The fastest way to learn how to draw
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If you take my advice, learning how to draw could take you days, even hours. Not years. 

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I remember the exact moment I learnt how to draw.

It wasn’t a gradual, extended process that took years to master, like some people will try to convince you it will take, and I most definitely wasn’t born with this innate talent to just pick up a pencil and draw (spoiler- NO ONE is). And there wasn’t a complicated exhaustive training process involved that required several degrees or daily, obsessive practice until I’d ostracised myself from real life (don’t do that okay- check out my previous posts on Happy Artists).

All it took was a piece of paper, a pencil and some good advice. And today I am here to pass on that lesson. If you can draw a line and ignore everything you’ve ever assumed about drawing, you can draw. I promise.

Cue time warp music and let’s go back to the mid 90’s

I was about 9 when I learnt how to draw and it was the exact same moment I was taught how to see. That’s VERY important. Write it down.

You will not be able to draw if you don’t know how to see. As soon as you can see like an artist, you will be able to draw like an artist.

With me?

Now before I go further into that, I need to clarify. This precious day at Junior school wasn’t the day I became ‘good’ at drawing, or even close, but it was the day I went from drawing naïve little 2D creatures with flat cartoon faces that I’d copied from whoever taught me how to draw a ‘smiley face’ with big spider eyelashes or a brocolli ‘tree’, to really understanding how an artist sees and then translates what their eye notices into a fully formed recognisable artwork. It was the day that defined my creative existence and every single one of my skills stems from this exact moment. And despite my complete lack of gift/talent/genius, I figured things out with very little guidance in under 30 min. Probably less.

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My point of this post today is to share the simple fact that EVERYONE is capable of drawing, and possibly even within 30 minutes.

It’s a bit like driving. Or swimming. Or knitting. Or flipping a pancake. It can look impenetrably hard but with guidance and the right encouragement anyone can master it. Some people might take longer. Others will figure it out much sooner and with much less help.

I’ll now cut to the chase. To the ultimate truth.

Your biggest challenge will be boredom.

Drawing can be unfathomably boring. No artist will tell you that because we’re supposed to love what we do without question. But yeah, drawing inch after inch of hair or background or gravel can be boring as hell.

But despite that, for many artists it becomes relaxing, almost zen like. We zone out and enjoy the motion and process and eventually, the result. But for a newbie, drawing is very slow and requires an immense amount of concentration and effort. And each and every person I’ve seen struggling with drawing has not given up because they can’t, they’ve given up because they got bored. Bored they’re not good enough, fast enough.

[ For anyone interested, the second reason people seem to give up is hand cramp. You have baby drawing muscles and drawing too much, too soon, will hurt. This is why the practice hours a day notion is stupid unless you’re already a seasoned pro. ]

So if your prepared to face a little boredom, a little of the unknown, if you’re prepared to give a little patience and show a smidge of curiosity, I’m going to give you my method of learning how to draw the fastest way possible. 

For me, (and here are the magic words that will transform you into an artist… get ready) it was my teacher saying very simply:

‘draw what you see, not what you think you see’. 

Well okay, there’s a bit more to it then that, but that’s the gist.

‘Draw every wonky triangle, curve, line, despite your urge to draw a ‘leaf’. Draw the shapes next to each other, the shapes in between and look at the lights and darks. Squint. You can even draw it upside down and it will look correct when you turn it the right way up.’

And it works. All I needed to do was look for, and then copy onto the page, all the really strange shapes I could see in front of me and then put them together like a bizarre and complex jigsaw puzzle, from which a picture would appear. I wasn’t drawing a vase with flowers in. I was drawing a curve, with a wonky square, and then some lines and all the spaces between the leaves, and this big patch of darkness and then all these little bubbles… from which a vase would appear on the page.

Okay, so I’m not great at explaining it, but thankfully, all the hard work has already been done for me.

Please may I introduce you to a book that will teach you to draw in a week? This book is legendary and despite containing only a few days worth of very simple exercises the results speak for themselves:

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Betty Edwards and her book Drawing on The Right Side of The Brain has been around for YEARS and is the only book, or course, that I’ve come across that accurately describes how I see and draw as an artist and explains it in a way that anyone can learn how to draw too. Reading it in my late 20s was a revelation. She puts into words all these concepts and tricks that I’ve been using for years into concise and approachable instruction, which, if you follow exactly as she says, you WILL be drawing very realistically, very soon.

