It is too easy for people to say that they can’t draw when the truth is that they just haven’t yet figured out the best way to express themselves.
Everyone can learn how to draw, and the trick is to find a drawing style and develop it.
Working with a personal style takes away the pressure of comparisons with peers. It allows for greater self-expression and creativity that sparks joy and desire to build on your achievements.
But where do you start? How do you find your own drawing style?
Before we look at how to do this, it is important that we discuss misconceptions over the “correct” way to draw. Too often, novice artists become discouraged in classes because their way of creating an image isn’t correct in the teacher’s eyes.
There isn’t one single way to draw any single item. It should be about finding the lines and methods that express what you see and feel.
For example, if you draw an apple in a still life. It doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It is your perception of that apple.
So how do you find your drawing style?
In short, you will find your drawing style in time and with trial and error. The process takes time, and the best way to find your style is to experiment, try out different techniques, mimic artists that you admire and get inspired by. Study artworks, and with practice and exploration, you will start creating original work that others can instantly tell is yours.
But for a more in-depth answer and guidance, read along.
Find an artist you admire and who inspires you
There is nothing wrong with being inspired by other artists. In fact, some of the Great Masters cite the work of others before them.
We learn from the ideas and techniques of others, study them, learn to replicate them, and then have the ability to evolve when we gain more confidence.
Perhaps there is an artist that has always stood out to you when visiting major galleries or in an online art site.
If you ever found yourself marveling at the shapes of the figures or the fluid lines of a landscape, this could be a great starting point.
Consider the following important questions when choosing the right artist and artwork.
- Why do you want to emulate that artist’s work compared to other artists?
- What does the work do to you on an emotional level, and how does this relate to your studies?
- What is it specifically within their work that you would like to focus on?
Study why you like a specific drawing
Let’s say that you want to learn to draw because you love the work of Picasso or others in the Cubist movement. It isn’t enough to say that Picasso created disjointed or abstract faces.
You also need a better idea of how those features fit together and the creation of the image. The only way to do this is to study the artwork.
Don’t just look at the full image. Go in deeper to look at the lines and forms. You will quickly learn more about the piece and maybe get a deeper emotional response.
Both can fuel your work when you come to mimic the artist in your own studies.
It is easy to become fixated on a specific painting by a famous artist. For example, you may love Van Gogh Sunflower but aren’t as familiar with other work.
The more pieces that you study, the easier it is to see the patterns, brushstrokes, and the way that the artist creates their images.
Subsequently, it becomes easier to try and copy their approach and learn from them.
You can find a vast range of ideas by going online and doing an image search. Museums and galleries may also have a lot of images available on their websites to inspire viewers.
However, there is nothing like seeing the real thing. You can get a better idea of the creation of artwork when you see it for real in a gallery.
Mimic a drawing style
Then it is time to put something down on paper. It doesn’t matter what instrument you use as long it is what you are most comfortable with.
You can still learn to draw beautiful figures in a Degas painting with a pen, pencil, charcoal, or pastel.
A pencil is good for beginners as you can erase it. But, those with a little previous experience may enjoy the chunkier colorful lines of oil pastel.
If you are more into digital art, then you need to invest in a drawing tablet and buy yourself art software.
Either way, you need to try and replicate what you see and how it was created in your own book, in your own way. This was the way I started developing my own anime drawing style.
This lets you get a feel for how to create those marks and images that you wish to emulate in later work.
Doodle and sketch
There is no need to copy the entire painting. For a start, this can be an overwhelming challenge for a beginner.
It is better to focus on a key area and make sketches of that. This is especially helpful if there is a specific element to someone’s work that you appreciate.
Perhaps you like the way that Alfred Munnings drew his horse but aren’t as interested in the rest of the drawing. Just focus on replicating those horses for now.
Once you have more confidence working with artists that inspire you, you can then look at transferring those skills to other creations.
By now, you should have a better idea of how to handle the pen or pencil to create the lines that you want.
That flow of creative expression should start to come more naturally. So, when you turn to other subjects, you can create depictions that showcase both your new-found style and your inspiration.
