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How To Start a Drawing – a guide for the beginning artist

The Drawing Process in Art helps the beginning artist navigate the maze of questions about how to start a drawing with a 6 step plan for drawing success.

An amazing drawing begins before picking up the pencil. Ask and answer these questions before starting to draw: What makes a good subject, what are the best tools for drawing, how should I compose my drawing, and what colors should I use? The Drawing Process in Art addresses these critical questions, and presents tips on subject, composition, media, and color. And remember to visit the Beginner’s Art Blog for more information on the practical aspects of drawing.

Before you pick up the pencil, start your drawing with a plan.

man looking up thinking, how to start a drawing
First think, then draw! 
Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash

How to Start a Drawing in 6 Steps:

how to pick a subject to draw, vase and fruit
Photo by Garreth Paul on Unsplash
planning a composition, rocky outcropping with grid showing rule of thirds
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
how to choose drawing media, pastel sticks
Photo by Marina Yalanska on Unsplash

1. Choose the subject

What’s the best subject for a beginning artist? 

This question isn’t so easy to answer. Excitement about drawing a particular subject doesn’t guarantee a successful drawing. A beginning artist must consider skill level, genre, and available lighting when selecting the best subject to draw. 

What to Draw as a Beginning Artist? helps avoid the pitfalls that result from choosing a landscape, still life, or portrait without proper planning. 

2. Plan the composition

What makes a good drawing composition?

There’s more to just learning the rules of composition in art. Careful planning ensures that all elements of composition fit on the paper before starting the drawing. An aesthetically pleasing composition also accounts for paper area taken away by matting and framing.

How to Plan a Composition in Drawing describes a strategy for composition and how to avoid common composition mistakes.

3. Pick the drawing media

What drawing tool should I use for the subject?

Just grabbing one’s favorite pencil or pastel crayon may not be wise. A beginning artist must give careful thought to subject, composition, and type of paper before choosing a drawing tool. 

How to Choose the Right Drawing Media discusses the characteristics of graphite pencils, charcoal, colored pencils, oil pastels, hard and soft pastels, and which media is best for a particular subject and paper type.

rectangular color swatches to select a harmonious color scheme
Image by Jan Alexander from Pixabay
colored pieces of art paper, how to choose drawing paper
Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash
mountains and sky in grayscale shades of gray value study
Photo by Milad Moafi on Unsplash

4. Choose a color scheme

How to pick harmonious colors for a drawing

Selecting a harmonious combination of colors shouldn’t be left to chance. A carefully planned color palette gives an artwork its mood and creates the feeling of unity throughout the piece. Knowing what a color wheel is and how to use it is critical to creating a drawing with a pleasing color scheme.

How to Choose a Color Scheme for Drawing discusses how to select a group of colors using the color wheel, and also looks at the effect of color on toned paper.

5. Select the paper 

Pick the right drawing paper for the subject

Beginning artists are sometimes frustrated after working many hours on a drawing, only to discover that the subject would look better if drawn on a different type or size of paper. Sometimes, a paper type is not compatible with a particular drawing tool. 

What Kind of Drawing Paper Should I Use? discusses paper size, weight, texture, tone, and which type of paper is best for landscape, still life, or portrait drawing.

6. Draw a value study 

What’s a value study and why is it important?

Understanding grayscale value is very important to create three dimensional depth in a drawing. It’s critical to see the subject as a range of values and to establish these values before starting the final drawing.

Drawing a Value Study discusses grayscale value charts, and how they’re used as a preparation to the final drawing. Also addressed is the concept of color value which may also confuse a beginning artist.

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Art Therapy Resources

Drawing and painting are well known for its calming effect on the mind for both creators and viewers of art. Vincent Van Gogh, who suffered from severe mental illness, found drawing and painting lessened his depression. For those artists interested in art therapy, either for themselves or for clients, here are some resources:

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