Beginner Art and Drawing Lessons

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 strategy is very similar. Both are very rewarding, but it can also be frustrating. All too often, students try to run before they can walk.

It's important to balance fun, creative activities with technique building exercises while avoiding boredom and developing skills. Traditionally, teaching children art emphasized self-expression and avoided skills for fear of cramping creativity. However, basic skills can be enjoyable to work on and stronger skills allow students to more fully express their ideas.

Anyone—teachers, children, even adults—can use these lessons to build a 'toolbox' of skills that can be used for more creative art activities. In reality, almost anyone can draw, it's often just a matter of patience and practice.

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How to Hold a Pencil

how to hold a pencil
Various Pencil Grips A relaxed grip makes drawing more enjoyable. H South licensed to, 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 popular 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 5 minutes, scrap paper. and a pencil.

How to Hold a Pencil Lesson

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Explore Mark Making

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, Inc.

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

Scribbling, doodling, or whatever you'd like to call it, this exercise is simple mark-making with 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 5 minutes, sketch paper, and any pens or pencils that you'd like to try out.

Exploring Mark-Making Lesson

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Wire Drawing Lesson

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

The abstract shapes you can create with a simple piece of wire is a perfect 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. This is an excellent way to learn hand-eye coordination.

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

The Wire Drawing Exercise

Bend the wire into any random, three-dimensional shape you like - try a variety of spirals, odd curves, irregular squiggles. With a coat hanger, once it has a few bends in it, you can easily reshape it. Try turning 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. You can also use line weight to create a sense of depth, by pressing harder to get a strong line as the wire comes towards you. Don't worry about shadows or highlights because all we are interested in is the shape of the wire.

Keep your line as continuous and relaxed as possible. 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 do several on a page. Remember, this is an exercise, it doesn't matter what it looks like. Take your time and observe carefully, always keeping in mind that you are training your mind and hand to work together.

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Blind Contour Drawing

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, Inc.

Blind contour 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 warm up.

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

Blind Contour Drawing Lesson

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Pure Contour Drawing

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

Pure contour is basically an outline drawing. This is the simplest form of drawing as the line describes 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 and a pencil, and possibly an eraser.

Pure Contour Drawing Lesson

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Cross Contour Drawing

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

Cross Contour Drawing Lesson