A great starting point is to work from photographs.
Photos give you a consistent image in the same way as a piece of artwork in a book or online. But, you can then add your own interpretations to figure out how to draw the scene, rather than rely on your chosen artist’s influence.
Photos from your own collection or Google image searches should provide a vast selection to work from.
You may start to find that you have a natural aptitude for drawing animals in your chosen drawing style. Or, perhaps you have a brilliant way of working with still life images, portraits, or landscapes.
With time, you can focus this interest and create original work on the theme that develops your style further.
One way to do this is to work from the real thing rather than photographs.
Once you have a better level of consistency with your new drawing style, preferred subject, and the best materials, you can explore further.
You can study the animals, people, objects, and scenes and how they adapt.
A greater appreciation for the subject as you see it and experience it can then allow for more emotion and expression.
Draw constantly and consistently
The desired benefit of drawing practice at this point is the process and the lessons learned from the experience. That is why it is so important to keep drawing, even if you aren’t as happy with one session as another.
The more you practice, the more you will learn, and that includes learning from mistakes.
It might even be worthwhile setting aside a certain amount of time each evening to study your craft. Waiting for inspiration to hit doesn’t work when you need that regular effort to evolve.
Allow for ongoing evolution and play with ideas
This idea of evolution is important because you don’t want to keep on creating the same sort of work as you did when you started.
Over time, you may stumble across moments and happy little accidents where the image takes a different turn. Perhaps you find some fluidity or a new way of depicting a feature that you are happy with.
Make a note of what you like and why.
Use those observations to steer you in a slightly different direction with your new pieces. Don’t be afraid of going wrong or creating something you wouldn’t show anyone else just to avoid embarrassment.
It’s also important not to worry too much about finalizing images. You aren’t playing around with these ideas to create the perfect finished image.
You can create an impression of a scene or focus on a small feature that you struggled with.
These little studies, however crude, can provide a little spark of inspiration or build your confidence when an idea works.
Keep a sketchbook for all your experiments and ideas
A personal sketchbook on a theme is a brilliant tool. It is about more than providing lots of blank pages for new ideas and attempts to capture your chosen style and images.
It is also a good idea to use your sketchbook as somewhere to write down your thoughts and ideas.
Annotate the studies and even the smallest doodle to show what you like and what you want to work on next.
Those notes will help you to express ideas about your work and intentions that may not have come through in the image.
The bound book also ensures that all those images become a collection. You can flip the pages from Day 1 until the present day and see how far you have come.
You can create a journey to look back on that charts your progress from your attempts to mimic an inspirational artist, through your evolution and focus on ideas, up to your current work.
You can flip through and see all the progress made and give yourself a little confidence boost.
In future years, when you may feel the need for a change of direction, you can remind yourself of this journey and how you can easily reinvent yourself again.
Time will show your drawing style
For the first month or so, you may feel as though you are doing little more than just copying the work of other artists.
This may feel discouraging when all you want to do is show some individuality. However, those moments will strike over time as you improve your ability with your drawing tools and gain more confidence.
You will slowly begin to see a shift in how you draw that moves away from that original artist and becomes a little more unique, a little more like your way of drawing.
Also, there isn’t really a finishing line with art. It’s not like you have some grand final project or deadline to work to, and then you’re done.
You are always going to find new ideas and themes to explore. There is always something new to try, and this means a state of constant evolution.
No artist should ever be afraid to push themselves and experiment, even if it doesn’t go as planned.
In short, while your own personal drawing style may seem out of reach right now, it is out there.
If you have the patience and dedication to commit to your craft, as well as the ability to let yourself experiment, you will find that your work evolves.
Start off working from the work of a famous artist you admire to get the ball rolling.
Play with their styles and images and think about why you want to emulate them.
With time, you can make a note of all you learn about your heroes, yourself, and your art in your sketchbook.
Let that book grow with studies, doodles, and unfinished work as you hone in on your identity. Most importantly, never stop playing and never underestimate your potential.