It’s never too late to become skilled at new. Adults are often intimidated by the thought of learning new things. For example, when I was 50 I began to learn how to line dance. After a couple of years it became easy. I have had many students in their sixties and seventies who wanted to learn how to draw, even if they’ve never thought they had any natural talent. Learning to draw doesn’t mean you have to be a skilled “traditional” artist. The significant thing for someone embarking on a new educational journey is to move toward it with patience and allow yourself to surrender to the progression of learning. In art, as with academics, there is a learning curve; a process.
I have many new students whose goal is to learn how to paint, however, I’ve learned over the years that the more understanding of drawing basics, and the more practice in drawing that a person has, the easier and faster it will be to learn to paint well. For painting is really drawing with a brush. As a beginner, when you study how to draw, have patience with the sequence, with the process of gaining agility. Understand that it’s perfectly fine to be a beginner (at anything!) and enjoy every little step; from learning new ways to hold a pencil, to learning how to see the basic shapes of something you want to draw, to refining and shading.
One great way to learn to draw, and my most fabulous teacher made me do this over and over, is to copy drawings out of books or from Google searches. I drew many eyes, ears, noses, feet, hands. I copied many figures and horses (my favorite). There are many wonderful how-to videos on YouTube and some great ones on this website. Have fun looking for resources.
So you are never too old to learn to draw. All you need is the desire, paper and pencil, an attitude of gentleness with yourself and some free time. Remember that it takes time and don’t be in a hurry. Give yourself the gift of learning how to draw and enjoy!
Horses have naturally been depicted in art all through history, recurrently portrayed as the horse in battle until modern times. The Renaissance horse paintings during the 4th century included some exceptional portrayals of horses. In 1482 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to sculpt the largest equestrian statue in the world (which,by the way, was never completed until it was replicated in the late 20th century). Because the beloved horse is no longer important either as a type of transportation or as a war tool, horses are not seen as frequently in modern times. In recent history they are primarily associated with fox hunting, racing, the old west (cowboys and native Americans), and pulling carts, etc. Presently, the field of equine art has gotten very expressive and creative and can be very colorful. Beautiful works of art are seen of horses with wings and unicorn horns, sometimes together. Fantasy equine art is very popular and quite gorgeous.
I find doodling to be a creative outlet. When I doodle, I am drawing in an unfocused way with my attention occupied on other things. My doodles can be uncomplicated drawings with some meaning, they may be brainstorming, quickie designs for jewelry or paintings, or they may just be abstract or curly shapes. People like to doodle silly cartoons of people they know, famous comic book characters, made-up imaginary beings, geometric shapes, landscapes and flowers, textures and wandering patterns.
Growing up, I was called a daydreamer by my teachers; I used to doodle in my school notebooks and even the margins of my textbooks, mostly because I was not interested in class. To this day I doodle when I’m on long telephone conversations and when I’m in seminars.
I also keep journals and doodle in them. Then I go back in with acrylics or watercolors and paint them, which is a fun way to get myself to re-read my notes. Doodles can be a source of ideas for later drawings and paintings, so I keep a chunky file of doodles I’ve done that I liked, torn out of old notebooks or from other pages of notes and doodles.
Whenever I go away, I like to pack up a small variety of art supplies for travel so I will have choices for my creativity. I enjoy both drawing and painting but since oil paints stay wet, they’re not an alternative. Acrylics dry fast but they’re heavy; also not a easy to carry. So here are the art supplies for travel that I always include:
Watercolors are light and don’t take up much room. There are travel-sized cases of watercolor paint sets that include a tiny brush available, although I also use inexpensive plastic sets of Prang or Crayola watercolors since they don’t weight much and have tubs in the lid for mixing washes of colors. The brushes that come with these cheap sets are not good so I either take one good watercolor brush, a number 12 with a fine tip for detail work, or several smaller brushes designed for watercolors.
