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Musicians have scales. Athletes run drills. Artists…

Yup, we have exercises too.

The good news is, they’re fairly easy (I’m even going to help you cheat!) and they produce results, and they can even be relaxing (so long as you give yourself a break.)

What do these exercises do?

They help your drawing hand draw more steadily, and have better control.  If you do them all, every day, you’ll advance quickly.

And even if all you can spare is a few minutes and a scrap of paper or the back of an envelope (FINALLY!  A legit use for junk mail!) you’ll still increase your hand-eye coordination.  (You can even do these in meetings, or lectures.  If anyone notices, you can mention that doodling has been proven to increase your powers of focus and concentration on the meeting or lecture.)

So, where to begin?

Start with straight and curved lines.

This is a variation on a worksheet I was given in college, and there are a number of these out there.  If you want to try something different, just google ‘drawing lines exercises” and you’ll find several variations, but the series I created here works with vertical, horizontal, diagonal and curved lines.

drawing exercises line, blank

I am left handed, so this may work better for a left-hander than a right, but anyone can use this.

In the top row, in the left-hand box, you draw straight vertical lines.  In the right-hand box,  diagonal lines which cross-hatch over each other.

Line two, you draw horizontal lines, as straight as you can.  Then, on the right, you draw vertical and horizontal lines, cross-hatching lines into a grid.

In the bottom four, you draw a line (straight, curved, wavy, or loopy) of your choice and repeat that pattern in the box.

I filled this out to provide an example.

…and here is when you figure out that it’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve done my exercises.

And it shows…

Drawing exercises filled in day 1

The pink-ish line in the bottom four is the original line, everything on either side is the echo.

Then, converging and diverging lines, along with spirals.  Here’s the exercise:

Starbursts and spirals blank

 

…and yes, my version of it.  And you can still see it’s been a while since I’ve formally practiced.  Bad me, bad artist!  😉  (So glad I’m not getting graded on this now…)

Drawing exercisesii

The spirals, when I did them in drawing class, were their own page.  You had to alternate the direction you spiraled in and out.  So since I went from the center out counter-clockwise, I’d have to draw a second one, from inside out clockwise.  This is to give you the best dexterity, rather than “I can draw a great spiral-but only in one direction!”   so when you do spirals, try to alternate the direction of your spirals.

And then, of course, circles, ovals, ect.

circles ovals and springs blank

And filled in:

circles ovals and springs III da 1

So on the top, the goal is to replicate the perfect circle between the lines.  On the left, I did separate circles.  On the right, I did a continuous, loopy line.  On both, I started with the intact pattern, which meant, with my left hand, I was working forward, then backward.

It’s the same for the second row, and the “X” on the bottom is for filling in an oval of my own choice.   The rule is, whatever circle I drew, I had to work my way out along the diverging lines, making larger, or smaller, circles of the same angle.

Now, what if you have five minutes, and no worksheets?  (Or you’re stuck in a meeting with some margins on a report, or a scrap of paper or two?

A while back, I found this great tutorial on drawing exercises.  (You’ll discover here where I started doing the circles trapped in the “X”).

But basically, take your paper, make a dot somewhere, make a second dot somewhere else, and play “connect the dots” using a straight line.

Do it multiple times, making long lines, short lines, and lines of different angles.

I did this on an envelope just now .

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There’s variations on this technique: like drawing three or more points and, instead of playing connect the dots with straight lines, you play “draw a nice smooth curve”.  I numbered my “dots” just to show the direction I went.

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And of course, from there, you can play with the envelope/scrap paper, just doodling the straight lines, curved lines, spring coiled lines, anything from the worksheets.  You can even play with pressure, pressing lightly and graduating to heavy strokes.  Or heavy to light, or light-heavy-light, all in one stroke.

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There’s no one way, or right way to do this. As long as you are deliberately practicing pencil control-where the tip goes, why it goes there, and eventually, how heavy a stroke it leaves behind-you are going to improve.

And with better pencil (or pen) control, comes better ability to control your main tools (your eyes, brain, and hand) when you draw something to keep.

 

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