How to start drawing

Fear of the blank page is real but there are ways of getting over this. Read on for my story and tips to help you loosen up and start drawing…

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But what to draw? What if it’s rubbish?

But what to draw? What if it’s rubbish?

How I got into drawing

During my late 20s and early 30s I constantly felt the need to create something but I didn’t know what to create or how to create. I had no outlet. I know some of you identify with this because I’ve spoken with you about your own needs to create and how you feel stuck just thinking about starting. It’s a horrible feeling. I didn’t think I could draw and I didn’t think I had a natural flair or a talent. When I flirted with the idea of buying a sketchbook and some pencils the thoughts ‘but I don’t know what to draw’ and ‘but I can’t draw’ would put me off for a few more months. Looking back I can see that I was pretty miserable during these years. I don’t think there’s much worse than feeling the need to create but not feeling like you can.

It was only when my life was turned upside down one day (I’ll save that story for another day!) and I hit rock bottom that I started drawing. I felt I had nothing to lose anymore so it wouldn’t matter what I produced. The focus had shifted from feeling like I had to create something amazing to just drawing because I needed to do something for me. Below are some sketches I did in my first year of drawing. Of course there are loads of really rubbish ones too. The ones pictured have so much energy in them. Energy from fear but also from fight; a determination that I was going to do this and move forward with the life I wanted for myself. I don’t think I’ll be able to produce sketches with this energy in them again.

My first sketches. 2012.

My first sketches. 2012.

So! Without a life changing event on hand how can you loosen up and draw for pleasure? Because that’s what you need to do to shift your focus from being terrified to being excited.

How to start drawing

Firstly you may find it useful to buy a ream of printer paper and start drawing on A4 sheets if the thought of a brand new sketchbook scares you. If you feel brave I would encourage you to go buy a nice sketchbook, some pencils and fine tip pens and start your drawing journey in your sketchbook. It’s wonderful looking back at your progress. And, often, some of the first things you draw will be your best. They’ll be truly ‘you’ at your most vulnerable and courageous. Having said all this I always start on the second page of my sketchbook so as not to ruin the first page. See! This fear is real - you just need to learn to accept it and change your attitude towards it…

I tend to use Seawhite sketchbooks which are widely available. They have good quality cartridge paper and have loads of pages inside. They also come in lots of different sizes including squares. I use Uni Pin Fine Liners in different thicknesses depending on what I’m drawing and the effect I want.

I tend to use Uni Pin Fine Liners

I tend to use Uni Pin Fine Liners

SeaWhite Eco Sketchbooks are great!

SeaWhite Eco Sketchbooks are great!

Florals are a nice thing to start with. Flowers are everywhere. Grab a camera or your iPhone and go for a walk. Take notice of all the flowers and buds and trees around you. Take a snap of any flowers or plants that you are drawn to.

When you get home look through your photos. Choose the ones you fancy drawing. Crop the photo to focus on what you’re drawing if this helps. Look at the shape and shapes within the flower. Just study it and admire it. Notice how it’s made. Start with a light pencil (HB or H2) and gently try and replicate the shape onto your page. Go over the shape as many times as it takes to get something you’re happy with. I think that going over the old lines actually creates a nice look anyway!

There you’ve got your first drawing! Draw the flower again. And again. And again. Fill the page with flowers. Go over your favourites with a black fine liner if you like. Try using the softer pencils (B through to 8B) and experiment with how they feel.

Flower.jpg
Flower2.jpg
Flower3.jpg

As you will see I’m not very good at drawing flowers like this above. I still need a lot of practice. I don’t care that the flowers I’ve done aren’t mind-blowing - they’re better than none at all. Keep filling your pages with different flowers. Experiment and push the boundaries a bit like I have done in my drawings below.

Finding the shapes in flowers and stretching the boundaries ..

Finding the shapes in flowers and stretching the boundaries ..


I still need inspiration and help when it comes to drawing and what to draw. You need to keep your pencil sharpened so to speak. A few months of not drawing and that fear of the blank piece of paper becomes real again. There are some great books to help you in your drawing journey…


Books that help you draw

Personally I find these books REALLY useful. I use them regularly.

Drawing Lab (for mixed media artists) by Carla Sonheim

This is a brilliant book for loosening up! It’s packed with fun exercises such as drawing without looking at your paper, drawing with your non dominant hand & drawing an object without taking your pen off the paper. It’s also great for introducing you to other media such as pastels, inks and paints.

20 ways to draw a tree and 44 other nifty things from nature by Eloise Renouf

Another great book. This one I bought a while ago but only started filling it up recently. There are 45 prompts to draw. A couple of pages for each. Eloise, the author, has already filled the pages with her own drawings of each item so you can just draw amongst her drawings. This is great for ‘fear of the blank page’. You can copy her motifs or freestyle. Copying a drawing is actually a great way to learn how to draw something. I spent some time drawing bees from this book. Now I can confidently draw a bee without looking at a reference. Because I’ve drawn it lots of times I have started to inject some of my style into it.

Drawing flowers in ‘20 ways to draw a tree…’

Drawing flowers in ‘20 ways to draw a tree…’

Drawing seed heads in ‘20 ways to draw a tree…’

Drawing seed heads in ‘20 ways to draw a tree…’


Remember: If you spend time drawing and you don’t like anything you have produced you are still one step ahead than you would have been. You will learn from what went wrong. I have spent hours on designs before and they’ve come to nothing. The results have been awful. Embarrassing even! But…the more designs I do the easier they become because I have learnt so much from the ones that went wrong. Keep moving forward and you will get there. I promise.

The importance of being creative.

Lastly, as some of you know, I spent a couple of months in hospital last year (another story for another time!) and on my good days I had the most powerful urges to create. Of course I couldn’t because I was too sick but I did do a whole lot of online shopping for art books, how to craft books and art materials so I’d be able to get straight at it when I got home. Since I’ve been home I can’t stop making things. Remember Project Beeswax? And I’m currently embarking on handmade notebooks. This experience made me realise that being creative in some way, whether that be art, design, cooking, writing etc, is an essential part of being human. Not particularly so that you ‘leave your mark’, rather that it is just a wonderful, relaxing thing to do. It’s meditative. For me nothing else matters when I’m designing. It separates me from the anxieties of modern life. I can spend hours playing around with colour and composition without thinking of anything else. Mindfulness books and apps are dominating the bestseller positions in apps and books right now because it seems we have lost our way. We’re all strung out with endless ‘things to do’. It seems like we don’t have time to stop and be mindful or create. The thing though is this…If you do find the time you will find that it relaxes you and helps you focus and perform better in other areas of your life. You’ll get some perspective and maybe even deem some of those ‘things to do’ unnecessary and strike them off your list.

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