Drawing? Painting? Where to start?

You want to start drawing and painting, but don’t know where to start?

First just sit down and take a pencil on your hand and paper on front of you. That blank white paper scares you at first, but no worry. Everything you do here on, is one step forward, and nothing you do is wrong. Even the mistakes are necessary for learning. Masters are not the ones that don’t do mistakes, but those who have done most of them and learned. Keep on going, even if it feels hard and uninspiring. Remember this! Learning doesn’t come over night, it takes time and many many hours of practice. I’ve drawn my whole life and I still do mistakes and I still keep on learning new things within every piece I make.

Now, you have your pen and you have your paper. What next? You could start by drawing simple geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles, scribble just something and get good feeling of your grip on your pencil. Relax and just play around. When you feel like you want to try something challenging, I highly recommend you take a good photo and use that as a reference. Study that photo, take a good look at every little curve and line, the basic shapes, measure the dimension of your reference.

There is no need for you to be able to create realistic drawing from memory. It is really hard for me too still, even though I’ve been drawing so long time. But if realism is not your goal, you can still take ideas and guidelines from some realistic photo and alter that to your own design, or just play around, get really creative and draw what comes in your mind. But remember, most of the artist, that do realism, uses reference photos in their art. For example I used different photos of deers to create that Baby deer and butterflies coloring picture. I had this idea in my head, but no reference photo to use. So I studied deer anatomy from multiple different photos and made my own version of those. So if anatomy is not your strong point and you need help to create your artwork, don’t hesitate to use good reference photo.


How to use reference photo and what to look at?

Here is one good practice picture for you. Simple side view portrait of basic shaped dog. I made few simple measurements and line demonstrations in this picture to clarify my meaning.

Study your reference photo, take measurements for example length of the muzzle from nose to eye is same length as the length from eye to front of the ear. And the ear is also same in length as the muzzle.  Red line demonstrates other measurements: Whole length from feet to top of the ear is double as the width from front of the elbow and straight to back.

Few ways to measure your reference photo

At first I recommend you to print your reference photo and with your pen, go through those outer outlines of your subject. Study those curves and shapes. With ruler, measure and draw those dimensions, study your subject really closely and make little markings to your paper to guide you.

I know at first this must feel frustrating and hard. What to look? Where do I measure? Where to start? Just relax and take your time. Compare different areas to other areas and ask your self: Is this bigger than that? Is this on same horizontal or vertical level as that other or is it higher or lower, more right or left? Eventually your eye starts to see those kind of dimension differences automatically and you can leave your ruler away. But that takes years and years of practise, and I still sometimes need to grab that ruler, scale divider or other helpful tool. And that also is ok. Those are tools you need to know how to use. Like eraser , pen or brush. They do not do work for you, they do it with you.

I hear constantly these ridiculous “rules” what is ok and what is “cheating”. One the most argued one is weather to trace or not. I personally think tracing is first of all, really good way to practice. It speeds up your learning because you are forced to really see what you are drawing. And still it does not do the whole work for you. I don’t think tracing should be only thing you should do. Free handing, using rulers or scale dividers, grid method and others should all be part of your learning process. But tracing your basic shapes will speed your learning, and if the coloring and shading is the one you would like to practice, why to use hours and hours closely measuring every line, when tracing you could get the main shapes on paper quickly and the actual coloring process could began.

Shading and coloring

Now you have your basic shape, the outlines of your subject. What then? When you think about different kind of objects you know they have mass. They are not just two dimensional shapes, but they also have volume.

Simplest exercise would be turning circle to ball by giving it volume. To do that, you need to decide your light source and opposite of that, there is shadow. This exactly same idea is used in every single object you would like to draw. What areas are facing toward the light source, it is lighter and what is on opposite side from the light source, that is the shadow area.

Light source and shadow areas

Part of the coloring is also creating the right kind of texture. With fur, there is two main thing you need to be aware of. Fur direction and fur length. Don’t just scribble down lines in every direction. Every stroke will show up and thus it needs to be thought through.

Fur direction and fur length

These are just few basic tips for you to get started. Remember that most important thing is just to enjoy and have fun. Don’t stress out and don’t rush yourself. I usually work over 20 or even 50 hours in just one piece, depending on my subject and size.

So give yourself time and enjoy creating art!

2 thoughts on “Drawing? Painting? Where to start?

  1. I just found your work and website today – and I love everything! Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this with everyone! I am just getting started, and I’m so intimidated. Your advice and tips are wonderful though, and I can’t wait to give it a try!


    1. I’m so happy you find this helpful. There is no need for feeling intimidated 🙂 Just enjoy and experiment. And remember, that we all have started from beginning. Even the greatest artist out there have struggled with exactly same problems at some point. So don’t worry too much and just enjoy your artistic journey 🙂


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