Drawing Basics: Where Did Your Love of Drawing Come From?

Somewhat regularly, we hear from featured draftsmen that their love of drawing originated with or was initially nurtured by comic books more than more classical work like figure drawing. The superheroes in their pages may have had exaggerated muscles, but their proportions were otherwise reasonably close to reality, their gestures were dynamic and convincing, and the frames within which they played out their exploits were often carefully composed.

Manga drawing book cover
 Audubon painting
 Superman comic
From top to bottom: a Superman comic book cover; a manga drawing book cover; an Audubon painting.

Other artists talk about parents taking them to museums from an early age to see art. Others simply can’t remember when they didn’t have a drawing instrument in their hands.

Each succeeding generation finds inspiration from new sources. From pre-World War II Superman to 1999 shōjo manga aimed directly at Japanese girls, the appeal is the same: An accomplished artist has translated the three-dimensional problem of the human body into a two-dimensional depiction. An artist has blazed the trail for the beginner, has provided a key to get into the room. No matter which direction you come from, getting an idea of how to translate something into a flat rendering is the first step in drawing.

So, what first inspired you to pick up a crayon, pencil, or pen and draw? Akira? Audubon? Aquaman? Alfred E. Neuman? Spill it!



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Bob Bahr

About Bob Bahr

Hi. I'm the managing editor of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Drawing magazine is primarily my responsibility so I spend a lot of time looking at drawings, talking with draftsmen, and drawing ... but I love to paint, too.

26 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: Where Did Your Love of Drawing Come From?

  1. When I was 10 years old, I saw a Walter Foster book on a store shelf called “How to Draw Dogs”. That book, costing a dollar at the time, was all I wanted for Christmas.

    Being the youngest child in a single-mom family, we didn’t have money for art supplies, but I drew every dog in that book on loose-leaf paper. After the first day of attempting about 3 dogs, I discovered that I could draw. Yes, I had drawn some things as far back as I could remember, but this was a discovery that there was something more inside me waiting to reveal itself.

    Guess the Superman comics didn’t do all that much for me, but dogs… now that is another thing. Dogs led to drawing people and then to still life. By high school, I definitely knew what my college major would be.

  2. When I was very young, my brother would ask me to draw He-Man and comic book characters, and I realized how much I enjoyed drawing all of the intricate details of these figures.

    I also remember drawing my grandfather when I was probably 8 or 10, which I found very interesting because he had so many wrinkles!

  3. As I was growing up, I always liked to do school projects because I could make things look pretty. My Mother was always drawing little pictures, but the greatest influence was a wonderful high school art teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Cox, who encouraged my earlier attempts at art and believed in me.

  4. I began drawing when I was age 3. I loved horses more than anything and where Lori had her love of dogs – for me it was horses. I also did not have real art supplies, but wore out quite a few No. 2 school pencils! I watched every western that came on tv and tore out pictures of horses from magazines and practiced drawing them over and over. I finally purchased my first horse when I turned 21 and spent many happy hours drawing her! Aside from a few art classes in high school and college, I am basically self-taught and the only artist in our family.

  5. My parents had a reproduction of Homer’s “The Herring Net” hanging on our family room wall (I think it was a promotion by Winn Dixie) and I was fascinated by its dark tones and by the fact that it simultaneously suggested some narrative and seemed to just depict a human act. My parents had a reproduction of Raphael’s ‘Small Cowper Madonna” on the living room wall that I looked at a lot but I didn’t see a story in that one.

    I stapled paper together and drew stories that were illustrated–sort of like comic books, and I loved drawing the pictures but the important thing was the stories! So it is in a way appropriate that now I write stories about people drawing and painting.

  6. My parents had a reproduction of Homer’s “The Herring Net” hanging on our family room wall (I think it was a promotion by Winn Dixie) and I was fascinated by its dark tones and by the fact that it simultaneously suggested some narrative and seemed to just depict a human act. My parents had a reproduction of Raphael’s ‘Small Cowper Madonna” on the living room wall that I looked at a lot but I didn’t see a story in that one.

    I stapled paper together and drew stories that were illustrated–sort of like comic books, and I loved drawing the pictures but the important thing was the stories! So it is in a way appropriate that now I write stories about people drawing and painting.

  7. More than anything else, I would have to say that it was the wonderful illustrations in children’s books that got me drawing when I was a child — Tasha Tudor, Harrison Cady, and many others for whose names I would have to refer to the books themselves (which still reside on my shelves). And my father, a professor, doodled everywhere on his notes, inspiring me to do the same!

  8. As a teenager in the 1940s before most antibiotics, I was very prone to ear infections which sometimes required hospitalization. I spent many hours alone drawing the cartoons from the newspapers. In medical school I learned and memorized anatomy by drawing from textbooks. Not until I retired from medical practice did I really begin “to draw”. I now attend open studios and draw from life 3 or 4 times weekly and have attended drawing workshops. Now 80 years old I love drawing but I still miss my patients.

  9. My mother was an artist, so I had plenty of encouragement to draw and paint. But, in the WWii 1940’s paper was scarce and we had half sheets of paper to wrtie on at school both sides! My dad worked for GE and he used to bring home calendar backs, scrap pieces of paper for me to draw on etc. Also, I had a little chalkboard on an easel frame that I loved. When I was about 8 years old, I drew endless profiles of girl’s heads with pompidore (sp?) hair-dos! Also, tons of horses. I loved to make dresses for my paperdolls, too! Great fun!

