Value Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

10 Effective Exercises to Improve Your Drawing Skills

We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect”. And it’s true! Practice will help you to improve your drawing skills.

But what should you be drawing and how?

Here are 10 fun and easy exercises to help you level up your drawing skills.

1) Blind Contour Drawing

Draw the outline of your subject without lifting the pencil or looking at your paper. This may not produce a good drawing, but it will train your hand and eye to work as a team.

Blind Contour Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

A blind contour drawing by Jen de Leon

2) Upside-Down Drawing

It’s just as it sounds. Instead of looking at an image right-side up, draw it upside-down. This exercise will help your eye to see only lines and shapes rather than things.

Upside Down Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

An upside-down drawing by Jen de Leon after Charles-Antoine Jombert’s Head After Raphael – Plate 24

3) Negative Space Drawing

Start by drawing the contours of the negative space (space between and around objects) and then fill the negative space with a flat value or tone.

Negative Space Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

A negative space drawing of a fairy and a dragon figurine by Jen de Leon

4) Value Drawing

Arrange a still life of white objects on a white background and create the illusion of three-dimensional forms by rendering highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Avoid the use of outlines.

Value Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

A value drawing of three eggs on a white surface and background by Jen de Leon

5) Repetition

Draw an image multiple times. Set yourself decreasing time limits and reproduce the image as best as you can. This will help you become more efficient at being aware of the most important lines and forms. A good example of this would be Mark Crilley’s Speed Challenge.

Mark Crilley's Speed Challenge: 10 Minutes/1 Minute/10 Seconds!

DORAEMON Speed Challenge: 10 Minutes/1 Minute/10 Seconds! by Mark Crilley

6) Simplification

Take a complex image, and break it down into simple geometric shapes. This will help your brain understand how shape and space works. Proko’s Mannequinization is a perfect example of this.

Mannequinization by Proko

Mannequinization by Stan Prokopenko

7) Detailing

Find a simple form such as a wooden drawing mannequin or a silhouette and add in the details. Draw from your imagination and fill in the missing parts.

Detailing Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

A male head from a silhouette by Jen de Leon

8) Different Styles

Draw the same subject in different styles. Try to draw in a realistic style one day, a manga style the next, and another style the following. As an example, take a look at Jenna Bushell’s 10 Art Style Challenge.

10 Art Style Challenge: Rainbow Hair Girl by Jenna Bushell

10 Art Style Challenge: Rainbow Hair Girl by Jenna Bushell

9) Speed Drawing

Draw a series of different images in a short amount of time. Try to draw people, animals, or objects from life in as little as 30 seconds to as long as 300 seconds. If drawing from life is not possible, try QuickPoses.

10) Old Master Studies

Learn from the old masters by copying their drawings. As a tried and true technique of classical art training, this will help you push your skills and learn new techniques.

Old Master Copy Drawing Exercise by Jen de Leon

Old master study by Jen de Leon after Francois Boucher’s Académie d’ Homme

Here are some tips for success:

1) Draw daily.

2) Try to draw from life if possible.

3) Practice based on your weakness.

4) Learn from your mistakes.

5) Have fun!

Remember, practice leads to improvement. Be sure to do it deliberately and frequently.

For more drawing exercises, I recommend reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are by Danny Gregory.

Have you tried any of these exercises before? Which one’s your favorite? If you know of more drawing exercises, please share them in the comments below.

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