Beginner Art and Drawing Lessons

Build Skills for Future Success

Young female artist drawing jewelry design in sketch book
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Whether you are learning to draw by yourself or guiding beginner students through art lessons, your strategies are similar. It's important to balance fun, creative activities with technique-building exercises while avoiding boredom so that skills can develop. Learning something new is both rewarding and frustrating. All too often, students try to run before they can walk.

Traditionally, teaching art emphasized self-expression and avoided skill building for fear of cramping creativity. However, basic skills can be enjoyable to work on, and having strong skills allows students to more fully express their ideas.

Anyone—teachers, children, even adults—can use these lessons. In reality, almost anyone can draw; it's often just a matter of patience and practice.

how to hold a pencil
Various Pencil Grips A relaxed grip makes drawing more enjoyable. H South licensed to About.com, Inc

Have you ever been told that you're holding your pencil the wrong way? Or that there is only one right way to hold a pencil for drawing? Chances are that this well-intentioned advice wasn't quite right.

There is no single right way, and whatever works for you is probably the best choice. This short article demonstrates the most used ways to hold a pencil for various drawing effects. Try experimenting with various grips, as different methods will suit you for various effects and you may find some more comfortable than others.

You will need five minutes, scrap paper, and a pencil.

mark making exercise
Test Out Your Drawing Materials Scribbling is a great way to loosen up and get to know your pencils. H South licensed to About.com, Inc.

Whether you've never drawn before or just have bought a new type of pencil or pen, the way to find out what each drawing instrument can do is to simply begin making marks on a paper. This is known as mark-making. 

Call it scribbling, doodling, or whatever other name, but this exercise has only the intent of exploring your new medium. It's done without the pressure of creating a drawing and is an excellent way to gain confidence and get to know your materials.

You will need five minutes, sketch paper, and any pens or pencils that you'd like to try out.

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Wire Drawing Lesson

wire drawings
Making a Line wire drawing is a kid-friendly activity. H South, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Creating abstract shapes with a simple piece of wire is an exercise for beginners of all ages. There is no pressure of having to make it look like something.

Instead, it is a simple practice in following a line in space and drawing it on paper. The exercise also teaches hand-eye coordination.

You will need about 15 to 30 minutes, a piece of wire—such as an old coat hanger—pliers, sketch paper, and a pen or pencil.

The Wire Drawing Exercise

Bend the wire into any random, three-dimensional shape you like, such as spirals, odd curves, and irregular squiggles. You can easily reshape it. Turn it around at different angles.

Don't try to make your drawing look realistic. Just see it as a line in space. Your drawings can be completely flat, with no perspective. You can also use line weight to create a sense of depth, by pressing harder to get a strong line as the wire comes toward you. Don't worry about shadows or highlights. All you are interested in is the shape of the wire.

Keep your line continuous and relaxed. Don't use short, uncertain strokes. A flowing line that isn't perfect is better than a load of perfectly placed but tentative lines.

You can draw several on a page. Remember, this is an exercise, so it doesn't matter what it looks like. Take your time and observe carefully. You are training your mind and hand to work together.

blind contour drawing
An Exercise in Hand-Eye Co-Ordination Blind contour drawings look a bit odd, but are great practice. H South licensed to About.com, Inc.

Blind contour drawing, where you can't look at the paper while drawing, is a classic exercise that develops your eye-hand connection. Advanced students can also improve observation skills by including blind contour drawing as a warmup.

You will need 15 to 30 minutes, sketch paper, and a pen or pencil.

pure contour drawing
Outline Drawing. H. South licensed to About.com, Inc.

Pure contour is basically an outline drawing. This is the simplest form of drawing, as the line describes the visible edges of an object. Many artists enjoy using a pure line in their drawings, and clean contour drawing is an essential skill for cartoonists.

You will need 30 to 45 minutes, an object to draw, paper, a pencil, and possibly an eraser.

cross contours
Moving Around the Form Cross Contours travel around an object. H. South licensed to About.com, Inc

In drawing, a contour is basically an outline. A cross contour is a line that runs across the form of a shape, something like the contours on a map.

Sometimes these are drawn very directly, but more often the artist will use the idea of a cross contour to guide their shading and hatching.  The contour is implied by the direction of shading and makes hatching meaningful rather than random. Ultimately, this helps the viewer see the image as three-dimensional rather than flat.

You will need 30 to 45 minutes, an object to draw, paper, pencil, and an eraser.