Your First Drawing Lesson

Where do you start when learning how to draw?

If you have always wanted to draw but don’t know where to start, you are not alone. For many people getting started can sometimes be the most difficult step to take when learning something new – and learning to draw is no different.  It takes time for the brain to develop the right pathways to be able to perform such a complex task as drawing. With enough practice, almost anyone can learn to reproduce shapes on a page to be recognisable, but we need to teach our brain what pathways to create. That’s where these lessons come in. Over the next few weeks I’m going to teach your brain to start making the pathways that it needs to be able to draw.

So, where do you start?

While looking at a blank page wondering where to start we can feel overwhelmed and even nervous about making the drawing. Unless you know exactly how you are going to achieve your drawing, the effort of putting down lines on paper is likely to create nothing more than scribbles on a page. It is totally understandable that people think that they can’t draw simply because they don’t understand what the steps are to complete a drawing.

How do you know what shapes to draw and where to put them on the page? In this lesson we are going to get to the nuts and bolts of what we need to be thinking about when starting any drawing.

To overcome the feeing of anxiety when we start a drawing, we need to expand our thinking about the process of drawing. The thought process for creating a drawing is unique and will take a lot of practice to master. We need to train our minds to analyse and understand shapes well enough that we can reproduce them on a page.

It is therefore very important not to skip these first fundamental steps that I am about to teach you. For some people the following exercises may appear to be trivial or pointless, however I urge you to follow through with these lessons. They are designed specifically to start re-training your brain’s thought processes to allow you to create a drawing effectively.

OK, so what should we be thinking about while drawing?

Firstly its vital to understand that drawing is all about relationships! Lines by themselves usually don’t look like anything at all. Each line of a shape has to be in a correct relationship with the other lines around before it creates the illusion of representing something on the page. For example, each line needs to be the correct length in proportion to the other lines of the shape, the angles of each line must be correct in relationship to the angles of other lines and the amount of curve in a line needs to work in relationship to other lines.

When these relationships are understood, we can reproduce them as lines on our drawings. The better our understanding of these relationships, the better our drawings will look. Over time with lots of practice, our understanding of the relationships between lines will get better and better.

Respectively, each shape that we draw also needs to be in relationship with its surrounding shapes. The shape must be in proportional scale to the shapes surrounding it. Similarly the spaces between the shapes must be in proportion to the size of the shapes. The shapes need to join or overlap in the right positions. Only once all of this has been achieved will the pieces of the puzzle come together to make a recognizable drawing.

Now that might sound complicated and slightly overwhelming, but I want you to think about that concept of relationships for a bit. The same principle of relationships applies to every element of drawing. Lines, shapes, tones, shading – every part has to be in relationship with other parts of the drawing. Understanding and recreating these relationships is what we need to train our brain to be able to do. The first and foremost thinking process that we need to develop is being able to analyse the relationships of each line and shape of your drawing.

Lets make it a bit easier…


To simplify things, we can break it down into easy to manage thoughts and focus on one thing at a time. We’ll start with a single line. Learning to draw lines in proportion to each other (and thus creating a shape) is the first fundamental step to learning how to draw.

There are 3 main elements to consider when drawing a line:

  • length,
  • direction
  • and curvature.

(and a fourth one – density, which is less important for now but will make a big difference to our drawings later. We will cover density in another lesson.)

Before we even put our pencil to paper we need to work out what line we are going to draw and where it should go. We only start to draw once we have a reasonable idea of what the line should look like. Lets concentrate on length first.


For this exercise, we are going to reproduce fairly simple objects and copy from  2 dimensional drawings. (Note: It is important to also draw from life as much as possible so that we can visualise shapes from 3 dimensions without developing a dependency on copying from photos or drawings, but we will do exercises around that shortly. For now we need a starting point and in my experience, this is the easiest way to start). Once we can copy these shapes successfully then we can move on to more and more complex arrangements of lines.

Start by picking out the longest line of the shape. This helps us to work out where we should position the line on the page and how much room to leave for the other lines of the shape.


After working out roughly how long the line needs to be, we can look at the direction of the line. Sometimes direction of the line can be deceiving. The easiest way that I have found to work out direction is to compare the lines to either horizontal or vertical. I imagine a horizontal and vertical line adjoining the line that I am copying. TIP: instead of imagining the horizontal/vertical line, you can hold up a pencil horizontally or vertically along side the line that you want to copy. Now how far off being vertical or horizontal is that line? Is it close to vertical, or close to horizontal, or almost half way in between? Evaluating the direction of each line in this way is going to make it much easier to reproduce a shape.


Ok great! Now it’s your turn. You can finish the remaining lines of this drawing, focusing on direction and length of line. Don’t be concerned if things don’t work out right away, its still early days and there is heaps more brain training to do yet.

Curvature of a line can make things a little more difficult.
We’ll focus more on curves in our next lesson tomorrow.

Dont forget, the biggest Lesson of all…. practice! Seriously, the only way that your brain will start to rewire itself to be able to do this is to practice. At least 20 minutes per day, just practise copying simple shapes.

Until next time…happy drawing.