The first time I worked through 30 days of drawing I was learning how to draw again after spending several years away from it, and I was having a difficult time remembering how to put my mind into “drawing ” gear. After drawing for 30 days, my own version, I had no trouble shifting gears again. Moving into my drawing zone was easy and natural feeling, and that experience taught me a couple of things.
- Thirty days of practice is just about right for reviving rusty drawing skills, or learning them in the first place.
- Thirty days of drawing establishes a routine that feels natural.
My No-Rule Rules For 30 Days Of Drawing (For people who hate rules as much as I do.)
- Draw everyday for 30 days.
- Any line, angle, smudge, or dot counts.
- If you miss a day, that’s okay. And you don’t have to make it up. (But you can if you want to.)
- Use a single sketchbook for all the drawings. Or don’t.
- If these rules are too strict, toss ’em out. (But do make the effort to draw regularly for 30 days somehow.)
It’s surprisingly challenging to draw everyday for a month, so I invented this quirky but convenient way to draw small objects.
- Collect small interesting objects and keep them in a bowl by your favorite chair — and if you have cats, ferrets, or nosy dogs, put a lid on it.
- Put a tall light near the chair. A reading lamp will work. (Read about simple lighting here.)
- Keep a sketchbook, pencils and, erasers there too.
- When you sit down to watch tv (that’s what I do in my favorite chair), pick something out of the bowl, and stick it to the drawing paper with a tiny piece of kneaded (putty) eraser.
- Make a drawing of the object, on the paper right beside it.
What To Tell People When They Ask Why You’ve Got Something Stuck to Your Sketchbook
- Tell them it’s really handy to stick things to your sketchbook because:
- You can take breaks and come back to the same placement, or even wait to finish your drawing the next day.
- Also, if you’re drawing something round, it won’t roll away.
- Tell them this set up is a great way to draw from life because:
- You can draw at a one to one ratio.
- Reach over to take measurements easily.
- And quickly compare the drawing to the object as you work, which is the key to drawing realistically from life.
- Or, say you’re an artist and not allowed to tell. Say this while gazing at the air over their right shoulder with a far-away look in your eyes.
I stuck this round nut to the paper by squishing it onto a piece of kneaded eraser. This is a neat way to keep a small object secure if you want to break a drawing session into smaller pieces of time. You just have to be sure to adjust the angle of the pad when you come back so the shadows look the same.
I drew the nut with my usual sketching style … only now it couldn’t get away!
I arranged my light until the hazelnut cast a small sharp shadow. (I draw that in step three.)
Using an HB pencil, I made the drawing the same size as the nut. I took height and width measurements from the nut, and transferred them to the drawing on the paper right beside it.
This image enlarged quite a bit so you can see it better.
A few pointers:
- To measure with a pencil, hold it over the object and use your thumb to mark the distance from the tip, then transfer that measurement to the paper.
- You have to make lines wrong before you can make them right, so make some and then correct them. Do that over and over again, without erasing, until the outline looks right.
- Compare the object to your drawing by looking quickly back and forth between them as you draw.
Erase Extra Lines And Added First Hatching
I erased the “wrong” lines and lightened the outline by tapping it with a kneaded eraser.
Then I hatched the nut to what I thought was a good average value between the darkest shadow and lightest highlight.
And then I took a break.
Added Darkest Values
After I was back from my break, I made sure the nut cast the same shadow so that I’d be drawing it from the same angle.
Then I added dark value with the softer 2B pencil. I outlined the dark detail line around the shape at the top of the nut, hatched in the value patterns I saw on the rest of the nut, and added the cast shadow.
The cast shadow was the darkest value of all, so I made sure the darkest values on the nut were lighter than that.
Notice that I’m not too concerned about details yet. I just added the very obvious line around the top of the nut and refined the edge shape of the nut a little.
This step was all about comparison and adjustment. As I worked, my eyes were constantly comparing my hatched values and shapes to the real nut.
I added a lot of dark hatching in this step, so that means I was too timid with first mid range hatch. (oops!) If it had been darker, it would have saved some time in this step.
Erased The Highlights
Erasers aren’t as exact as pencil tips, so I shaped my kneaded eraser into points and wedges to dab and rub out the light areas.
There were two types of light valued shapes I paid attention to:
- The body highlights that run over the entire nut, lightening and darkening as they move over the hills and valleys of the surface.
- The smaller detail shapes at the top and bottom of the nut.
This is a very dark nut and I realized I’d got carried away and erased too much. (oops again!) That’s fixed in the next step.
Corrections and Final Details
I used the harder pencil to go back over and slightly darken and reshape the edges of the details.
Details look the most real when their shadows are drawn right, so I kept the direction of the light in mind as I observed and drew were the shadows fell.
This last step was very much about comparison again. My eyes were on the nut as much as they were on my drawing, flicking back and forth so I could superimpose one over the other for a fraction of a second to compare them.
Here are two more tutorials that were drawn at a one to one ratio with the object stuck to my paper.
A basic drawing kit for beginners:
If you don’t have all your drawing supplies yet, these would make a good starter tool set.
I’m a Dick Blick affiliate and I get a bit of money when you buy from my supply links, so if you do that thanks! I’ve been buying my supplies from them for over thirty years. In any case, do try these brands. They’re inexpensive, good, and will save you time and headaches.
Derwent Graphic 2B
Derwent Graphic HB
Derwent Graphic 2H
(If one is out of stock, get the next softer grade.)
Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad
Helix Automatic Cordless Eraser
Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Alvin Vinyl Eraser
Kum Long Point Pencil Sharpener