is usually done with the side of the pencil or charcoal because you can get darks and lights better by applying different pressures. Pens won’t work that way unless you use cross-hatching or stippling.

Merely drawing outlines of an object is not enough to be successful in the finished drawing. You must carefully see the light and dark values, the shadows and highlights, the reflected light and subtle grey-tones. In actuality, we separate these into 5 values. The highest light (highlight), the lowest light/darkest shadow, the middle value and two more between the highlight and the reflected light, which is darker than the middle value and lighter than the darkest shadow. The eye must be trained to see these variations. It is sometimes helpful to use a sheet of clear red plastic. The red plastic eliminates color from a photo and allows you to see the lights and darks without the distractions of color. As you train your eye, you will not need the red plastic tool.

Many professional artists say to squint your eyes. The lines and details become blurred and you are aware of the values, the lights and dark shapes. It is called a value pattern. This is important to capture because many amateurs see the local color and don’t recognize the deep shadows are really another color and value. And the same with the highlights. Train yourself to see the wide range of values in a subject.

The values achieved in the drawing of the Rain Man are done with cross hatching.


Drawing Comments Welcome - Let me know what you think about drawing.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on September 16, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

That is very true. It does capture moments in time for posterity. It also captures the emotion and the sentiment of that moment as well. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on September 16, 2021:


Do you draw? I think everyone should at least dabble in art. It really helps us think and problem-solve. Thanks for commenting.



Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 12, 2021:

You are so talented! Sketching subjects for later use is a great way to preserve fleeting moments. Practice does make perfect, as the old saying goes.

Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 12, 2021:

Its very useful thank you for sharing it

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 12, 2021:

Drawing and sketching are fundamental. People have doing it as far back as cave paintings. I think we all want to sketch but few have the confidence to do it beyond childhood. Isn't that sad? Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2016:


Thank you so much for checking it out. I love drawing and do it at least once everyday. I've improved at shading only because I work at practicing everyday. Thanks for commenting.



Korneliya Yonkova from Cork, Ireland on March 25, 2016:

Thank you for this informative hub, Denise. The advice about sketch kit is really precious and of course, about shading. I am very bad at shading and should do my best to improve it :)

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 11, 2015:

thank you everyone for the comments on my drawings.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 28, 2014:

@chrins: Perfect. Thank you.

chrins on June 27, 2014:

Very informative! I'll share this to my daughter she's fond of drawing, these will give her more idea! Love it!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 05, 2014:

@boneworld: Thank you so much. I'm so happy you got something out of it.

Jackson Thom from West of Left South Lucky on June 05, 2014:

Wow, this is some great instruction. I like to scribble draw, and then use my eraser to clean it up. This is some great info!

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