Improve Your Drawing Skills in 5 Minutes

A note from Cate: Today, I've asked my colleague Courtney Jordan from Artist Daily to share her thoughts on drawing techniques. She has some great tips and suggestions for drawing on the fly.

five minute drawing of turpentine pot
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 sessions. 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.

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.

five minute drawing of a 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.

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 and have become a better draftsman by reading Drawing magazine. For me, I find a wealth of useful information about the drawing process, how artists draw differently and why, and what kind of methods artists past and present use. And then there are the images–such a wealth of inspiration in every issue, so check out the possibilities in a subscription to Drawing magazine.

Courtney

P.S. What do you do to improve your drawing skills? Leave your comment below.

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