Derwent has nice watercolor pencils and Prismacolor makes a set of 8 premier illustration markers. and a six-well plastic palette for mixing colors. Wherever I go, I use paper coffee cups (easy to find) or mugs to put water in for rinsing brushes color mixing. For paper I like to have a small, moleskin watercolor notebook because it’s great for watercolors and for drawing. They come in a nice variety of sizes. Sometimes I take a large one in my suitcase as well, or a sketch pad with heavy paper.
I also pack up a variety of pencils, an eraser and some drawing pens, as well as a few paper towels. I often throw the entire batch of art supplies into a large Ziploc freezer bag so I can grab it and throw it into my backpack or tote at a moment’s notice
The importance of life drawing, or drawing from the human figure will not be disputed by fine artists throughout history, the world over. One of my own great teachers in the past, Glenn Vilppu, stressed the importance of basic concepts in drawing and their application. He said, “Never underestimate the power of life drawing.” He was so right. The most powerful way for your drawing skills to grow is by drawing from the human body. Everything is there to learn from – form, depth, shadows and light. Life drawing gives you understanding of how the human figure is constructed, and then you can create any pose from any angle from your imagination. Here is a great book for artists who want to know how to do life drawing with a good foundation of how to draw the figure: Vilppu Drawing Manual Vol. 1: Infuse Life into Your Drawings with Gesture. In fact, I recommend anything and everything by Glen… including the online or CD courses.
Drawing birds is actually quite simple if you have good reference material, such as photographs or books. If you try to draw from a live bird, it won’t stay still long enough! Learning how to draw birds is the easiest way to learn how to draw animals. Begin by finding the simple shapes that comprise the animal, such as circles, ovals, rectangles. Start by looking for the largest shape first, then add the next biggest ones and last the smaller ones. It’s fun to place a piece of very transparent tracing paper over a photo to experiment with a pencil as to which shapes you like the best. You can also look at basic animal-drawing books for ideas on how to find the shapes and lines that you can use to draw a bird or draw an animal.
Once you have the shapes in. look for ways to connect the parts as well as change the shapes a bit. For example, you may need to change the oval for a wing by making the end pointed. Sketching loosely actually gives the drawing more life than hard outlines do, so hold the pencil gently. Plus the more you practice staying loose, the skill of drawing quickly will develop.
Watching other artists draw and paint is a fast track way to learn , as opposed to being given the how-tos verbally. It surprising how watching other artists gives our own abilities a boost. For visual artists, audio learning doesn’t work as well as visual learning. The Old Masters had a culture in their society of peers wherein they not only watched one another, but they also duplicated one another’s work and drew and painted together from the same models. By studying another artist’s work, your personal toolbox of methods, materials and ideas will grow.
By duplicating another artist’s work, this does not mean to copy it. Rather, it means to put yourself in that artist’s shoes and try to do what he or she did, as if you’d had an opportunity to watch the other artist. How did he mix the colors? What direction was the cross-hatching going? How thick was the paint? How did he make those brush stokes? Never compare your work with another’s. Just use their art and techniques to enhance your own creative experience! Enjoy watching Russian artist, Igor Sakharov, while he paints by clicking here.
I learned to sketch from a master. He first taught me how to scribble (yes, scribble!) by holding the pencil a different way, sometimes called the violin bow grip (I call it the sketch way.) Start out by scribbling to loosen up, then move on to sketching. Hold the pencil vertically with the tips of your fingers, as if it is an extension of your thumb, so gently that it’s about to slide through your fingers. This is because if you squeeze the pencil, the fingers, hand and wrist become taught and tense; this in turn causes your lines to be very dark and difficult to erase. Also, with a tightly held pencil you have little control. Holding the pencil this very gentle way, you can now rest a knuckle or the end of your little finger on the paper to keep your hand steady. Another benefit of scribbling/sketching this way is you will increase the area you can cover in a single stroke.
Learning to sketch softly is not difficult to learn. It’s all about holding the pencil very softly and drawing with your whole arm. My students hear me say, over and over, “Don’t squeeze the pencil!”