Seven Sketching Hacks for the Artistically Inhibited

sketching hacks, non-artist drawing,
Just draw it. (CC by 2.0 Deb Stgo)

If you’re not an artist, you don’t have to miss what drawing can do for you. Making art can take you on unexplored avenues of personal growth. Down this particular road are new ways to express yourself, expand your creativity, and take a break from multitasking.

I harbor fantasies of creating illustrated journals and like to pore over an enticing selection of books on the topic but the fact is, I don’t even write in a journal. And my vows of sitting down to sketch at least once a week last about as long as any other resolution—not very.

But there are much easier ways to slide into the habit of drawing. Here are some non-threatening ways to add sketch time to your life.

Draw rebus pictures   Chances are you don’t write to-do lists out by hand. You text people rather than scribble notes and probably haven’t sent a postcard in years. For a change, try this. Occasionally write using rebus pictures. You’ll inject some personality in a fun, cartoonish way. Rebus, if you don’t remember from preschool, are simple pictures used to replace words. Even a quickly rendered image is pretty easy to recognize. And it’s a great way to communicate with kids.

draw rebus notes,
Speak and sketch. (Image: L. Weldon)

Draw studies  Keep a supply of blank note cards or a tiny sketchbook for this project. You might choose to draw only saltshakers, or lamps, or shoes. Da Vinci did all sorts of studies of this sort. He drew page after page of noses, bird’s wings, running water, flowers. This is a daydream-y exercise that invites you to find all sorts of nuances in your subject. You may not only become proficient in drawing saltshakers, but may notice saltshakers wherever you go.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s study of flowers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Draw the same thing repeatedly   Draw something you regularly encounter. Draw the tree in your back yard as it appears in different seasons and times of day. Draw that souvenir bottle on your windowsill—in light and shadow, surrounded by clutter, filled with flowers. Draw the same scene over and over from different angles, as it might have appeared a hundred years ago, as it might look to a creature that sees only in temperature, or from a worm’s eye view.

drawing for the non-artist,
Draw the same thing over and over. (CC by 2.0 ILLBILL)

Draw your feelings   We don’t have a lot of creative outlets to express our reactions to bad news, personal disappointments, big changes, grief, haunting regrets. Our feelings don’t go away while surfing the net. Whip out some colored pencils to illustrate your fervent opinion in satisfyingly jagged lines. Render your angst in exactly the right shade of gray, magenta, and orange. Or pull together your fractured ideals in a twisting vine that reaches across a wall you’ve drawn brick by brick. Chances are your mood will lift. Drawing might just empower you to take bolder action.

draw feelings,
Anger can have hearts and smiley faces. (CC by 2.0 Loreen Liberty)

Draw your day. Make it a pictorial timeline or a map of your day.

draw a timeline of your day,
Draw the progress of your day. (CC by 2.0 palnatoke)

Draw on memories   The past continually inhabits the present. Examine it non-verbally by sketching it. Draw a favorite toy from childhood, the necklace your mother used to wear every day, your view of the chalkboard from your desk in fifth grade, the door of your first apartment, the house you grew up in. You’ll be surprised what these drawings evoke.

Sketch a memory. (CC by 2.0 Rita Hutcheson-Cobbs)

Draw abstractly   Take away the burden of recreating representational images. Draw a favorite smell, a new idea, a mood, a strong impression left when waking from a dream already forgotten, a taste, a laugh.

Let your hand move across the paper. (CC by 2.0 Olivia BOI)

Doodle  Doodling is great practice for those of us who don’t want to call what we’re doing “drawing.”And this non-directed activity is a great way to allow your brain to idle while creative impulses emerge.

Doodling is like meditation for your fingers. (CC by 2.0 Erich Ferdinand)
Doodling is like meditation for your fingers. (CC by 2.0 Erich Ferdinand)

Inspirations

How to Make a Journal of Your Life by Dan Price

Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are by Danny Gregory

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun by Carla Sonheim

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie

20 Ways to Draw a Tree and 44 Other Nifty Things from Nature: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers by Eloise Renouf

20 Ways to Draw a Cat and 44 Other Awesome Animals: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers by Julia Kuo

Go ahead, draw! (CC by 2.0 Lourdee
Go ahead, draw! (CC by 2.0 Lourdee)

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.