Got Five Minutes? Got a Drawing.

This five-minute drawing of a turpentine pot could benefit from a larger range of values. All work from students of Sigmund Abeles.
This five-minute drawing of a turpentine pot
could benefit from a larger range of values.
All work from students of Sigmund Abeles.

You know how life can sometimes speed by and at other times crawl along at a snail’s pace? Well, drawing is that way too. There are pencil drawing techniques that are incredibly labor intensive and deliberate, then there are others that are quick and unplanned.

Five-minute pencil drawings are, by their very nature, done quickly and are a great way for me to start any art session. I’ve learned so much during these exercises. I’m able to loosen up and concentrate on gesture, focus on how to draw organic lines, and really explore a composition or pose.

The latter is especially helpful because in five minutes, you will cover all the parts of your composition and start thinking of the separate parts as a whole. This can lead you to the most visually interesting composition and also give you insight on the kind of lines you want to use and why.

The next step is to darken the underside of the hand to give it form and match the pencil strokes to the shape of the cylinder in the hand.
The next step is to darken the underside of the
hand to give it form and match the pencil strokes
to the shape of the cylinder in the hand.

My first step is to always draw a rectangular box to work in. That shows me that my compositional choices have effects, and that some are better than others. When I don’t limit myself that way, I find I avoid making tough calls about where to put certain elements and I lose sight of how one object can impact the grouping as a whole. Starting with a box makes me face these issues head on.

student drawing
Overlapping edges will give this
drawing depth and clarifying the
lines will give the objects weight.

In a five-minute drawing, time is of the essence so you almost have to learn to draw on autopilot. I don’t mean become disconnected from the process, but you have to be confident enough to let go. When I first did quick poses, I was always self-conscious about what I produced, but that was not the right state of mind. These drawings aren’t about what you produce—they are a way to learn good drawing habits, which include working from large to small, using a broader range of values more instinctively, and adding depth to a drawing by overlapping edges.

Over time I’ve gotten more confident working under the gun because I’ve learned to hone my drawing techniques (somewhat!) and understand the importance of drawing regularly. For me, though, there is always room for useful information about the drawing process, how artists draw differently and why, and what kind of methods artists past and present use. If you are on the same page, check out the wealth of great tips you’ll find in Top 10 Art Techniques: Pencil Drawing and Top 10 Art Techniques: Surface & Texture Secrets. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

6 thoughts on “Got Five Minutes? Got a Drawing.

  1. Courtney, I have big intentions to fill a sketchbook this summer and I am going to take the five minute drawings to heart. I think it frees one up instead of feeling the need for instantaneous perfection and sets things up so beautifully. Thanks.
    Linda

  2. Hello Courtney, great advice! For a good example of drawing from the other end of the spectrum involving great patience, check out “THE TEMPLE” under the forum topic “DRAWING”.

    Wising you well! Guenn

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