  10. I realized from the first days in public school that I almost unconditionally received praise for anything I had drawn or painted. I was praised less often for early attempts to read, write, or solve math problems, and the process to do so wasn’t half as much fun. So I loved art, and when nothing else was working, art and praise of my art was enough. Once it was established that art worked for me, what influenced me most were the illustrations in my mom’s Readers Digest Condensed Books and of course Archie Comics. I liked how the artists created images to replace deleted descriptions in the condensed books, and where better for a teenage boy to study figure drawing then through illustrations of Betty and Veronica. I wasn’t as interested in the illustrations of super heroes. Archie and Jughead were much less intimidating.

  11. I started drawing when I started seeing animation on TV in the early 70’s. Sesame street, Bugs Bunny, etc… just made me amazed at the movement and colors of these characters. My mom worked in a local department store (GRANTS) and she would bring home crayola crayons and scrap rolls of windows shades – I would roll them out on the floor and color/draw for hours! So I have been drawing since I could hold a crayon. All throughout school, since kindergarden on I have been artistic and everyone I know associates me to art. Its really nice – I feel very lucky for that.

    It’s really a warm comfortable familiar feeling when my friends look to me that way.

  12. For me, the world was full of things to draw, but I did mostly geometric doodling as a youngster, along with any kind of animal. My Aunt could draw animals and I was encouraged by her, too. When it became necessary to earn a living and support a family, my art took a distant back seat, but now that I’m retired, the world has once again opened up and I am enjoying my love of drawing anew.

  13. My Peter Pan coloring book was what got me into drawing. I say I was in 1st grade. Seeing the bright colors got me into drawing. I always wanted to be better than the kids in the upper grades. I drew a pirate ship that I will never forget. I drew a sunken treasure. I drew for days and nights. The only problem that I had was the fear of a picture not coming out right. If my drawing didnt come out right I would tear it up an not show it to no one…I got to say I love art.

  14. It’s fascinating to learn how drawing played such an important part in everyone’s early love of art. Thanks so much for sharing these experiences. Steve

  15. When I was 9, Santa left me an Etch-a-Sketch for Christmas. I turned the knobs and made a Train going across the screen with mountains in the background and a couple of Evergreen’s in the foreground. I enjoy drawing to this day, and frustrate myself with paint…………..

  16. My first attempts at drawing were copying pictures of animals from the set of Compton’s Encyclopedias we had, also from a wonderful book called Hammond’s Nature Atlas, which featured not photographs but paintings of animals and plants and minerals. I remember being fascinated with the way the artists not only represented the subject but evoked a mood or feeling by the atmosphere in which they placed it. A book of Audubon’s bird prints that someone gave me at an early age struck me the same way. My father was really the instigator of my art career — he was a paper salesman and kept me well supplied with paper samples of different colors and textures to draw on and experiment with. To this day the smell of paper and the scent of a newly opened box of Crayola crayons can make me giddy with happiness.

  17. I grew up around oil painters in Monterey. I can’t remember not drawing. There is a letter from me in one of my grandmother’s scrapbooks. It shows a plane that was clearly a child’s drawing and under it I wrote “I didn’t trace this Grandma.”

  18. My love for drawings started at school when I allways doodled doing all kinds of scribbles.. Later on I worked as draughtsman in an engineering office and did some cartograhic drawings. Upon one day in my early art experiences I stumbled on charcoal and graphite – I was lost for drawings and couldn’t get enough for a long time. And so it all started…

  19. I spent my childhood traveling between the U.S.A., Europe, and the Middle East. My father’s foreign assignments exposed me to many art forms, peoples, cultures, world history. His love of art also nurtured a love in me for the collective creative energy of societies. Drawing was my most immediate artistic response to process my experiences. I knew as a small child that drawing would be the voice to express myself. I bought drawing books wherever I could find them…Walter Foster…etcetera!

    The love of drawing unites me with the past, present, future, and the universal truths resulting in a continuum. In drawing I may reflect on life’s joys and sorrows uniting my humanity with others with an invisible line. By drawing throughout life’s events I build a growing inventory of answers to the essential questions of my soul and that is why I engage in a drawing conversation. My love of drawing originated in the rhythmic song of my soul.

  20. Since you are asking from where our love of drawing comes, then the question of how we may pass it on to others in our daily lives is also implied, perhaps?

    If every artist volunteered one day to an elementary school art class and shared their drawing gift with the youngsters of our nation, they would in turn, be brilliantly informed and enlightened by the exquisite curiosity of those children. The experience might be a reawakening of the fundamental beginnings of the artist within each of us. In our cumulative act of sharing a day, our nation’s children would become stronger, our public school arts education programs uniquely enriched, and perhaps, funded further. Our hearts would be joyously lighter. The gift is ours to pass along. Are each of us an artist within reach? If you are not an artist already reaching them face to face, can you find a way?

    A creative opportunity awaits all artists to make a positive impression on a child on their turf and share their love of drawing or any art form. Artists will build both purpose and self esteem in our youth giving them positive choices in the events of life’s joys and challenges. We can all benefit from that!

  21. I’ve been drawing since childhood. My parents noticed I loved to draw at a very young age, and so they put me in a summer art class at our local art museum. Drawing just came natural to me. I can remember the other kids in grade school trying to figure out how to draw the three dimensional cube, shadowing the sphere, and drawing the vanishing point—it seemed like rocket science to them. These things were just easy to pick up, understand, and remember. Art class was always the highlight of my day, besides PE.

  22. it all started when i was in kindergarten!! a little old lady used to come in and bring a few different pets she had.. and draw em using basic shapes on the chalk board.. it was the most amazing thing ever! ever since i was hooked!

    then as the years went by i was into bob ross and a few other public artistic shows. just like the the first comment i was given a few walter foster books aswell.

    if it wasnt for that little old lady that showed me in kindergarten!! who knows..