Adventures in Learning How to Draw

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Month: August 2016

How to Get Better at Drawing Fast: “Do these funny drawings every day”

“Keep drawing. The more you draw, the better you’ll get at drawing.”

So a friend said to me when I explained that I feel like all my drawings are awful. I was at an international sketching event, full of architects and professional illustrators and graphic designers.  I was way out of my depth, and I was feeling it.

I wanted to scream:

“But I want to be good at drawing now!”

I’m impatient. I’ve been drawing on-and-off (mostly off) for seven years. My progress is gradual, and I find that frustrating. Plus, I’m ponderously slow and timid at drawing, and I rarely have an hour or two free for a sketch.

Then I met Tine Klein. We were at the same conference, in a group playing a sketching game together. Tine drew a dog in just a few seconds that had so much energy and life to it:


A Fun Sketching Game Dog

Tine Klein’s dog.

Tine also drew a couple of portraits that I loved – again really quickly, using a HUGE brush with big splashes of watercolour.

So I asked:

“How do you draw like that?”

By now, the sketching game had finished, and we were standing at a paintbrush stool.

“Why don’t you buy this?” she said, holding up a paintbrush with a bright pink handle that she found in the bargain basket. “It’s only a few pounds, you can try it to see if you like it.”

I bought the paintbrush. Here it is:

Pink Brush

My new HUGE pink brush besides the tiny, timid brush I previously used.

I couldn’t wait to use my new pink brush!

But first I wanted to know more about Tine’s drawing style. So I invited Tine to the pub for dinner.

“Your Pen is a Dancing Lady, Twirling”

We sat down over a drink and Tine started explaining her drawing philosophy.

Tine encouraged me to put more freedom and spontaneity into my drawing. “Your pen is a dancing lady, twirling,” she said, “or a bee, finding the next flower.”

“That sounds nice,” I said. “But how do I do that?”

She handed me a piece of card and told me to uncap my sketching pen.

“Close your eyes,” she said. “And draw a cat”.

So I closed my eyes, and drew a cat:

Cat Blind Drawing

The cat I drew with my eyes closed. Ignore the part-circle with zig-zag scribbles in the top right, this was added later.

“Very good,” Tine said when I had finished.

The cat had eyes, ears, whiskers, two feet and a tail. And it was all wrong. Almost everything was out of place. But it did have a life and energy to it that is often lacking in my drawings.

Then Tine said:

“Now I want you to try doing a one-line-drawing.”

Tine explained: “A one-line-drawing means completing your drawing without taking your pen off the page.”

So I tried it while Tine went to order food.

One line sketches


I drew the salt pot, a picture frame on the wall beside me, and Tine’s cider. And I really liked my drawings!

“Very good,” Tine said when she returned to the table. “And it only takes a few seconds, doesn’t it?”

“Do These Funny Drawings Every Day”

She continued: “Not everyone can give an hour or two a day for sketching. But everyone can give five minutes.

“So now, do these funny drawings every day.”

I promised myself that I would do so.

That night, when I returned to my hotel, I wanted to try out out my new HUGE pink brush. So I took some watercolours, and looked at the kettle in my room, painting the shadows. When the watercolours had dried, I added detail with a one-line-drawing.

One Line Kettle

Again, I was really happy with the result. Yes, it was far from perfect, but that was okay. I’d found the energy, speed and life that had been lacking in my sketches.

Since then, I have been sketching every day

My daily sketches haven’t always been one-line-drawings, because I’ve been trying different techniques. But when I need to be quick, one-line-drawings are where I go.

I’ve drawn my USB microphone following a conference call:

One Line Microphone


I’ve closed my eyes and drawn a monkey:

Blind Contour Monkey


And I did a one-line drawing of my favourite camera:

One Line Camera

I even drew my friend’s hazelnut latte while we were out for coffee:

Hazelnut Latte

“Your pen didn’t leave the page when you drew that,” my friend said. “What that intentional?”

“Yes,” I replied. Because of course, it was intentional.

How to Get Better at Drawing, One Drawing a Day

Here’s what you can try if you want to get better at drawing – especially if you need help to loosen up:

  • Close your eyes and draw a cat.
  • Do one-line-drawings. Finish a drawing without taking your pen off the page.
  • Remember: “Your pen is a dancing lady, twirling, or a bee finding the next flower.”
  • Paint with a HUGE paintbrush. A pink handle is optional.

This post is written with thanks to Tine Klein, who turned my little world of drawing upside down.

A Fun Sketching Game to Play with Friends

Here’s a fun game I learned in a sketching workshop. It’s about drawing, storytelling, and just having fun with sketching.

This is how you play:

  1. Find a group of 6-8 people. Give each person a piece of sketching paper, and a pen.
  2. Choose a start player. The start player calls out a word, for example “sheep”. Everyone draws that onto their paper.
  3. Everyone passes their sketch to the right.
  4. Someone else (not the start player) calls out a new word, for example “dog”. Everyone adds that drawing to the drawing they were given. The aim is for the two sketches to interact in some way.
  5. Everyone passes their sketch to the right.
  6. Another person (who hasn’t yet called out a word) calls out a word. Again, everyone draws it, adding to the story.
  7. Everyone passes their sketch to the right.

