Adventures in Learning How to Draw

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Category: Creative Process

Drawing Tip: “Madness in your perimeters”

Recently, I’ve been sharing with my friends and family tips on how to draw.

A few of the things I’ve heard a lot are:

  • “I don’t know what to draw.”
  • “I don’t have enough time to draw.”
  • “I don’t feel confident in my drawings.”

In response, I’ve been saying:

  • Draw anything – especially things that give you joy or that grab your attention.
  • Draw quickly. Anyone can find five minutes for a drawing.
  • Have fun. It’s totally okay to make a mess.

One of the main lessons I’ve been sharing is  drawing with one line. One-line-drawing is always quick and lots of fun.

I’ve also encouraged my friends to use a waterbrush as this is a quick and easy way to add colour.

Here are some of the sketches “Mommabear” created:

My yellow teapot.

My yellow teapot.

Mums Drawing

Perfume bottle.



We also had a “sketch off” drawing Stikeez toys. Here’s Mammabear’s (she calls them squidgies) sketch:

Mums Drawing 4

And here’s mine:

Mums Drawing 3

Another day while out for a beer, I encouraged my friend Drift to draw a beer glass:


While Drift was adding colour, as often happens when you’re drawing in public, a stranger approached and started a conversation. The stranger identified himself as a pagan, and admired Drift’s loose, vibrant brushwork.

The stranger talked about how drawing can help you feel more in tune with all things, something I often feel when my drawing.

He then commented on Drift’s drawing: “I like it. I like it a lot. There’s madness in your perimeters.”

I think that’s a good aspiration for all sketchers.

May you, too, have madness in your perimeters.

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.

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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