3 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Drawing Without Picking Up a Pencil

Improve your drawing without picking up a pencil

Yes, you read that right. Now I understand that there may not be many situations where you would be without a pen or a pencil when you want to work on your drawing skills.  So, while this list may not be the most practical, it does shed some light on how we might can improve how our minds perceive and make sense of the subjects that we draw.    

A major misconception with drawing is that it’s purely a process of making marks on a surface.  And while it’s true that drawing is about mark-making, it’s also about understanding the subjects that you are drawing and our how mind makes sense of them. 

Drawing is about understanding how we see.  So if we take steps to better understand how we see and understand the objects around us, our drawing skills will naturally improve.

Imagine Drawing the Subject in Your Mind

Visualization is a powerful tool.  When we visualize the drawing process in our mind, we train our brains.  Even without making any marks, we are essentially giving our brains practice.  The more practice that we give to our brains, the better they become at interpreting the world around us.

In fact, visualization is proven to produce results.  A study by Dr. Blaslotto conducted in 1966 proves just how powerful it can be.  The study involved basketball.  Three test groups where each asked to perform different tasks…

Group A was asked to do nothing – no practice or anything basketball related.

Group B was asked to practice free throws everyday for 30 minutes over a 30 day period.

Group C was asked to come to the gym everyday and simply visualize making free throws for 30 minutes over a 30 day period.

After the 30 days, the results were in.

Group A did not improve or worsen.

Group B improved by 24%.

Group C improved by 23%.

So without any physical practice, Group C improved almost just as much as Group B – simply through visualization.

Just like basketball, drawing is a combination of both physical and mental activities.  So, visualization can only help us improve.

Visualize Your Drawing

So what can we look for when we visualize the drawing process? Look for the lines, shapes, values, and colors on the subject and simply imagine how you would draw them.  Visualize the marks that you would make to communicate the object.

Visualization is a great “pre-drawing” ritual as well.  It gets your mind in “the right place” before the marks are made.

Create a Collage

When a collage is created, torn or cut pieces of paper are arranged to create an image.  During the process, decisions are made concerning the shape and size of each piece of paper and how they should be arranged on the surface.  The tone and hue of the paper are also considered. 

When we draw, we make similar decisions. We decide the shape of objects, values, and colors in our drawings.  We simply draw them instead of tearing or cutting them out. 

So by creating a collage, you are essentially working some of the same “brain muscles” that you would work if you were drawing.  And the more that we exercise those “muscles”, the stronger they become.

Now, just like any art form, collage comes in many different forms. Representational collages will help out with your drawing skills.  You can find a few good examples by artist, Megan Coyle here.

25 Days to Better Drawings
Learn a new drawing concept and skill every day for 25 days. Each drawing concept taught includes a short drawing exercise (less than one hour) that reinforces the concept taught.


Create a Sculpture

Sculpture is all about form.  When we sculpt, we have the opportunity to really get  “hands on” with form.  We end up having a better understanding how form works and how our brain interprets it when we work with it directly.

Create a Sculpture To Improve Drawing Skills

Since drawing often requires the artist to create the illusion of form, it makes sense to become better acquainted with it through the creation of a sculpture.  In essence, creating a sculpture will actually lead to better drawings as well.

The actual process of drawing will improve your skills the fastest, but there are other avenues to explore.  Anything that you can do to help train your brain to see will help and these activities are great places to start.

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Lesson Discussion

  1. MMM I have been visualising for years but what is in my mind can not come out of my hands. It just won’t. I love to be able to draw portraits but I might be doing a bit of a flower but portraits? I have bought myself plenty of lessons and find that the only thing I really have problems with is the grid. I get so confused with all those lines its not funny. It distracts me. Going to first draw those in the first place over and over again is not my kind of fun. But I wish I could learn though. Maybe someone knows what to do. Thanks for listening.

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