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.