This continues until everyone in the group has called out a word for the sketch story.

You’ll finish with an interesting sketch in your hand. Now, everyone uses their sketch to tell a story to the group. This could be a long story or a short story, as long as it tells the story of what’s happening in the sketch.

It’s an easy, fun way to get sketching practice, and would be a good warm-up exercise for a sketching group.

Here’s one of the sketches we drew when I played:

"Some people say parties are better in the city. We say otherwise."

“Some people say parties are better in the city. We say otherwise.”

Our words were:

  • Sheep
  • Dog
  • Hat
  • Umbrella
  • Skateboard
  • Beer
  • Farmer
  • Fire Engine

I was lucky enough to play this with some really talented sketchers, including Tine Klein (who drew the dog), Lynne Chapman (farmer) and Daniel Nies (fire engine).

I drew the sheep. She wasn’t dancing when I drew her (she was my first drawing of the game), but she ended up that way.

Do you know any sketching games? Please tell me more about it in the comments.



Drawing Cars with Lapin: “I have drawn hundreds of cars, but I do not know how to drive.”

“I have drawn hundreds of cars, but I do not know how to drive.”

The French illustrator Lapin said this when I attended his workshop on drawing cars.

It was a wet day. We avoided the rain by going into an undercover car park.

Lapin encouraged us to draw cars as we saw them, not as we knew them to be. That’s why he pointed out that he draws cars all the time, yet put him behind the steering wheel and he is clueless. His lack of knowledge about cars doesn’t hold him back.

To draw a car well, you do not need to know how the technology of a car works. You don’t need to understand a dashboard. You don’t even need to know how to drive. You just have to see what you’re looking at.

If you know too much about cars, this can be a disadvantage. Your idea of what a car likes like actually gets in the way of seeing the car in front of you.

What’s one way to see a car? Get as close as you can.

In one exercise, Lapin encouraged us to sit really close to a car – just 50 centimetres away. By sitting so close, you fill your vision with the car.

I thought my first attempt was okay (my drawing is the main image):

Audi 1st Attempt

However, Lapin came over and advised me that my headlight should be much bigger. I was just 50cm (2 feet) away from the headlight, so it filled most of my vision. Likewise, the headlamp should fill most of my drawing. Lapin drew an example for me (Lapin’s drawing is in the top right corner of the image above).

“Should I start again?” I asked, after Lapin had shown me how it should have been done.

“Yes,” Lapin said.

I had already spent several minutes on my drawing, so I felt frustrated about starting again. But I did so anyway.

I was happy with the result, at least in terms of the bigger headlight:


My watercolouring needs work. As does my ability to draw wheels. But I really enjoyed discovering a new way of drawing: the fisheye perspective.

It was good to fill my vision with the subject of my drawing.

Do you like drawing cars? What are your top tips for drawing cars?


How I Came Up With the Name “Scrimbles”

Mistakes can be an artist’s best friend. That’s why I enjoy scribbling. If you allow yourself to play and be messy, who knows what will happen?

This website was born in a mistake.

I created Scrimbles as a place to share my drawings and scribbles.

I July 2016, I decided to start drawing something every day, even if it was just a five minute drawing.

In theory, the more I draw, the better I’ll get at drawing. In practice? We’ll see.

I wanted somewhere to share my drawing journey. I decided to create a drawing blog, and I needed a name.

This isn’t my first website, so I know it can be tricky to come up with names that:

  1. Make me happy.
  2. Capture the essence of the website.
  3. Have the .com available.

How do I overcome this problem?

I usually resort to the Idea Quota Technique. This is where you give yourself a set quota of ideas to come up with. Until you’ve reached the quota, you keep creating new ideas. Even if all your ideas are terrible, you have to keep going.

Typically, I give myself a quota of 100 ideas. Here’s how it usually works:

Ideas 1-40 ideas are the obvious ones. They’re okay, but nothing special.

Ideas 41-80 are terrible. Awful. As I write them, I think “I want to give up. How did I ever think I was a person who could come up with a single good idea?”

I hate myself. And I make myself keep going.

The final 20 ideas are the ones that really sparkle. I’ve made it through the dross and come out the other side. This is where the magic happens.

Confession: I’ve described this as a linear process, when often it’s much more haphazard. Most of the best ideas tend to come towards the end, but they also pop up randomly throughout.

When I was coming up with a name for Scrimbles, I set myself a quota of 100 ideas. I started writing them down on my pad.

At idea #4, I made a mistake. I meant to write “scribbles”. Instead, my hand ignored instructions from my brain and wrote “scrimmles”. “Scrimbles” was my next idea, combining scrimmbles and scribbles.

And that’s how Scrimbles  was born out of a mistake.

Have you ever made the most of mistakes in your art? Let me know in the comments.

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