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I actually lent my copy to someone a few years ago, but noticed the latest edition now comes with a workbook so I purchased another copy the other day just to make sure it is always in my library. This new ‘starter set’ even comes with the viewfinder screen which is essential for your first drawings and SO helpful.

I have fond memories of taking the course myself. It actually languished on my shelf for years, possibly even a decade before I looked at it. I only glanced at the book one day because I recalled it had a section on improving your handwriting which was of interest to me at the time and once I started reading I became completely engrossed. I was fascinated reading someone explain how I did things in a way that was so accurate, I felt like I had been understood for the first time. I showed the book the whoever I could repeating the same message. If you want to learn how to draw, read THIS book.

Many years have gone by and I've not found one resource that can surpass Drawing on The Right Side, including myself. Yup. There is absolutely no point in me trying to teach anyone how to draw because it’s all here, already, in this one book. So to this day I simply refer people on to it. If you want to learn how to draw like I do, BUY THIS BOOK It's really that simple.

I know it looks unbelievable but thousands have had incredible results with this book and I would recommend something if I didn’t know it to work. Get the book, give yourself one week, two weeks if you want more time (the exercises are short but there’s a lot of reading which explains how the brain works when it comes to drawing and the process, history and science behind it all) and then come back here with you progress photos. You will be amazed, I’m sure of it.

If you’ve learnt how to draw with the book before please say Hi in the comments and let us know your thoughts on Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain.

Happy Artists and Living Your Best Creative Life
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There’s this phrase floating around right now which I really love, and it’s often given as a compliment.

Someone will appear looking relaxed, glowy, on their A-game... they’ll be celebrating their latest success, their latest life milestone surrounded by beautiful, happy, loving people... and someone will whisper ‘wow, they’re living their ‘Best Life aren’t they?’ .

Living their Best Life.

Ugh. Love that.

I began thinking about what My Best Life would look like to me. What I’d look like, where I’d live, my career, who’d be around me and of course one thing led to another and I coined a phrase that seemed very powerful to me: ‘Best Creative Life’ #bestcreativelife

The idea that I could combine a Best Life with Creativity sounded beyond intriguing. It asked so many questions.

What would YOUR best creative life look to you? What are you making? Where do you make? Who owns your creations? How does your life and art flow together. Why are you so content? How did you achieve all this?

Very important questions. 

Instinctively, I think, this is what I’ve been trying to decide for myself over the past few years. I’ve been unravelling all the messages about what it means to be an artist, a woman, a mother, a wife and put together some version that fits me best. Many things didn’t work. Many, many, many things. But like with all things of a spiritual nature these lessons came in spirals and once I’d processed pain, or grief, or guilt, a healing would happen and I’d be inspired to try again and see what I could attempt next.

Over time I’ve grown. Not better, but stronger. More decisive. More confident. Over time I’ve begun filtering out the harmful messages thrown our way as creatives, and especially as women, and learning that there IS a place for me in this world, like there is most definitely for you, that is happy, productive, abundant, acknowledged, confident and at peace. And definitely not bored to death, suffering or redundant.

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I guess the key message I want to pass on to other creatives the most is that it’s great that you have passion for your creativity, that’s WONDERFUL, but if it puts your health or even your life at risk, it’s not worth it.

That’s NOT okay.

It never, ever has been okay and anyone who suggests you should suffer for your art, abuse, neglect or harm yourself for ‘inspiration‘, emotionally torment yourself or sacrifice everything you have including your own dignity for creative notoriety is plainly a dangerous person and should be swiftly removed from your social circle. Like, immediately. Even artists who tap into deep painful memories as inspiration for their art use their creativity to HEAL and get better, NOT destroy themselves.

I dont know about you but I don’t think Artists exist to make a few good paintings and then live in misery or die or horrible premature death. It doesn’t even make sense. Sure it was trendy once, but so was smoking. And we can all agree that went down the toilet once we realised it was killing us. Let’s do the same with the starving artist mentality and flush it down the loo for good, where it belongs.

