Tips to Keep You Drawing During the Holidays

Often when I'm busy with teaching and working and tending to my family and professional commitments, when every second of my time is taken up and I just can't spare a moment to draw as so many of us are during the holidays, then an opportunity usually presents itself in the form of a bit of unexpectedly available time. And I spend precious time trying to figure out what I should do with this piece of time. Should I practice the view of the upper leg I couldn't work out the last time? Should I just "free form" draw and see what comes out of the unfocused pencil movement on the paper? Or should I continue on the pen and ink drawing I started a few days ago?

Drawing circles is a simple but useful exercise.
Drawing circles is a simple but useful exercise.

In my personal experience as well as many of my students, the answer to this question is simple: It doesn't matter.

Drawing is a cumulative activity. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The same applies to what is it you choose to draw. It all goes to the same place–you are enriching your toolbox of drawing skills. Every line you draw adds to your ability to visualize what you are looking at or thinking of, manifested as simple shapes that can be defined and therefore grasped and represented on a piece of paper.

I often urge my students to use time consciously. For example, you are sitting at your office, making a phone call and you are put on hold. The elevator music in the handset is attempting to soothe you while you wait. Those five minutes of your life you spend waiting can be used to further your skills. What? How? Just draw a series of circles like these.

Not much attention is needed. It is an exercise in the attempt to draw a "perfect" circle. Draw a few thousand of those and your ability to draw rounded shapes of the body will become perceptibly better, which is incredibly useful. After all, few straight lines can be employed to render the human figure. It's pretty much all curves.

Another quick exercise is drawing a sphere in a cube or basic geometric forms stacked on top of each other.
Another quick exercise is drawing a sphere
in a cube or basic geometric forms stacked
on top of each other.

Another "on hold" exercise? Try to put a sphere in a box and make it touch the sides of the box. Or create a simple relationship between basic geometric forms, like boxes stacked on top of each other. (It's the holidays, there will be boxes around.)

Drawing an interior can prepare you for the same challenges you'll face when figure drawing.
Drawing an interior can prepare you for the same
challenges you'll face when figure drawing.

Remember that it is not all high art we do while learning to draw. Another good exercise is to draw the interior of the room you are sitting in. You're wondering, what could drawing a room possibly have in common with figure drawing? Well, just about everything other than the subject matter. You get practice in drawing simple geometric shapes–the man-made world is quite angular. You can compare sizes and volumes of different objects in the same space. And then there is perspective. Making sure that the table in front of you sits on the floor and the chair next to it is not floating above the floor is the same kind of challenge you face when trying to draw a standing figure with both feet on the same floor. Think of the simple rectangular shapes you are drawing as the rudiments of the body that you'll eventually draw.

You can do quick studies while waiting in line, on the phone, or watching the television, as I did with these drawings. All the sketches are rough and inaccurate. That's all they need to be. The point is to just do it. That's my advice to you for this holiday season. Keep drawing, anything and everything, slow or fast, detailed or rough. It's all good. Every second you spend drawing grows your skill…no gift wrapping involved.


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7 thoughts on “Tips to Keep You Drawing During the Holidays

  1. I think this is an excellent article. Would it be possible in the future to have a “Printable” version of your articles. I try to copy and paste into a document so I can re-read it. Call me slow but I think it would be very useful for all. Thank you so very much.

  2. Dear Cathy,

    I’m pleased you’re finding my article helpful. I will ask Courtney to look into that. It is a good practice to re-read, re-think the drawing ideas. Leonardo Da Vinci suggested in his Notebooks for the artist to go over the day’s artwork in their mind just before falling asleep at night. A lot of the drawing happens before we even pick up the pencil.


  3. Hi Robert,

    i find your article inspiring and helpful .
    i will get started sooner and will give you the feedback in a weeks time.
    i would like to have some assistance ahead.

    thank you