- Art 101 Prompts + Sidekick
- 5 Tips for creative collaborative projects
- Art 101 Inspir-action
- A comprehensive introduction to collage
- Drawing with pen and ink
- Cataloguing and swatching your pens
- How to create flowing journaling
- A Collection of Art Journals
- How to use lines expressively
- Techniques for creating easy acrylic backgrounds
- How to produce detailed layers
- A comprehensive guide to acrylics
- Art journal your spirit animal
- Creating both tactile and visual textures
- Painting dreamy watercolour backgrounds
- How to paint faces with gouache
Drawing with pen and ink
Hi, lovely Messians. It’s Elizabeth here. I hope to serve as your personal creative cheerleader this season and throughout the year, chiming in with a “Just give it a try!” whenever you find yourself hesitating. I want to be there encouraging you to experiment and play with new and different subjects, materials, mediums and techniques. Today, let’s pretend to hold hands and (actually, not pretend) draw.
EmK’s last post likely has you testing out every pen on the planet, scribbling, cross hatching, and mark-making. She has inspired me to dig through my pen, markers and ink and revisit some of my favorite drawing exercises. These exercises are intended to get you warmed up and comfortable with various tools, to move your mind into a creative space, and above all, to infuse some fun into your art journaling and art making.
Though these are similar to the exercises that my most helpful (and by helpful, I sort of mean that she instilled terror in my young soul) drawing professor led me through, today’s exercises come with no critique, no pressure, and no defined outcome.
Incorporating Drawing in Your Art Journal: 6 Exercises
The first step for each of these exercises is to say to yourself, Drawing is making shapes. And shapes are made from lines and curves. And I can make lines and curves. So I can make shapes. So I can draw. Repeat this first step as needed.
Recommended tools + materials: You’ll find so many great recommendations from the Creative Team and Get Messy members! For drawing and sketching practice, I’ll use anything from hot press watercolor paper and a liner brush… to an old ballpoint pen and the back of a junk mail envelope. I find myself feeling the most free when I’m simultaneously feeling the least fancy. Experiment, play, explore.
Exercise 1: Complete a found image
Select an image from your stack of magazine tear-outs or ephemera or old photos and either cut or rip it in half. Affix this image to a page in your art journal (using a glue stick, matte medium, Mod Podge, etc.), leaving yourself room to complete the image. I recommend working from the half-image that is in your journal, rather than the half-image you’ve removed. That way, you are less focused on copying and more engaged with the process of completing the object (or person, animal, what have you).
Feel very free to take liberties with form and style. For the examples above, I clearly took some liberties. It’s all good in the art journaling hood.
Exercise 2: 10 versions of an object
Choose a subject. It may be something you are very comfortable drawing (some of my defaults are furniture, flowers, shells and birds) or something that you are very uncomfortable drawing (in my case: ears, cats, hamburgers, sea cucumbers). Once you’ve chosen your subject, draw it ten times. You may choose varied points of view or use different pens or markers for each version or draw half with your right hand and half with your left hand. Mix it up.
I find this exercise makes for a really lovely art journal background or standalone page. Maybe not if we’re talking sea cucumbers. But maybe.
Exercise 3: Outline only
For this exercise, you’ll want to draw from life. Which is to say, get a random thing and put it on your desk where you can really see it. Choose something with some visual interest (say, a teapot rather than a box of Cheerios), but nothing so complicated that you want to crawl through the computer screen and harm me (say, a giant and very trendy fiddle leaf fig plant).
Focus exclusively on the object’s shape, and complete a line drawing of that shape. If time allows, move it around a bit and begin again. Once you’ve finished drawing, have some fun with adding color to your page.
You’ll see I added a label to my satsumas (my favorite winter citrus!), mostly because a week after drawing these, even I likely wouldn’t know what they were.
Exercise 4: Gestural drawings
For this exercise, you’ll need a person or creature in motion. I will happily lend out my three-year-old daughter or one-year-old son. Just kidding… kind of. If you don’t have a person or animal at the ready, a YouTube video (this Misty Copeland solo is divine) is perfect.
You’ll endeavor to capture the shapes your subject creates as they move through space. You may end up with sweeping lines, linked ovals, cascading dashes — whatever you end up with will be beautiful. It might not be especially representative of your subject, but it will be beautiful. I find these quick (and I mean quick– they shouldn’t take more than a few seconds) drawings to be so evocative and perfect for capturing powerful emotion and spirit in my art journal.
Exercise 5: Inspired by a found image
Dig into that magazine stash again. No ripping this time. Make a drawing inspired by your found image (I love using faces for this exercise because they inevitably turn out a little off, and rather interesting), letting go– once again– of a need to complete a perfect likeness.
Exercise 6: Drawing with your non-dominant hand
This is a classic drawing warm-up. If you’re left-handed, move your pen or brush or marker to your right hand. If you’re right-handed, move your pen or brush or marker to your left hand. If you’re ambidextrous, tell me all your secrets. Choose any subject (you can draw from an image, from life, or from imagination) and draw that subject entirely with your non-dominant hand.
I find these drawings to be so loose, free and fluid. And they are really fun to play with after the fact, as you add color, texture and other visual interest.
So there you have it, friends. Six different ways to use every single pen, marker and brush in your arsenal. Six different ways to loosen up and play. Six different ways for me to try to trick you into drawing things like sea cucumbers. And ears.
Elizabeth lives in Boston with her husband, two young children and not-so-young French bulldog. She is passionate about encouraging others in their creative pursuits and building peaceful communities. She almost always laughs at her own jokes.