Art is the ice in your drink, the candles on the cake, the salt on your chips. It just makes things better. And in the words of Lilla Rogers- ‘People buy your joy’.

So today I invite you to tap into that joy and start figuring out how to live your own Best Creative Life. Why not download my little workbook below to get you started? I’ve put it in the Resource Library for you.

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Happiness, and happy artists, healthy artists, hard working artists, productive artists, friendly, kind artists, strong artists, healing artists, are INFINITELY inspiring and will always find an audience for their work.

This post is a submission for the GESSO: Primed Creatives blogging challenge.

My watercolour palette
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The other day I was settling down to do some long awaited painting when I realised how awkward my whole setup was.

I was using maybe 4 or 5 different palettes, about 15 different tubes and everything was just slow and muddled. I also kept choosing the wrong shade of blue, which was hugely annoying, so I decided to buy one of these Meeden 48 pan empty watercolour palettes and finally just put together my own.

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How I did it

The process was completely straightforward. I simply swatched every colour I had and then began picking the ones I liked the most with some respect for cool/warm colours and ensuring I had the full spectrum. It wasn't complicated at all. Purely instinctive. What I wanted to paint with. If I had two yellows, same pigment but different brand I would pick the one that looked the best out of the two. I also added anything that made me coo with delight or looked fun.

Once I had limited it down to what I wanted I shopped through watercolour suppliers picking out any colours I wanted but didn't have and added those in too. The Daniel Smith Watercolour Dot Charts were immensely helpful for this.

Now, for all the purists out there, I'm fully aware of the 'rules' when it comes to choosing palette colours and how 'less is more' and you should 'really' work with a limited palette, but frankly... that bores the hell out of me, and as an illustrator I want the wild hues. I need the vibrant pinks, purples, turquoises and iridescent finishes. Earth tones have very little place in my studio. In fact having a palette of the standard basic colours made painting feel like a chore. As soon as I began adding in what I liked the look of, painting got a whole lot more fun.

So here's my final choices, with plenty of room for more if I wish:

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WN: Winsor & Newton Artist Watercolour (NOT Cotman) 

P: Prima Watercolour (specifically the Tropicals pack. Unfortunately they only seem to come in numbers rather then names and you can’t appear to buy them individually, you have to buy a full palette.

DS: Daniel Smith Watercolours

The Colours

  1. WN Cadmium Red
  2. P no. 19
  3. DS Pyrrol Orange
  4. WN Burnt Sienna
  5. DS Genuine Garnet
  6. WN Cadmium Yellow
  7. WN Yellow Ochre
  8. WN Winsor Lemon
  9. DS Gold Green
  10. DS Green Gold
  11. WN Sap Green
  12. DS Undersea Green
  13. P no. 18
  14. WN Viridian Hue
  15. DS Phthalo Turquoise
  16. WN Cobalt Turquoise Light
  17. DS Turquoise Duochrome
  18. DS Duochrome Oceanic
  19. DS Iridescent Electric Blue
  20. WN Cobalt Blue
  21. WN Ultramarine Intense Blue
  22. WN Phthalo Blue
  23. DS Indigo
  24. DS Moonglow
  25. WN Cobalt Violet
  26. P no. 20
  27. DS Rose of Ultramarine
  28. P no. 22
  29. DS Duochrome Hibiscus
  30. WN Opera Rose
  31. WN Quinacridone Magenta
  32. WN Rose Madder Genuine
  33. WN Burnt Umber
  34. DS Hematite Violet Genuine
  35. WN Raw Umber
  36. DS Lunar Black
  37. WN Lamp Black
  38. DS Iridescent Gold
  39. DS Pearlescent Shimmer

I really love the pinks and granulating darks- I definitely want to get more of those. Indigo is just a GORGEOUS colour too isn't it? I've recently discovered handmade pigments ground from some fascinating one of a kind sources and I would love to explore those a bit more. And painting with real Garnet, Amethyst, Lapis Lazuli? Amazing!

Tell me, what colours do you have in YOUR palette and why?